Sunday, 12 January 2014

King of the North: Richard III and the city of York

“welbyloued of my neyghbours, true to my frendes, obeysaunt & devoute in thynges religious…” from The Declamation of Noblesse

After Edward IV became king, he gave his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester lands in the north of England to govern, including the borderlands of Scotland and some of the most prominent cities in the north of England.  Richard had been in control of the north since 1461 under his brother Edward IV.  His relationship with the north had already been growing.  Soon after he wed Anne Neville, he was granted more lands, and the forfeited lands of Warwick.  Richard was then dubbed, “Warden of the West Marches of Scotland.”  During the summer of 1482, Richard invaded Scotland at King Edward's command to control unrest from the relations and political upheaval coming out of France.  Richard’s relationship with the north of England was not always one of championing for his brother the king, but one of good relations with its cities.  One such city, York, was not only was a city that he had close relations with, but it was also a city that greatly loved and supported him. By looking at this relationship between king and city; we can gather quite a different picture of what Richard was really like, definitely not one of tyrannical sorts. 
Battle of Bartlet c.Geoffery Wheeler
York was a great city that deeply honored and held Richard in highest esteem. They looked to him in economic hardship for help and in returned granted him the warmth and welcome befitting to a great king.  This is seen in by the many gifts of generosity to his family.  Because Richard had spent much of his youth in Northern England, Yorkshire and Middleham Castle, he was very close and had close patronage in the north. It was here he made generous donations and contributions to the church, held great parties displaying gifts to its citizens and gifts to him as well. In showing such support on the day of his coronation, the mayor and Alderman traveled to Middleham Castle to bring his son, Edward gifts of wine and food. (Source: History of York;

Besides growing up in the area at Middleham Castle, his visits to York seemingly few were actually of note of the times. We know that once he was king, he visited York a few times, one time for three weeks in 1483.  (One source noted that Richard was actually in York, when the famous princes in the Tower went missing or ill befell them.) Noted in the city chronicles, he was presented with gifts, and it was this trip that his son was crowned Prince of Wales, at the Minister in York. This was more than likely followed by great and elaborate festivities in the city.  Richard also had the bodies of his father, Richard of York and brother Edmund in 1476, moved to the church in Fotheringhay his birthplace, to the church for reburial. The reburial celebration not only did it bring jobs to the area by requiring masons to build of the additional tombs, but it brought great festivities honoring his father and brother.  The simple act of moving his dearly departed family back to rest in the north, not only shows closeness and ties to a land of his upbringing but it exhibits much love and admiration.

Being a very pious and openly religious man; he made many generous contributions to the church in the area, not just the placing of his family in Fotheringhay church.  It is speculated that he had planned to be buried at York Minister. A debate that has been quite a hot topic of late, adding that he had planned to have a large chapel built in his honor as well, to pray for his soul, once he passed on.  Whether his intentions were written down, this I am unsure of, his generosity and work to place various colleges in the area, and gifts could have been a result of his last intentions.  One of the biggest and surviving contributions Richard made to the north was the college he had in stalled in Middleham in 1478.

The relationship Richard had with his tidings in the north and the city of York, were quite evident and on good terms through out his reign. The city archives note with great sadness, emotion, and heartbreak with the outcome of the battle of Bosworth where their beloved Richard had fallen:

“Were assembled in the counsail chambre where and when it was shewed by diverse persons and especially by John Sponer send unto the feld of Redemore to bring tidinges frome the same to the citie, that King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the ducof Northfolk and many othere that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lordes and nobilles of this north parties, was pitiously siane and murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie, the names of whome foloweth hereafter.”

23rd August 1485
York City Archives. House Book B2—4f. 169v.

The city of York was set to send 80 men to aid Richard in his battle but they came to late.  Blame over time has been placed on Henry Percy.  Owner of a manor, Percy as battle commander at Bosworth in 1485, failed to join the battle at command of the king aiding the betrayal of Stanley and defeat of Richard. It is even noted that Henry VII was fearful of his visit to York after Richard’s death, as the city was still quite loyal to their slain king and he feared for his life.  Under Henry VII rule, word was supposed to be dispatched by Percy and delivered to York that the king was raising taxes to fund a war in France. The kings response to his plea of the citizens complaint was to have the taxes stay, resulting in his return to town, a ransacked manor house, and his murder.  Obviously, a man who had been known to betray their beloved Richard, York’s “King of the North,” met his demise eventually.

King Richard III, was a man who was seen as a “perfect prince” to the city of York and the north. For the relationship he had with the city of York, was one of great loyalty brought together with justice from the laws he created, the harmony of his relationship with the city, and the church in the area.  His outgoing and well known display of public morality and loyalty had a huge impact on his reputation. It painted a perfect image of what and how a prince should be, one that was admired in the north. It’s this relationship that York to this day still holds dear.  
"loyalté me lie" ~motto of King Richard III


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