In the Ricardian vol.13 (2003) - the Richard III Society bulletin, Ann Smith published an account of Richard Plantagenet, otherwise known as Richard of Eastwell in Kent. Like many, I, Cecil Humphery-Smith, believe that he could well have been Richard III's illegitimate son. Evidence remains circumstantial. It is stated that on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth King Richard III acknowledged a third bastard. The other two about whom there is little doubt were Katherine Plantagenet and John of Gloucester.
In a letter by Dr Brett to the 5th Earl of Winchelsea dated 1733, re-printed in Desiderata Curiosa Vol II edited by Francis Peck in 1735, an extensive description is given: Richard Plantagenet's death is certainly recorded in the registers of Eastwell Church for 1550. Aged 81 he was therefore born about 1469. Although his name is inscribed on one of the tombs, that grave was believed to be the burial place of Sir Walter Moyle who died in 1480. In fact as I have pointed out in New Series Vol.4 of The Coat of Arms (1980), p.328, his tomb was re-inscribed in the 1970s by members of the Society of the White Boar.
As long ago as 1936 in his "Kings England Series", the noted travel writer, Arthur Mee wrote "the very strange story of Richard Plantagenet" under Kent. His account is similar to the story in published in the Eastwell Manor Visitors' Guide Book even today. This relates that Sir Thomas Moyle who when building his great house there was struck by a white bearded man whom his mates called Richard. There was a mystery about him. In the rest hour, whilst the other workmen talked and through dice, this old man would sit apart and read a book. This was particularly unusual because there were very few workmen who could read in 1545. On one particular morning, Sir Thomas could not rest until he had won the confidence of the old man and he discovered that Richard was in fact reading a book in Latin. That, of course, was a language reserved for clergy and the high born.
The mason told Sir Richard that he had been brought up by a school master and that "from time to time, a gentleman came and paid for his food and schooling and asked many questions to discover if he were well cared for". According to Mee, Richard described to Sir Thomas that having been taken to Bosworh Field to meet his father there for the first time, the king said "I am your father and if I prevail in tomorrow's battle, I will provide for you as befits your blood but it may be that I shall be defeated, killed, and that I shall not see you again…… "Tell no one who you are until I am victorious."
The battle was, of course, lost and Richard Plantagenet then chose a simple trade in which to lose his identity. Mee comes across the story of him working at Eastwell Manor because "Sir Thomas Moyle listening to this wonderful story, determined that the last Plantagenet should not want in his old age. He had a little house built for him (still standing} in the park, and instructed his steward to provide for it every day.
Richard III's illegitimate son, John of Gloucester called John de Pomfret, was born when Richard was only about 16 years of age and was probably a child of one of the daughters of the Earl of Warwick at Pontefract Castle in Yorkshire where Richard was being brought up and educated. "The Great Wardrobe of the King" for 1472 refers to John as "a lord bastard" though this may equally have referred Arthur Plantagenet the illegitimate son of King Henry IV who later became Viscount Lisle. John, however, was usually described as "the lord bastard" so the Wardrobe account may be most accurate for John de Pomfret. In The History of King Richard III by George Buck published in 1690, it is alleged that John was kept in prison for a number of years before his death and was, in fact, referred to in the confession of Perkin Warbeck, the pretender to the Tudor crown. That was in 1491, the year that Perkin Warbeck arrived to try and raise an army against the king in Ireland and the future Henry VIII was born. While Arthur Plantagenet, Edward IV's bastard, seemed to have flourished under the first two Tudors, John paid the ultimate price in 1499 when he died probably of starvation in prison. It is not surprising, therefore, that John's younger brother, probably by the same lady, was conceived in Pontefract Castle when Richard of York was 17. As King Richard III he was, of course, killed at Bosworth in 1485 at the age of 33.
The coat of arms attributed to Richard are per pale Argent and Azure (the Plantagenet colours) a bend Sable charged with a boar passant Argent.
The burial record in Eastwell is 22nd December 1550 and appears perfectly genuine, existing in the original copy made in 1598 and in no way a forgery. It would be singularly pointless if it were one. Sir Walter Moyle died in 1480 and his wife is buried in the same tomb. The Moyles own Eastwell Park and were no doubt responsible for the ultimate burial place of Richard. Bertrand Fields, whose book was honoured as a Ricardian book of the year in 1999 by the Ricardian Register (Royal Blood - Richard III and the mystery of the princes). This brings together evidence to show much of the character and personality of Richard which was undermined by the Tudors and particularly by Polydor Virgil, copied by Hollingshead and of course immortalised by Shakespeare. Richard certainly had illegitimate children, possibly the three referred to but as Fields remarks this was not unusual for young and vigorous members of the Royal Family in the 15th century. It is abundantly clear that he loved Ann dearly and cared for her through to her sad death. Fields goes on to argue, somewhat contrary to Alison Weir , the reasons for his subsequent marriage with Elizabeth. After the winter death of Ann, Richard spent Christmas of 1484 at Westminster and all with gaiety and splendour according to Fields. Edward IV's eldest daughter the tall fair-haired Elizabeth appeared richly attired in a dress similar to that worn by the king. This led to gossip about the possible relationship between Richard and the young princess, whom Henry Tudor was already sworn to marry. Richard was even accused of poisoning Ann in order to marry Elizabeth himself, which is certainly totally untrue. Ann clearly died of an incurable disease that also took her sister Elizabeth. It was probably consumption. According to the Chronicles of Croyland, Richard was completely spurning his consort's bed and judged it right to consult the doctors. If that's not a caring man, what is?
It was probably Thomas Cromwell and others at the direction of the iniquitous John Morton that spread the rumour that the king planned to marry his niece, Elizabeth, who was young and attractive, although already under oath to wed Henry Tudor. Cardinal Morton was probably the author of the History of Richard III, usually ascribed to Blessed Thomas More, who as a boy as a page in his household and who subsequently translated it into English Richard took the extraordinary step of declaring publicly in early April that he had no intention of the rumoured marriage. If Richard had married Ann in 1472, Richard Plantagenet could have been conceived after that time but could not have been more than ten years old at the time of Bosworth Field. One would imagine that a boy that young would not normally be described as a young man but even today that is a . The elderly mason's story may have been misquoted since it has been repeated and perhaps distorted by many over the centuries. If, as I calculate, he who became the mason was born in 1469, Richard may well have been unaware at that time of the birth of his son. He acknowledged him at Bosworth when the boy would have been of a more likely age, and had been receiving a pension from the Royal purse. The pension ceased of course after the battle, forcing him to find a job.
In the last few pages of his work, Royal Blood, Bertram Field shows how the issue of Richard extends through the European empire and could well bring peace to the whole of the world.
30 July 2008