ON THE TRAIL OF THE BOAR
ON THE TRAIL OF THE BOAR with Margaret Watson
KING RICHARD III is one of the most fascinating figures in English history. He is at the centre of what is surely the most baffling and intriguing mystery of air time. Nobody knows what became of Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard, Duke of York, the two young princes who disappeared whilst in the Tower of London.
Believed by many to be the wicked hunchbacked uncle who seized the throne then murdered his two young nephews and poisoned his Queen in order to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York, Richard — a victim of Tudor propaganda — is one of the most maligned kings in history. Never accused during his lifetime, there is no evidence to prove he was guilty of any of these atrocious crimes.
He had neither hunchback, nor withered arm. There are two contemporary portraits of Richard suggesting deformity, but infrared examination clearly reveals that the line of arm and shoulder in both portraits has been overpainted at a later date.
Before his accession to the throne Richard had close associations with the north of England. Raby Castle was the childhood home of his mother Cicely, known as the Rose of Raby.
In 1461, shortly after his brother, Edward IV, created him Duke of Gloucester, at the age of nine, Richard was sent to Middleham Castle where he joined the household of his powerful cousin, Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as the Kingmaker. Here he lived for four years receiving the knightly training considered necessary for all young noblemen. During this period at Middleham, Richard first met the Kingmaker’s younger daughter, Anne Neville, whom he later married.
At the age of nineteen, alter the Rattle of Barnet in which the Kingmaker was killed, Richard was sent by Edward IV to keep order in the north of England. York became his capital and Pontefract the chief northern fortress. Richard established the headquarters of his Council of the North at the castles of Sheriff Hutton and Sandal. Through his wife, Anne, Richard had inherited the Kingmaker’s northern estates which included Middleham Castle, where he made his home. It seems he looked upon the north as his home, rather than his brother’s royal court.
The York City records show clearly that Richard proved to be a just and capable administrator who was loved and respected throughout the north of England where he ruled for twelve years as Duke of Gloucester.
Richard was a great-grandson of Edward III’s third son, John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster. By his mistress, Katherine Swynford, Gaunt had four children who were given the name Beaufort. After the death of his second wife Gaunt married Katherine and their four children were legitimised, but had no rights to the throne. Their daughter, Joan Beaufort who was Richard’s grandmother, became the second wife of Ralph, sixth Lord Neville of Raby and first Earl of Westmoreland, a loyal supporter of John of Gaunt.
Ralph Neville (pictured left) is buried in St Mary’s Church, Staindrop, his tomb originally standing in the chancel before being moved to its present position. Of the two female effigies on the tomb it is uncertain which represents Joan Beaufort and which Margaret Stafford (Ralph’s first wife).Margaret is buried at Brancepeth and Joan in Lincoln Cathedral, close by her mother, Katherine Swynford.
Ralph and Joan’s youngest daughter, Cicely, married Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York and became tire mother of two kings of England, Edward IV and Richard III.
Richard, born at Fotheringhay Castle into the House of York, on 2nd October 1452, was their youngest surviving son. Little is known at his early life. He was three years old when troubles began in 1455 between the Houses of York and Lancaster, Their quarrels, skirmishes and battles known as the Wars of the Roses were to continue for more than thirty years until the final Yorkist defeat at the Battle of Stoke in 1487.
Richard had close associations with both the town of Barnard Castle and its castle of which he was Lord from 1477- 85. His emblem, the white boar, is depicted in the town’s coat of arms and carvings of the boar can be seen in various parts of the town.
The Coat of Arms of Barnard Castle
1. Castle Barnard – Through his marriage to Anne Neville, the castle was granted to Richard as part of the Neville inheritance. A stone bearing his boar insignia is set in the roof of the castles oriel window.
To see the carving, which is very badly worn, it is necessary to stand with ones back to the window before looking very carefully at the roof. It s just possible to discern part of the outline of the boar. Boar Carving in the Roof of the Oriel Window
2. Blagraves House – Blagraves, standing on the Bank, is believed to have been owned at one time by Miles Forrest. There is no evidence to support the local legend That Richard III gave the house to Forrest as a reward for his part in the murder of the two young princes in the Tower of London. The house- now a restaurant – has a boar carved on its southern exterior wall, which can only be seen from an internal staircase by arrangement with the proprietor.
Boar Carving on Blagraves
3. St Mary’s Parish Church – Richard was a great benefactor of the church. He gave 40 marks for its embellishment and obtained a licence from Edward IV to found a chantry and create St Mary’s, a Collegiate Church, but it seems these plans were never realised.
Extensive alterations were carried out during 1477-85, making the church bigger and lighter. These improvements are attributed to Richard. The chancel arch is decorated with carvings of the Yorkist rose and a portrait head at the north end of the arch is believed to represent Richard. (See the framed guide hanging in Church)
Set into the north wall close to the font is a carved stone depicting St Anthony, the patron Saint of Hospitallers, on each side of whom is a rampant boar. Originally standing at the corner of Newgate, this stone may well have been one of a pair, as another very similar, but damaged stone, was known to have been in Blagraves. The whereabouts of this stone is now unknown. Possibly the pair were originally part of a gateway to some religious house.
St Anthony’s emblem is a wild boar, the animal which, according to legend, protected the saint during a long period of solitude in the desert.
Dr AJ Pollard records that Richard was particularly devoted to St. Anthony and may have adopted the same emblem as a struggle against temptation. Dr Pollard also suggests that the boar emblem may have been a pun on the Latin name for York, Eboracum, Richard being of the House of York.
A tiny boar is carved on the outside of St Mary’s Parish Church, beside the east windowof the south trancept.
4. Bowes Museum – Some years ago, several buildings in Newgate were demolished, including one which had a boar carved in stone on its frontage. This stone was removed and placed in the Bowes Museum where it can be seen in the Antiquities Department.
Boar Carving in the Bowes Museum
5. Holy Trinity Church, Startforth – Just across the River Tees the village of Startforth lies almost within the shadow of Castle Barnard. There has been a church in Startforth for more than 800 years. The church font, presented by Robert Ellerton (Abbot 1476-95) has three shields on its bowl. The first shield bears the letter R and the third shield F – Robert Ellerton’s initials. The middle shield is particularly interesting as it is believed to refer to King Richard Ill, so dating the font within the two years of his brief reign, 1483-85.
Following the sudden death of Edward in 1483, Richard, named by Edward as Lord Protector, left his beloved north country and returned to London. Shortly after, secret information was revealed that prior to Edward’s marriage with his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, Edward had entered into a pre-marriage contract with Lady Eleanor Butler. Such a contract was considered binding as marriage and so Edward’s children by his Queen were declared bastards and lost their claim to the throne. On 6 July 1483 Richard, as next in line to the throne, and by decree of Parliament, was crowned King of England. In 1484 Richard and his Queen were devastated by the sudden death of their only son, the eleven years old Edward, Prince of Wales, at Middleham Castle. In March 1485, to Richard’s great grief, Queen Anne died and in August of that same year his brief reign of two years and two months ended at Bosworth Field when, through the treachery of Stanley and Northumberland. Richard (Vergil writes) was killed, fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies, in the battle against Henry Tudor, Lancastrian claimant to the throne. The last Plantagenet King. Richard Ill was also the last English king to die on the battlefield.