Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Francis`s safe-conducts to Scotland

In the space of less than twenty years, Francis was granted two safe-conducts to Scotland, both curiously issued on 19th June, the first one in 1471, the second one in 1488.

The first one was organised by his father-in-law, Henry FitzHugh, during the Lancastrian re-adaption, for his family and wards, if strangely not for himself. Since Henry supported the Lancastrian side, it seems likely he hoped to allow his family to escape to Scotland should the then-exiled Yorkist king Edward IV return and be victorious against the Lancastrian Henry VI. Perhaps he feared that, having already been in rebellion against Edward in autumn 1470 and been forgiven, this would not happen a second time and both he and his family would be punished. Perhaps he definitely intended them to go to Scotland if it was possible in case Edward IV regained his throne, or he just wished that they would have the option to flee when it became clear that he might be punished. There is no certainty about it, as it never came to it.

We do not know when Henry applied for the safe conducts, but by the time they came, it may have already been too late for him to realise any of his plans, for by June 1471, Edward had already regained his throne and Henry VI was dead, probably killed on Edward`s orders. It is sometimes assumed that Henry FitzHugh did flee to Scotland alone, with a safe-conduct about which records have got lost, and died there in 1472, but there is no certainty about it. While his death in 1472 is a fact, where he was at the time of death can`t be said. If he did leave for Scotland, however, he took neither Francis nor any of the others he had applied for safe conducts for so they could join him, which also included his wife Alice, his oldest son Richard and their ward Richard, Lord Latimer, who was only three years old in 1471. Francis`s sisters, who at that time still lived in the FitzHugh household, are not mentioned, nor are any of the younger FitzHugh children, but this is most likely not because they were not meant to go along, but because they were not of enough importance to be mentioned, as they neither held any titles in their own name, nor were heirs/heiresses expected to hold titles in the future. 

Naturally, we have no idea what Francis thought of going to Scotland, but by the time he could have, he was most likely no longer in the FitzHugh household. Though his wardship was only granted to Edward IV`s sister Elizabeth and her husband John, Duke of Suffolk, a month later, he was presumably already living with them at this time, and would do so for around a year, by which time Henry FitzHugh was dead and any and all plans to go to Scotland appear to have been unnecessary and forgot.

Francis`s second safe conduct to Scotland was presumably organised by Margaret of York, after the Battle of Stoke was won by Henry VII`s forces and Francis was once more a fugitive. It was, however, only granted almost exactly a year after the battle, and Francis may well have been dead by then.

His fellow rebel, Thomas Broughton, appears to have taken his own safe conduct, granted at the same time as Francis`s, and stayed in Scotland until 1492. There is, however, no solid evidence Francis accompanied him, only one instance of hearsay by a "poor and simple man of York", which was recanted later. While there is some evidence of Broughton`s life in Scotland, there is none for Francis.

While it seems likely that in this instance, Francis supported the idea of a safe conduct, it doesn`t seem as if he ever arrived there. He may have been dead by the time it arrived, or been too ill to travel. Whether he had wanted to go there or seen it as a necessary evil, we don`t know, but it never came to fruition. It seems that despite having had two safe- conducts in his name, Francis never went to Scotland.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Battle of Stoke

On 16th June 1487, the last battle of the series of conflicts now known as the Wars of the Roses was fought at East Stoke between the forces of the then-sitting king, Henry VII, and rebel Yorkist forces, led by John de la Pole, Earl of Lincoln and Francis.

Little is known about the actual battle itself, not even who was present. Strangely, though information about their motivations and especially the identity of the boy they fought for is scarce and has been lost and/or deliberately destroyed, more is known about who fought for the Yorkist rebels than who fought for Henry VII.

Apart from Francis and John, the Yorkists were supported by the Irish Earl of Kildare`s brother, Thomas FitzGerald, and a number of his men, as well as a German mercenary called Martin Schwartz and a company of his men. They were also joined by some English rebels eager to support their cause, most notably Francis`s associate Thomas Broughton. Henry VII`s forces appear to have been led by the Earl of Oxford. It is usually assumed that Henry`s uncle Jasper Tudor, Duke of Bedford, also took a leading part, but he is not mentioned in any contemporary source, though his absence would be hard to explain. It is equally unknown if William Beaumont, Viscount Beaumont, also an experienced fighter, was present, though in his case, an absence could easily be explained by the fact that at this point, his mental health was already failing.

If he was present, it would have meant he fought against his nephew Francis. Although it is hard to imagine either of them was much upset about this, as they can hardly have known each other, it is possible that William, already being somewhat unstable, was kept away from the battle so this situation would not worsen his state, and he would not be tempted to do something irrational.  This is sheerest speculation, though.

What is known is that the battle between those forces which were there took longer than the Battle of Bosworth some two years previously had done. It has been estimated that it lasted around three hours, and hung in the balance for a while. Eventually, however, the Yorkists were defeated and Henry VII`s forces won the day.

There has been much speculation why this was so. Polydore Vergil, writing years later for Henry VII and his son, claimed that one factor was that Kildare`s Irish forces had only old-fashioned weapons, which meant they were quite easily defeated by the more modern weapons of the royal forces and that without their support, the rest of the rebel forces were outnumbered and eventually defeated. It has also been claimed that in fact the opposite was the case, that the German mercenaries` modern firearms backfired a lot and many were killed by their own weapons, fatally weakening the Yorkist army.

Whether or not either of those theories is the truth, most of the rebel leaders were killed during the battle. Vergil claimed that they died bravely standing their ground in the face of defeat, but once more, the truth of who died when cannot be ascertained. It is a fact though that Martin Schwartz, Thomas FitzGerald, and John de la Pole died during or just after the battle. There is a legend that John de la Pole was found fatally wounded but still breathing under an oak tree after the battle, was killed with a stake through the heart by the enemy fighter who found him, and later buried on the spot that he had died. There is, however, no evidence to support this story, and it is perhaps a touch too dramatic to be truthful.

It has also been claimed that Henry VII was angry that John de la Pole had not survived and been brought to him so he could question him about his knowledge and reasons for rebellion, but again, there is no supporting evidence for this.

Of the Yorkist leaders, only Francis survived the battle, though his fate afterwards is unknown. The York Civic Records state that he was "discomfited and fled", but there is no further information as to what happened to him afterwards. According to legend he was last seen swimming with his horse over the river Trent, but as with so many stories about the battle, it cannot be ascertained in any way.

Shortly after the Battle of Stoke, it became known that the pretender the Yorkist forces fought for had been caught by Henry VII`s forces, but since he was only a boy of ten years old, pardoned. However, the identity of the boy has been doubted, and there are many theories that the boy who subsequently worked in Henry VII`s household was not in fact identical with the boy the Yorkists fought for. It has been postulated that this boy was in fact Edward of Warwick, as Henry VII`s government gave out he claimed to be, or even Edward V, son of Edward IV, who died in the battle.

Though there have been claims that the very fact Francis fled from the battle field after the battle was lost shows he regarded the boy as insignificant, this argument can easily be debunked. Since, if all happened as is claimed in the traditional narrative, the boy was already captured in the last moments of the battle, there would have been nothing Francis could have done for him, and any attempt to do anything would have only led to his own capture and execution without helping the young pretender any. If, however, the boy was in fact Edward of Warwick or Edward V, who had died in battle, there would have been no reason for him to remain and no one to even attempt to help. The argument, therefore, does not hold water and unfairly makes Francis look like a coward, when there is absolutely no evidence to support such an interpretation of him.

There are some indications that Francis was injured during the battle, and it is even possible he did not leave the battle field on his own but was carried away as he was unable to leave himself. Once more, it is speculation. However, there are some indications he may have died fairly soon afterwards, perhaps of complications of his wounds.

Since he had already been attainted in November 1485, he was not among the number of rebels for whom an attainder was passed in Parliament in 1487. However, for some reason, when Parliament sat in 1495, it was decided to rectify this, and despite the fact the 1485 attainder had never been lifted, a second attainder was passed for him.

However, by this time, Francis was almost certainly dead already, and it had been eight years since his last confirmed sighting.

Friday, 1 June 2018

13th June 1473: Francis and Anne join the Corpus Christi Guild in York

On the feast day of Corpus Christi of the year 1473, which fell onto the 13th June, Francis, his wife Anne, her mother Alice and most of her siblings joined the Corpus Christi Guild in York. They were among several others of high standing who joined this guild, which had been founded in 1408. Other members included the king`s mother Cecily Neville, Lord Clifford (who has gained historical notority as the killer of Edmund of Rutland), Lord Scrope, as well as a number of bishops and archbishops during its not quite 150 years of existence. Richard III and his wife Anne equally became famous members, though they only joined it four years after Francis.

Membership cost 2 shillings a year, as Alexandra Johnson points out in her essay on the guild, and was open to anyone who could afford this. The ordinances of the guild stated that "all candidates for admission to the guild [are] to be received by the six masters or keepers. No oath [is] to be required by them, but they shall charge their conscience to contribute, according to their means, to the support of the guild."

One can imagine that this meant nobles were popular members, as they would have been able to give a lot if they so wished. Sadly, we do not know any longer how much Francis contributed, but since he was a pious man, it may have been a lot.

The guild was "dedicated to the praise and honour of the most sacred body of our Lord Jesus Christ" and aimed to see to the proper observation of the holiday of Corpus Christi. At least two of its six "keepers", clergymen in charge of the guild, would be leading the parade on the day after Corpus Christi every day. While on the actual day of Corpus Christi, the York Mystery Plays took place, the day afterwards there was a parade, still in the essentials the same as Corpus Christi parades today, to the honour of the body of Christ. Guild members joined it, together with officials of the city of York, followed the clergymen who led the parade.

Together with Francis, over 100 other people, men and women, joined the guild, among them his wife and most of her family. The register of the guild states that Francis "and his wife Anne" joined with  "Lady Alice FitzHugh" and "Richard, Roger, Edward, Thomas and Elizabeth, children of the said Alice FitzHugh".

Curiously, this is the only reference to a FitzHugh child called Roger, and it`s likely that it was a scribe`s mistake, aciddentally writing Roger instead of George FitzHugh. George, then around eleven years old, was at that time still his brother`s heir, and would have most likely been mentioned between him and his younger brother Edward.

Notably missing is the FitzHugh`s oldest child Alice, who was by then married with children herself and lived in her own household, and their youngest child, a boy named John. Francis`s sisters, who had been brought up in the FitzHugh household after their mother`s death, were equally not present. In Joan`s case, this was probably because, like Alice, she was already married, if recently, and no longer lived in the FitzHugh household. It is less certain why Frideswide did not join the guild with the family, but given that she was only around eight to nine years of age, she may have been considered too young. The fact that John FitzHugh would have been around her age corroborates this theory.

Francis himself was still several months shy of his seventeenth birthday when he joined the guild, while his wife Anne was around thirteen. For both, it must have been an exciting event, but as is so often the case, about their feelings and attitude towards the Corpus Christi Guild, we have little indication and can only speculate.