I was surprised when a flash on early morning BBC radio news announced that Sir Thomas More had been made ‘patron saint of politicians’, immediately followed by the reported adverse comments of historian John Guy, who has recently published a book on Thomas More. I believe that the terming and naming ‘politician’ carries with it a taint. The taint may exist in all languages over a considerable period of time.
I called Angers and asked to see a copy of the Apostolic Letter, which I received in Antwerp a few days later. The document PROCLAIMING SAINT THOMAS MORE PATRON OF STATESMEN AND POLITICIANS reads:
Gubernatorum, Politicorum Virorum ac Mulierum proclamatur Patronus.
(Of Governors of State, Political men and women, he may be proclaimed Patron)
The words of His Holiness decree that Thomas More be ascribed all liturgical honours and privileges, which, according to law, belong to the Patrons of categories of people:
‘…after due consideration and willingly acceding to the petitions addressed to me, I establish and declare Saint Thomas More the heavenly Patron of Statesmen and Politicians…’
(Englished, by R. J. McDonald)
Why did the BBC omit the word ‘Statesman’ from their report? Whatever! Whatever!
Personally, I believe that the Vatican scholars who advise His Holiness in such matters are aware of the English truism that politics is the ‘Art of the Possible’ and however much I might personally prefer to write about More as the patron saint of common lawyers and statesmen – the latest research suggests that lawyer More may have decided to ’play the game’ and however self-sacrificing it may have been, leading to martyrdom for his beliefs, it may have been politics with an end in view.
In this connexion, John Guy may conceivably agree with His Holiness that even if More reflects the cultural limitations of his time in his actions against heretics – nonetheless, the first layman to occupy the position of Lord Chancellor since the 14th century remains a credible role model as an example of perfect harmony between faith and action in his personal, social and professional life.
Finally, I have to draw attention that there is no end to discovery and I entrust John Guy to examine with an open mind the newly discovered case of Thomas More and The Princes in the Tower and what More may have achieved for England and the Catholic rightful heirs of his day when “our” Prince William, descendant of the Tudor legal heirs to the English Throne, joins the undergraduate classes at Scotland’s University of St Andrews, next September, where John Guy, formerly of Bristol, is Professor of Modern History.
I believe the monarchy is safe in England if the young prince feels the need to follow the path of truth at a time in history when difficult challenges to the unity of the Church and her relations with the State and all other crucial responsibilities to all human life are increasing – but it will need the primacy of truth over power and an unwavering exercise of virtue.
Author’s Note. Antwerp, June 2002.
I have just received a copy of a recent article by Mary Le Rumeur “Reactions to John Guy’s BBC documentary” published in the Gazette Thomas More, Number 11, 2001, concerning a BBC TV documentary on Thomas More broadcast on 26 January 2001, entitled THE KING’S SERVANT. The sender asked if I had seen this article. I had not. Neither have I seen the BBC programme. John Guy is accused by the leading More scholar of “serious historical inaccuracies”. I will return to it again.
For the present, I introduce John Guy via the Internet, with compliments, to a copy of a major article “The Princes in the Tower”, first published in Moreana, the Journal of the Friends of Thomas More (1988), which provides necessary checks and balances to one or two of John Guy’s ‘serious historical inaccuracies’.
I have further to draw attention to the peer review process of the participants attending the International Thomas More Conference in the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud (2001). The leader of the discussion suggested: “John Guy should have exercised his own conscience and withdrawn his participation. Here we have a very erudite and learned historian in a film which strains credibility”. I will return to this again.
Jack LESLAU Moreana XXV, 98-99 (Dec. 1988), 17-36
The reader is advised to click Notes 1 – 28 in text (“1 – 28”) for detailed Notes and References.
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In her clever novel The Daughter of Time (1951) Josephine Tey presents an intriguing defence of Richard III (1452-1485) in the matter of the death of two princes in the Tower of London (1483?). In her book, it was not Richard III but the first Tudor king Henry VII (1457-1509) who was responsible for the death by murder of Edward V (b. 1470) and Richard, Duke of York (b. 1473), the sons of Edward IV.
Since historic evidence to date has not produced conclusive proof that the two boys were killed at all, 1 leaving the case open to renewed examination, I propose to consider a third option; i.e. that they were not in fact killed but were destined to live on under false names and identities as <<notional persons >> (persons who only apparently exist). 2
A considerable amount of research and professional assistance from various disciplines will be required in order to verify this thesis. In the present article I can only point to a number of indications, which seem to support the theory and my personal view. In this connexion, I will have to introduce a negative intelligence (or evidence) evaluation theory (NIET), which may, for its own sake and on its own merits, attract a scholar’s attention. 3
I will summarise my initial observations and findings under three headings:
1) Interpretation of Thomas More’s manuscript/book (1513-1518), The History of King Richard the Third 4
2) Interpretation of Holbein’s large portrait of More’s household, in comparison with the sketch he made in Chelsea (1526-1528) 5
3) Certain documentary evidence regarding Doctor John Clement, one-time secretary of More and member of his household, who married (in 1526?) More’s adoptive daughter Margaret Giggs. 6
By Thomas More
A worrying feature of the material I have to present shows that these matters were being canvassed over a substantial period of time. 7 Interested parties raised the inherent contradictions as a subject for discussion. It is not at all clear that the problems were read and minuted for systematic objections. My reservations concern the official response to the public interest – which was required to assume that all was well. 8 This is a little troubling and we will revert to it later.
The time-honoured practice before tackling a work on which official reliance is placed is to ask whether that reliance is well placed.
At the time of writing his book (which later circulated as a manuscript and was not printed until 1557), Thomas More was Reader at Lincoln’s Inn and Under-Sheriff of the City of London. His public career ended as Lord Chancellor of England (1529-1532). He was put to death for High Treason, a martyr for the unity of the Church. He was also known as the cleverest lawyer in Europe and he indeed acts as a patron saint of common lawyers. He was canonised in 1935.
At another level, he was the most famous intellectual of his day in England. It might seem foolish to challenge the trustworthiness of a book written by an author of such high intellectual and moral standing. And yet, at the time that the princes disappeared, he was not much more than six years old. Thomas More had no direct first-hand knowledge of the events he so graphically and dramatically relates. He names no source. To be blunt, he was repeating thirty-year-old street gossip.
A lawyer risks his reputation as a serious person by allowing his name to be associated with a book of unsubstantiated hearsay evidence. 9
The central most serious allegation in the book – written down by a well-known and much respected person – is that the princes had been murdered at the instigation of their paternal uncle, Richard III.
The impression is of a lawyer lending respectability to the story that the princes were dead. 10
However, at no time does the author say that these things really happened. This is negative evidence (see Note 3). Close reading shows that what the author does say is << Men really say >> that these things happened.
My reservations are concerned with those officials responsible for permitting a misreading of matters of fact. 11
Some points are not contradicted and are not in dispute. It is a matter of common agreement that 191 years after the disappearance of the two princes (1483), the skeletons of two young bodies were found by workmen in the Tower of London (1674). Investigation reveals that the remains were of two children (sex uncertain) aged about 13 and 10 years respectively at death.12 An inquirer may be surprised to read that no evidence of identity was present with the remains. What is the basis for the assumption that the bodies were indeed those of the princes?
It is widely agreed that reliance has been placed upon the information contained in More’s book, commenced in 1513 (some 161 years before the discovery of the bodies in 1674); i.e. the alleged murder of the two princes at the ages of about 13 and 10 years.
The time period between the undoubted disappearance of the princes (1483) and the date when the book was written (1513-1518), some 30 years, merits further investigation, just as does the evidence of identity based upon the apparent ages of the remains of two young bodies.
For the moment, my reservations are concerned with the remains, which were removed to their final resting place in Westminster Abbey. We may safely conclude that official approval was sought and was given – and the public interest required to assume all was well. 13
And yet, we must return to the simple fact that the negative evidence was omitted. The negative evidence – what was not there and which, reasonably, we might have expected to find there – was disregarded.
First, the negative evidence concerning the mother of the two princes, Elizabeth Woodville (1437?-1492).
When a mother does not claim that her sons are dead or missing, we may reasonably conclude that her sons are neither dead nor missing. 14
Neither did the mother attribute responsibility for their undoubted disappearance to her deceased brother-in-law (Richard III), nor to her living son-in-law (Henry VII).
We may assume there was considerable risk of disclosure by the mother, should either her brother-in-law or her son-in-law attempt to abduct her two children against her will.
This negative evidence directly contradicts the official view that the princes were murdered and that the person responsible was either the mother’s brother-in-law or her son-in-law. 15
My reservations concern the possibility that the princes were neither dead not missing but had disappeared from public view with the full knowledge and consent of the mother, her brother-in-law and, later, her son-in-law.
An inquirer may be surprised to read that the possibility of a collusive arrangement between the principals, which resulted in the disappearance of two young children, was never tested.
It was overlooked that the disappearance of two male children from a contested dynasty might be directly related to the silence of their mother and the subsequent marriage of their sister (in 1486) to the leader of the contesting dynasty.
To save her life and children’s lives and ensure the continued well-being of her large family, the widow of Edward IV remained silent upon the continued existence of her two sons and consented for her daughter, Elizabeth of York (1465-1503), to marry the newly-crowned Henry VII – a collusive arrangement with her son-in-law.
The impression is of danger to an entire country from Henry VII in the event of any show of non-compliance; and the activities required of a dirty tricks department and their conscious and unconscious agents in Richard III, Henry VII, Henry VIII and thereafter. 16
For the present, we may safely assume that all was not well – far from it – and that there is a case to answer on why the official view prevails and is regarded as definitive.
We may also decide that there was a motive for the official reliance placed upon a misreading of the book. Similarly, that here was a motive behind the writing of the book. That motive becomes cogent if the princes lived on, as conjectured.
Fear of disclosure was that motive, from first to last.
Upon the assumption that secret history is true history, I must now introduce the new evidence of a contemporary witness, Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543), that More’s story was a blind to lay down a smokescreen over the continued existence of the two Yorkist princes, the uncles of Henry VIII, the brothers of the Tudor king’s mother. 17
The Group Portrait of Sir Thomas More and his Family
at Nostell Priory, West Yorkshire.
The portrait is the property of the Lord St. Oswald and Trustees and has not been out of family possession since it was painted for Margaret and William Roper, daughter and son-in-law of Sir Thomas More. Family documents show that it was painted by Hans Holbein the Younger, probably in the Great Hall of the Roper family home of Well Hall, at Eltham in Kent, some time during his second visit to England, after 1532. The painting descended to the present owner after the marriage, in 1729, of a young Roper co-heiress, Susannah Henshaw, to Sir Rowland Winn; who, after payment to two brothers-in-law, in order to gain sole ownership, brought the painting from Eltham to Nostell, where it is on view to the public. 18
I now have to draw attention to the discreet placement, by the artist, of conventional symbols in an end-on relationship with unconventional symbols (and other unconventional elements), in the composition of this large oil-on-canvas painting (approximately, 3,5 x 2,5 metres). But first, I have to inform the reader of the results of my own amateur investigations into the art world.
Because there is no authority in this particular field – indeed, the unconventional symbols are unrecorded – I tested the theory that these latter were pictorial representations of linguistic equivalents; and I repeated the experiment upon several hundred similar unconventional elements contained in seventy-three works attributed to Holbein, successfully.
I concluded that the artist had left information for posterity – personal and political, concerning his sitters, mostly in the French language – in a hitherto unknown secret method of communication, some sort of rebus, which I named a covert rebus. 19
I then made a comparative study of Holbein’s original sketch of the family group (made in 1526? and taken by him to Basel in 1528?), and observed one major and some eighty minor changes in composition in the post-1532 portrait. In each case the changes were relevant to the rebus. We may usefully consider one of those changes, which concern us.
The most striking change is the artist’s inclusion of another figure in the family group, omitted from the sketch, the man in the doorway.
For a substantial period of time this person has been conjecturally identified as John Harris, More’s secretary. And yet he is depicted highest in the portrait (a position conventionally reserved for the person of highest status). The fleur-de-lys marks him (a symbol of the French kings, from whom the Plantagenets are descended). The artist also marks him with a buckler, a warrior’s status symbol (Oxford English Dictionary, ‘buckler’ – ‘to deserve to carry the buckler’, ‘to take up the bucklers’ – which has early associations with ideas of ‘worthiness’, ‘to enter the lists’).
These conventional symbols are in close relationship with unconventional symbols – which conjecturally identify John Harris reading a book in a back room.
The person of highest status is marked by unconventional symbols which indicate a notional person who holds the right and title of nobility, a doctor who is royal, husband of Margaret Clement, whose real identity is Richard, Duke of York (depicted wearing Italian style of dress), conjecturally identified as Dr. John Clement, who did gain his M.D. in Siena. 20
Clement is depicted with dark hair, of medium height and build. The pose is a close reflected mirror image of the standard portrait of Richard III, and he might be said to favour the cingularis image. 21
Although a Neville descendant, like his uncle, Richard III, Clement does not favour the tall, blond, beefy Neville men. Perhaps it should be mentioned here, without wishing to imply that the artist’s information is prime evidence, that upon the death of his elder brother, Edward V (who conjecturally lived under the cover name of Sir Edward Guildford and allegedly died in July 1528), Clement became the rightful heir to the throne of England.
We may conceivably conclude that the story that Richard, Duke of York, was murdered (1483) is false and that the book was indeed More’s blind to lay a smokescreen over the continued existence of the princes and their descendants (who must be protected from retrospective identification). 22
Although we cannot be certain how the artist obtained his information, Holbein appears to say that he is deeply concerned that More is risking his life in such a way, that the writing of the manuscript and its circulation may be clumsy or clever – implying that only time will tell.
However, More may have served rightful heirs as well as legal heirs. This remains to be assessed. The artist has sacrificed the aesthetic quality for the sake of the rebus in some 73 pictures, something unheard of in the world of great art and, in conclusion, I must return again to the witness, Holbein. 23
We will have to consider carefully his paintings and whether he suffered from mythomania and if we should believe him. Or, was it all a pack of lies?
We must also look for a motive and explanation for the method in which he left his information.
Clearly, he could have left his story in a diary, possibly in code, hidden somewhere in a building, or buried in the ground for someone to find at a later date. In this way, there would be little personal risk. But again, why should the story be believed at any future time? It is this central point of risk to which I must finally draw attention.
It might seem undeniable that Holbein’s paintings were left by him, literally ‘on the wall’, for anyone to see. They were not hidden away. There could be no guarantee of security for his method of communication. At any moment, an enemy might have seen and understood. There was a considerable risk of discovery, of which we may assume he was aware. In the event, the risk was not merely confiscation of goods and chattels, but death.
Perhaps we should listen with respect, neither believing nor disbelieving, but just remembering one brave man among many. Alternatively, we may conclude that Holbein was a credible and independent witness at the English court, a German observer and competent reporter of the great persons and events of the sixteenth century – a man whose art concealed his art for posterity, which may require some change to the recorded history of Tudor England. It is a matter for the reader to decide what recommendations should be made and to ensure that those recommendations should not be shuffled off until another century.
John Clement and negative intelligence
(or evidence) evaluation theory.
A slightly worrying feature of the material I have to present shows that we have often allowed ourselves to rely on positive evidence, such as documents and artefacts, over a substantial period of time, without a proper system of checks and balances. My reservations concern a system, which apparently placed reliance upon positive evidence without proper checking of the negative evidence as, for example, in the case of the genealogies of the royal houses of Europe.
Few records were better kept, if any, or were more officially authenticated. The royal genealogies are widely regarded as unchallengeable. And yet, we must return to the simple fact that the negative evidence was overlooked. Because of this, the risk existed that any conclusion based upon the positive evidence was solely the product of the criteria applied, and those criteria had omitted the negative evidence which was not there; namely, the multiple births.
In a sample of some 50,000 royal births since the fifth century, there is not one set of twins recorded. And yet the incidence of twins is well known and can be predicted: at least one in one hundred births, ten in a thousand, and some 500 in 50,000. We must not invent a new biology for royal families. Clearly there is a case to answer concerning the apparent non-records of the incidence of royal multiple births.
We may further conclude the positive evidence can be faked by commission or omission – but not negative evidence. This is our central point.
In this section, we are concerned with methods, and, as in this developing case, the method of approach to a problem is sometimes more important – in order to obtain a correct hypothesis – than the seemingly all-important problem itself, which may be resolved by other means.
In the case of Dr. John Clement, we observe that he became president of the College of Physicians, apparently without any record of family credentials, place of origin or birth. The position was in the remit of the king.
The most careful search has revealed no official document bearing his signature. Signatures or records of their former existence remain extant for every president since the granting of the letters patent to the college in 1518 – except for Dr. John Clement.
This negative evidence has been confirmed by the Royal College of Physicians and the Wellcome Foundation [medical museum]. However, an entry in the register of the University of Louvain, for January 1551 (already quoted in Moreana No. 97, p. 146), states (in full):
Dominus Joannes Clemens, medecine doctor, anglus, nobilis (non juravit ex rationabili quadam et occulta causa), sed tamen promisit se servaturm juramenta consueta.
The Lord John Clement, doctor of medicine, English, of noble birth 24 (has not sworn the oath for a reasonable hidden cause), but has nevertheless promised to keep the customary oaths.
The entry is in the rector’s hand, in accordance with university custom and rule. The rector’s bracketed explanation is unique for the period 31st August 1485 to February 1569, when a total of 49,246 names were inscribed.
We may assume that the rector was not naïve and that he realised that Clement was not the name of a noble family, that he indeed knew who he was and that he could not permit Clement to swear the oath under a false name, that perjury was a serious matter, and the university might lose its right to the privilegium tractus if discovered. Similarly, if this were to happen, that Clement would no longer be protected from prosecution by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities and that his name must be on the register in order to gain the privilege.
The open declaration, by the rector, of Clement’s noble status implies that he was aware that Clement was living under an assumed name, though not for any fraudulent purpose. This was not illegal. Clement’s profession and country of origin are plainly stated. The rector could prove that John Clement had never sworn nor had need to swear the customary oath, that he was a special case, for, as far back as 13th February 1489, a John Clement was first inscribed. (See: Matricule de l’Université de Louvain, Vol. III, ed. A. Schillings, publ. Louvain, 1958, p. 42. ‘Johannes Clemens (non juravit) Feb 13 1489’. 25)
In 1489, the customary age for entry to university was between sixteen and seventeen years. On August 17, in that same year, Richard, Duke of York, born 1473, would have reached sixteen years of age. More’s possible role in providing a false early background for Clement, essential for a notional person, remains to be assessed. 26
Fortunately, advances in modern technology now enable the case to be tested, reliably and conclusively. 27
If Sir Edward Guildford and Dr. John Clement were indeed brothers, it is scientifically possible to prove (or disprove) consanguinity from a genetic study of a suitable sample taken from each body – a small residue of tissue, or hair. If the test proves negative, the present historical case falls to the ground. If the test proves positive: then we have grounds for investigation of the claim that these men were notional persons either one or the other, or both.
At the same time, since we know that the genetic material in every human being is derived from each parent at conception and that approximately half is paternal and the other half maternal in origin and identifiable in the offspring, a reasonable point of departure might be a similar examination of a sample taken from the bodies of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, the parents of the two princes, in order to fully verify the present argument concerning the real identities of Sir Edward Guildford and Dr. John Clement. 28
The solution to this scientific problem provides a solid core for on-going historical conjecture based on NIET criteria. (See Note 3 et passim)
If what Holbein states is found to be true on the point of the real identity of Dr. John Clement, the reader may not be surprised that, due to a family difference of opinion, the younger prince was exiled or exiled himself to Flanders, where (except for the Marian period when he returned to England) he lived for the rest of his life with his family and much of More’s circle. He remained true to the old religion, lived to an advanced age, and was buried beside the high altar of St. Rombaut’s Cathedral, Mechelen, in 1572. At the time, burial at the high altar was reserved for the scions of the house of Burgundy, the family-by-marriage of his paternal aunt, Margaret of Burgundy, née Margaret of York, whose court was at Mechelen, former capital of Flanders.
Finally, all this does not imply that academia has failed in its duties. This is not the case. Those duties have been carried out with great care and undoubted success over a substantial period of time. My reservations are concerned with what appears to be a system that had developed, which did not match advances and procedures in other scientific fields. There must be a proper and effective checking procedure and the inquiry will want to know what was the system for checking: was it a good one and was it operating properly.
I have argued that any method which omits to state criteria or fails to follow systematic verification (and falsification) or all known evidence, positive and negative, without offering a best-fit hypothesis based soundly upon a balance of probability, in an on-going method of inquiry, is an inherently inadequate procedure. However, I trust that the initial evidence presented above, both positive and negative, is sufficient to sow the seeds of reasonable doubt, which are required to justify and make possible an open minded and multi-disciplined re-opening of the case.
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1. For the most authoritative argument, I will rely on The Complete Peerage of England, Scotland, Ireland, ed. G. E. C. Cokayne, Vol. XII (2), 1959, Richard, Duke of York, with special reference to Appendix J.
The impression is that all writers on the princes, before and since Cokayne, omit the present thesis, first presented by the author in 1976. See: << Did the Sons of Edward IV Outlive Henry VII? >>, The Ricardian, Journal of the Richard III Society, Vol. IV. No. 62. Sept 1978, pp. 2-14. See also << Ricardiana in Moreana >> by M.-C. Rousseau, published in Moreana 87-88 (Nov. 1985), pp. 175-176. Re. The actual fate of the princes, Cokayne documents conclusively that there exists no conclusive proof! (See Appendix J, op. cit. pp. 32-39).
2. For an insight into the theory of notional persons, I recommend The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939-1945 by J. C. Masterman, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1972.
3. Evidence that is not there is defined as negative evidence, and evidence, which is there, is defined as positive evidence. We assume that positive evidence can be fake – negative evidence cannot – and thus investigate the potentially more reliable evidence. The significant absence of information is tested on the basis of negative evidence -- people, things and ideas –- which is not there and which we might reasonably expect to find there. We test the assumption that negative evidence is fundamentally positive evidence (negative evidence does not mean ‘negative’ evidence, which latter uniquely implies falsification of a hypothesis). In Conan Doyle’s short story << Silver Blaze >>, ‘the dog that did not bark’ is negative evidence. Sherlock Holmes stressed the importance of what was not there and what, reasonably, he expected to find there. The dog did not bark because the << unknown >> thief was its master.
4. The History of King Richard the Third written in or about 1513 (according to his nephew, William Rastell, publisher of the 1557 edition of More’s Workes), facsimile by Scolar Press, 1978.
5. See: The Paintings of Hans Holbein the Younger by Paul Ganz, First Complete edition, Phaidon London 1950, pp. 282-283.
6. Margaret Clement (d. 1570). Daughter of Thomas and Olive Gygges of Burnham in Norfolk. Kratzer says ‘Margaret’s cognata’, referring to More’s eldest daughter, Margaret (G. Marc’hadour conjectures << co-born >>). There is indeed pictorial evidence that they were born in the same year (1505, after Holbein). More does not speak of adoption or wardship. He only ‘numbers her among my own’ and ‘she’s no less dear to me than if she were my child’ (The Correspondence of Sir Thomas More, E. F. Rogers, ed., Princeton, 1947, letters 43 & 107). Curiously, More does not include her name in the poem to his children, which unlike the letters from court, was published by him. About 1526, she married Dr. John Clement, out of More’s house. (I wish to thank the Canonesses of Windesheim for kindly permitting publication of research into contemporary and other material on the Clement family in the archives now at The Priory of Our Lady, Sayers Common in West Sussex, formerly of St. Augustine’s Priory, Newton Abbot in Devon, community now disbanded since 1983).
7. See Cokayne, Note 1, above.
8. The Tudor theory concerning the disappearance of the princes: It is not at all clear, but there does exist a contemporary rumour, unsupported by documentation and from an uncertain source, that sometime during the period April 9 - July 6, 1483; i.e. from the death of Edward IV to the coronation of Richard III – a claim was made that a pre-contract between Edward IV and Lady Eleanor Butler invalidated the king’s second secret marriage. The Bishop of Bath & Wells, Robert Stillington, had claimed in Parliament that indeed he had performed the ceremony. When challenged he protested that he had been overtaken by later events, but now that the question of the rightful royal succession was laid before him, his conscience made him speak out. Parliament agreed that if the second marriage was bigamous, the children were indeed illegitimate. A full hearing of the case was envisaged and a date set down, but there is no official record that it did indeed take place. It was about this time that Richard saw his chance and usurped the throne. From other reports, the princes disappeared from the Tower later that year. The current rumour was that before the death of their uncle Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth (22 August 1485), the princes had been murdered. The major implication is clear: Richard was responsible for their deaths.
The new York theory assumes that the princes were not killed at all. If Stillington’s allegation was true as claimed – and he did not retract it – Richard III was the rightful and legal heir in descent from Edward III. However, the accession was announced openly and defined narrowly in the highly unconventional ‘title of king’ (The Act of Titulus Regius). The negative evidence shows that Elizabeth Woodville and Eleanor Butler at no time are reported to have either publicly acknowledged or denied or confirmed the central major implication of Stillington’s allegation. Information left for posterity in Holbein’s method implies that Richard loyally tried to cover up his elder brother’s extremely bad behaviour but was obliged by force majeure to declare an impediment in the children.
The future victor at Bosworth (later Henry VII) saw the main chance and prepared to invade England from France. For the protection of the realm, Richard took charge in the title of king. The two princes were hidden for their own safety with friends, the Tyrrells, with maternal consent. The over-anxious and ambitious Elizabeth Woodville still felt at risk from the traditional Yorkist families (who had not forgotten her undistinguished entrapment of the late king). Richard’s repeated attempts at reassurance failed. Rather than run with the York hounds she knew, the widow of Edward IV fell prey to a Tudor fox she came to know, whose dirty tricks department notionally murdered her sons. To be assessed.
9. The very fact that More did not go into print suggests two possible motives: (a) a circulating manuscript has a stronger gossip-effect; (b) More would not like to see a pack–of-lies in print; it might make him more formally responsible to his friends for all the nonsense therein.
10. Dirty (and other) Tricks: In security agency jargon, the person who tells an official lie, knowingly, is a ‘conscious agent’; and the person who repeats the lie, unknowingly, is an ‘unconscious agent’. If the princes indeed lived on, the investigation reveals the existence of conscious and unconscious agents reporting the blackwashing of Richard III. Requiring assessment (See: Cokayne, loc. cit.):
1) Thomas More (conscious) – in The History of King Richard the Third.
2) The contemporary author of The Chronicles of Croyland (conscious) – who never identified himself.
3). Dominic Mancini (unconscious?) – an Italian visitor to England (See: De Occupatione Regni Angliae, edited and translated by C. A. J. Armstrong, London, 1936.)
4) Polydore Vergil (conscious?) – an Italian resident in England, royal historiographer, who for many years held the position of sub-collector to Cardinal Adrian de Corneto, Bishop of Bath & Wells, who held the office of Collector for England in Henry VII’s reign. Arguably, in the pay of the Tudors. See Letters & Papers, Foreign & Domestic, Henry VIII, Vol. I, part I, 1509, ed. R. H. Brodie, publ. HMSO, London 1920, p. xiv. See also Polydore Vergil’s Anglia Historia, ed. Denis Hay, Camden Society 1950, and cf. Denis Hay, Polydore Vergil, Oxford, 1952.
We may be surprised to read that the wartime technique is described as a tactical muddying of the waters – and leaving them muddy. (Masterman) We may also be surprised that in order to cause harm to an individual or individuals, false information is deliberately planted in fertile soil in order to grow. Misinformation is scattered (also known as ‘trailing birdseed’) to be picked up by hungry little chatterboxes and deposited far away for consumption by others. Essentially, the information is intended, quite deliberately, to distort others’ perceptions of matters of fact, and the method is widely used as part of the overall strategy of a special dirty tricks department within a national security agency. (Masterman. See Note 2)
11. See Richard III, by R. S. Sylvester, The Complete Works of St. Thomas More, Yale University Press, New Haven, 1963, Vol. 2, p. lxxviii:
In actuality his narrative seldom claims to be more authoritative than his sources; it asks us first of all to credit not that what ‘men say’ really happened, but that men really say that it did happen. If we construe these appeals to authority as merely rhetorical devices which lend an aura of objectivity to arrant falsehood then we are forced to deny the demonstrable fact that other men had indeed ‘said’ what More makes them say in his narrative.
See also Richard III and his Early Historians 1483-1535 by A. Hanham, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1975, p. 190, << Sir Thomas More’s Satirical Drama >>:
As a joke against historians, the History of King Richard the Third has indeed had a success brilliant beyond anything that its creator can have intended.
12. Thomas More wrote that the bodies of the murdered princes had been buried at the foot of a staircase in the Tower of London. There is no earlier account of the alleged place of burial. Like ‘The Man who Never Was’, the bodies may have been a plant. Alternatively, there may be some other reason for their burial there. Upon the basic assumption that the princes lived to maturity, it follows that the remains of the two young bodies now resting in Westminster Abbey cannot be those of the princes. This still has to be assessed.
13. The remains of the bodies were found in 1674, during the reign of Charles II (1630-1638) whom, we may assume, authorised their reburial. Investigation reveals factually that << Sir Edward Guildford >> (said by Holbein to have been a notional person whose real identity was Edward V [1470-1528?] the elder of the two princes) was appointed Standard Bearer by Henry VIII (1491-1547). His descendants remained close to the Court thereafter: for example, his grandsons Guildford Dudley (1530? –1554), husband of Queen Jane Grey (1537-1554) and Robert Dudley (1532? –1588), the famous Earl of Leicester, during the reign of Elizabeth I (1533-1603). The rightful heir was courting the legal heir. The present descendant is Viscount de L’Isle & Dudley, who, no doubt, expects me to convince the historians of his descent from the Princes in the Tower!
14. From the death of her husband in 1483 until her own death in 1492, there is no report of a claim by Elizabeth Woodville, the one undoubtable source, that her children were either dead or missing.
15. Objection by historians (See Cokayne, cf. Note 1). The principal objection of some historians, lest blame for murder be attributed to Henry VII, is that the princes disappeared during the lifetime of Richard III. My reservations concern the unsafe assumption of murder, and only murder, in order to account for their disappearance.
16. On July 21 1978, an injustice done to Sir Thomas More more that 400 years ago was remedied in the House of Commons by the passage through all its stages of the Statute Law (Repeals) Bill, a consolidated measure, which had already passed the House of Lords. The Bill repealed 222 Acts dating from 1421 to 1977 and 136 parts of Acts and a Church measure on the grounds that they were no longer practical. Among them was an Act of 1535 that had taken away from Sir Thomas More a conveyance, on the grounds that he had obtained his land at Chelsea, fraudulently. Mr. Arthur Davidson, Parliamentary Secretary to the Law Officers’ Department, in charge of the Bill said:
It seems to suggest that in the court of Henry VIII there was a dirty tricks department, and a very effective one.
(For summary report, see << The Times >> of London, July 22nd, 1978, p. 1)
17. Erasmus tells a story of More taking him to visit << the royal children >> at Eltham in 1499. The impression is that More, as a young man, was on friendly terms with the queen of England. Remaining to be assessed. (See Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, P. S. & H. M. Allen, Oxford, Vol. I, No. 1)
18. Investigation of reports from the National Gallery, London (1951) the Courtauld Institute at the University of London, the Hamilton Kerr Institute at the University of Cambridge (1981), and radiocarbon dating of the canvas in the Department of Geosciences of the University of Arizona at Tucson (1983), substantially verifies the family documentation. Despite a raging controversy in the art history world, that the Group Portrait is a copy, the evidence gives the painting to Holbein. Upon receipt of the news from Arizona, the painting was re-dedicated before a distinguished audience, in the presence of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham of St. Marylebone – a tribute to a former Lord Chancellor, Sir Thomas More. (Reported in the Spectrum article << How Holbein hid a royal secret >> by Geraldine Norman, in << The Times >> of London, 25. 3. 1983) See also << Unveiling of the More Family Portrait at Nostell Priory >> by Thomas Merriam, Moreana 79-80 (Nov. 1983) 111-116. The radiocarbon findings were challenged on the possibility of error in the time scale. (See: << The Times >>, loc. cit.) Merriam followed up the objections in << The Times >>. (See: Moreana, loc. cit.)
19. It is not yet possible to quantify the probability (so-called) of the cryptographic concealment. Such an assessment must be based on statistical arguments, and to be valid, large samples are necessary. The evidence described here is sufficient to suggest that a thorough investigation of the area is justified. Holbein’s paintings and drawings should be brought together and assembled for open discussion in a public exhibition. The mathematical and cryptographic techniques needed to reach a conclusion should also be of interest.
20. Clement is depicted in clothes normally associated with the Italian style, notably the sleeves and hat. John Clement was promoted M.D. at Siena, 30/31st March 1525 << Mr Io Clemens, Anglus, filius mri Ruberti, in art. et med. doctorandus >>, Arch. di Siena, Vol. III, fol. 59v. See also inconclusive research of E. Wenkebach in John Clement, ein Englishcher Humanist und Arzt des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts, Leipzig, 1925, Anmerkungen, n. 49 ‘filius mri Ruberti’, et passim.
21. Richard III was known to be physically different from his brothers. His badge was a white boar, given to him by his father, the old Duke of York. The colour white was a symbol of the House of York. ‘Cingularis’ is the Latin word for a young boar at birth (when its back is striped, not unknown in human babies) – a near-homophone of ‘singularis’ or ‘one who is different’ or, ‘singular’. Only More attributed the famous humpback and withered arm. For a substantial period of time, some thirty-three years, Richard III’s lifetime, there is no report that he had some physical impediment. Investigation of certain portraits of Richard III reveal subsequent over painting of a hump, a withered arm, and coarse features – suggesting the dirty tricks department at a time when most people could not read but, like children, understood pictures. Remaining to be assessed.
(I wish to thank M.-C. Rousseau for kindly revealing to me the connection of the cingularis/singularis homophone and its historical significance. I also thank G. Marc’hadour for pointing out that ‘sanglier’ comes from ‘singularis’ and that, to some etymologists, this means the inherent ‘singleness’ [non-gregarious character] of the wild boar.)
22. The reader may not be surprised that investigation into the offspring, based upon the theory of notional persons, has provided some circumstantial evidence that points retrospectively to a cover up of the noble ancestry of both << Sir Edward Guildford >> and << Dr. John Clement >>.
23. Hans Holbein’s first visit to England began in 1526, as a guest in More’s house. He returned to Basel in 1528. He came back to England in 1532, and remained there, except for journeys abroad on the King’s business, until he died of the plague in 1543, in London.
24. In Utopia, More refers to John Clement as ‘puer meus’. This tallies with the vita that places his birth about 1500. More does not refer to his noble ancestry. See << John Clement his identity, and his Marshfoot house in Essex >> by T. Merriam, Moreana 97 (March 1988), pp. 145-152. Since publication of Merriam’s article, the College of Arms supports his view, on the basis of the English documentary evidence, that Clement was indeed of gentle or noble birth, and that this goes without saying. Similarly, the Rijksarchief in Antwerp, on the basis of the evidence in Flanders, is satisfied that the contemporary ‘nobilis’ descriptions in the Matricule de L’Université de Louvain conventionally reflect the status of nobility, and that John Clement was indeed of noble birth. In the absence of any evidence of <<ennoblement>> (Lord Spiritual or Temporal), this negative evidence suggests that the foregoing authoritative opinions upon substantive matters may also be correct in fact, requiring verification. (See Note 27, below)
25. Matricule de l’Université de Louvain.
See: (1) Vol. III, ed. A. Schillings, publ. Louvain, 1958. 31 August 1485 – 31 August 1527. During this 42-year period, 23,479 names were inscribed: an average of 559 each year.
See (2) id. Vol. IV, ed. A. Schillings, publ. Louvain, 1961. Feb 1528 – Feb 1569. During this 41-year period, 25,767 names were inscribed: an average of 628 each year.
Before entry, at minimum age of about 16 years, each student was required to swear the following oath (text taken from Vol. III, fol. 2):
See Schillings’s note in Vol. III, (p. xii):
Prendre un engagement solennel sous la foi du serment revient évidemment à accomplir un acte juridique pour lequel il faut avoir la capacité requise.
Obviously, for a student to swear an oath under a false name would be a serious crime, namely perjury.
See also the note of FEES in Vol. III (p. xiii):
Les étudiants devaient payer un minerval pour leurs études. Au début, cette somme était remise entre les mains du recteur. Plus tard, elle sera payée au receveur de l’Université. Le montant de la somme était fixé.
It is not at all clear if Clement had to pay his fees direct into the hand of the rector – or, as a political refugee, whether he paid any fees at all. However, at a later date (see. p. xiv), we find:
…que les nobiles payaient plus que les divites et que la somme soldée par ces derniers était supérieure à celle des pauperes.
Nobility paid more for their tuition than the commoners and paupers. Dr. W. Rombaut, Director of the Rijksarchief at Antwerp, notes that upon occasion, nobles failed to declare their noble ancestry, in order to pay less!
See also Vol. III (p. xiv), re. the origin, significance and practical importance of ‘privilegium tractus’:
Lors de sa fondation l’Alma Mater reçut beaucoup de privilèges notamment en matière d’impôts. Le plus important de ceux-ci ètait incontestablement le privilegium tractus ou le privilege de juridiction. Les fondateurs avaient estimé que l’Université ne pouvait pas jouir d’une indépendance complète si ses members n’étaient pas soutraits à toute autorité ecclésiastique et civile autre que celle du recteur, president du tribunal de l’Université.
And, Vol. III (p. xv):
Mais l’inscription dans les matricules était la condition indispensable pour pouvoir invoquer les privileges.
And also, Vol. III (p. xv):
L’étudiant n’était inscrit qu’une seule fois, lors de son entrée à l’Université. Toutefois il n’était pas exclu que pour des motifs sérieux, par example une longue absence ou interruption, on jugeât utile d’immatriculer une seconde fois (renovavit juramentum). Le recteur devait inscrire les noms des étudiants de sa main propre (which the editor discusses in the text).
According to custom and rule, the rector is directly involved with the actual registration, which must be made in his own hand. John Clement was unconventionally re-registered by more than one rector (see below) without the formally required ‘renovavit juramentum’. The impression is that the rectors are implicated in a collusive arrangement with Clement.
The best-fit hypothesis is that the rectors were loyally and defiantly protecting the person known as John Clement, and that they knew his real identity.
From the rectors’ point of view, it was essential for Clement’s name to be on the register (in order to protect him from possible prosecution by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities) but they could not permit him to swear the oath under a false name, which, in the case of discovery or denunciation, might lose the university its right to the privilegium tractus and cost the rector his job!
The impression is that the problem was honestly solved (almost!) by the earliest brave rector when he registered a John Clement, without the students’ oath, on 13th February 1489.
Either this rector was an old man, forgetful and incompetent, or he deliberately omitted details of status and origin.
In the latter case, the rector risked the possibility that the classification ‘non juravit’ (or similar) would be applicable (on just thirteen occasions from August 1485 to February 1569) to privileged college servants (Schillings) and absentees, with customarily given status and/or origins – except in the case of John Clement and that this first entry would be revealed as unique for the period.
In Vol. III:
Tulpinus Causmans, servitor et pistor Mgri Johannis Moeselaer regentis in Castro, solvit jura intitulationis et non juravit. (p. 4, #58. 27.11.1485)
Denea filia Wissonnis ancilla Mgri Johannis Petri de Capella, solvit jura intitulationis et non juravit. (p. 4, #59. 17.12.1485)
Johannes Clemens (non juravit). (p. 42, #128. 13.2.1489)
Bartolomeus de Stapel, servitor laicus Spierinck non juravit. (p. 115, #103. 9.1.1495)
Urbanus Andree de Florenis, non juravit quia absens. (p. 368, #252. 2.10.1508)
In Vol. IV:
Joannes Pierz de Ostendis (non juravit). (p. 12, #1. 31.8.1528)
Jacobus de Namursi (iste non prestitit juramentum quia non comparavit). (p. 87, #8. March 1533)
Carolus le Dusereau, Lymaliensis (non juravit). (p. 521, #435. 26.8.1555)
Arnoldus Proeven de Trajecto Superiori, non juravit. (p. 526, #161. Feb 1556)
Nicolaus Bahuet, Bruxellensis, non juravit propter ejus absentiam. (p. 541, #95. Jan 1557)
Urbanus Beringerius, Cameracensis, non juravit quia absens erat. (p. 541, #101. Jan. 1557)
Johannes Op den Berch, Bruxellensis, non juravit quia absens. (p. 543, #177. Jan 1557)
Wilhelmus Bonen, Velpensis, non juravit quia absens. (p. 544, #189. Jan 1557)
The unique John Clement entry presupposes a unique cause and/or a most compelling reason.
The rectorship of Mgr Balduinus Wilhelmi of Delft commenced the last day of August 1487. The rectorship of Conrardus de Sarto commenced on the sabbath before the last sabbath in the month of August 1488 and lasted until 26 February 1489, when the new rector was Petrus de Thenis. However, the Clement entry was recorded earlier, under the rectorship of Mgr Balduinus Wilhelmi and the entry is in his hand. There is no fully satisfactory explanation except that pre-inscribing of an under-age student was not unusual – indeed, it was common.
Dominus Doctor Joannes Clemens, nobilis, Anglus. (Vol. IV, [op. cit.], #3, 3 March 1562).
Dominus Johannes Clement, in theologia. (Vol. IV, [op. cit.], #55, 3 June 1568).
26. Regarding the true year of birth of John Clement:
The 1518 edition of Utopia contains a frontispiece showing Clement as a young boy. It is still uncertain who drew the original sketch, either Hans Holbein or Ambrosius, his brother. However, the impression is that Holbein deduced Clement’s age (as we have done) from the text and may have confirmed this with Erasmus, who was living at the time in the home of the Basel printer, Johannes Froben, probably seeing More’s work through the press. We may imagine Holbein’s surprise when he met John Clement for the first time in More’s house in 1526-1527. He was expecting to meet a man of about 27 years instead he was introduced to a man of 54 years. There was little point in Thomas More insulting his guest’s intelligence by denying what he had written and that Erasmus was involved. This extraordinary story of Clement’s real age and true year of birth is referred to in the rebus in the Group Portrait of Sir Thomas More and his Family.
27. See: Testing Times for fathers, by Liz Gill in << The Times >> of London, 20th July 1987, p. 15. See also DNA ‘advance of the century’ by Craig Seton in << The Times >> of London, 14th November 1987, p. 3 and, Genetic fingers in the forensic pie in << New Scientist >> by Steve Connor, 28 Jan 1988, pp. 31-32.
28. Precedents: The coffin of Edward IV was opened at Windsor in 1789. (See: Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford, Compact Edition, Vol. I, D-F, p. 500). The supposed remains of Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, were inconclusively examined in 1933. (See: Cokayne, op. cit.) The remains of Anne Mowbray (1472-1481), the child bride of Richard, Duke of York, were examined upon the instruction of the coroner, after being found in a coffin buried in a sealed vault on the former site of a medieval nunnery belonging to the order of St. Clare. On May 31, 1965, with the approval of the Dean & Chapter of Westminster, she was re-interred in Westminster Abbey, where she had been buried originally in the Chapel of St. Erasmus. (See: << The Times >> of London, Jan 15th 1965)
Footnote: For the best defence of Richard III in a work of fiction (acknowledged by Cokaynes’s The Complete Peerage), see The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. (cf. beginning of the present article and Note 1)
The Princes in the Tower disappeared in 1483, aged 13 and 10 years. In his History of King Richard III, More curiously repeats what ‘men say’, that they mere murdered by their ambitious uncle, Richard of Gloucester, later King Richard III. Why does a man of truth take on board a rumour from a previous century – not to be printed during his lifetime? No less impressive why doesn’t the mother of the princes, Elizabeth Woodville, claim that her children are either missing or dead? Could the children have re-appeared under false names and identities, the elder as Sir Edward Guildford and the younger as John Clement, the latter in the More family? The presence of Richard, Duke of York is confirmed by the artist, Holbein, in the Group Portrait of Sir Thomas More and his Family. Upon the death of his elder brother, Clement the rightful heir occupies the position of honour highest in the portrait, marked by fleurs de lis. The theory of royal status is supported by what we find in the registers of the University of Louvain. Do not these trails merit deeper investigation?
Les enfants de la Tour, neveux et rivaux potentials de l’ambitieux Richard de Gloucester, disparurent en 1483, ages 13 et 10 ans. Dans son History of King Richard III, More accrédite leur assassinat en répétant ce que << men say >> (les gens disent). Mais lui, l’homme intègre qui mourra pour la vérité, se garde bien de prendre à son compte cette rumeur. En outré, son oeuvre, rédigée entre 1513 et 1518, ne sera pas publié de son vivant. Pourquoi une telle reserve? Un autre << silence >> n’est pas moins impressionnant; celui de la mere des jeunes princes, Elizabeth Woodville. Alors, les enfants n’auraient-ils pas simplement disparu sous des noms d’emprunt, l’un de Sir Edward Guildford, l’autre de John Clement, ce dernier appartenant à la maisonnée de More? C’est ce que confirmerait la presence de ce John, sous ‘nom de guerre’ de Heresius, dans une grande composition, La Famille de Thomas More, par Hans Holbein. Clement-Heresius-Richard d’York y occupe une position honorifique inattendue, et ce dans un cadre de fleurs de lis. L’hypothèse de l’ascendance royale du personage est confortée – du moins elle n’est pas ébranlée – par ce que nous apprennent de John Clement les registres d’inscription de l’Université de Louvain. Toutes ces pistes ne méritent-elles pas des investigations plus poussées?
The holograph page 17v of the Louvain register shows the ‘Johannes Clemens’ entry with ‘non juravit’ abbreviated in the left hand margin (tenth line). The handwriting changes with the entry ‘Johannes Mere de Aldenardo filius Wilhelmi, Tornacen, dyoces, stud. in fac. artium. (12.2.1489, eighth line). Note that each name in this section is followed by an identifying qualifier, except ‘Johannes Clemens’ (13.2.1489)
Reproduced by courtesy of the Archives Générales du Royaume, 2-4-6 Rue de Ruysbroeck, 1000 Brussels, with many thanks to Dr. E. Persoons. (See text above, p. 15)
Reviewed: 14 June 2000
Last Revision: 21 June 2002
For expert opinion of John Guy, the Man and his Work, I have to draw attention to the article “Reactions to John Guy’s BBC Documentary” by M. Le Rumeur, published in the Gazette Thomas More, No. 11. 2001.
Mary Le Rumeur Gazette Thomas More, no 11, 2001
REACTIONS TO JOHN GUY’S BBC DOCUMENTARY
On 26 January 2001, BBC TV broadcast a documentary on Thomas More entitled The King’s Servant. Designed to change the image of him by Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons, it is marred by an unhistorical scene.
Zinneman’s film, the script of which was also written by Bolt, drew much of its story-line from the Life of More written by his son-in-law William Roper, and from More’s prison letters. The BBC draws on revisionist 20th century historians keen to find flaws in More’s life and to put him under the microscope of modern theories. Yet some of their allegations against More date from his earliest Protestant antagonists, especially Tyndale and Joye, and John Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.
In the BBC version, scenes from the final years of More’s life are interspersed with commentary by historian and biographer of More, John Guy, (whose recent Thomas More is discussed at length by fellow-historian, John M. Headley, in Moreana 143-4, p. 81-96). There are poignant scenes between More and his daughter Meg, filmed in their parish church at Chelsea, or as he writes his final letter to the family, naming each of his children and giving them tokens of his love.
But the strongest impact perhaps is made by a scene which gives the lie to More as a man of justice and mercy, the model of a wise and moderate judge. It shows him personally supervising the whipping of a heretic in his own house.
The accusation is not new. More himself recorded all the allegations in detail in his Apology of 1533: “The lies are neither few nor small, that many of the blessed brethren have made, and daily yet make… Divers of them have said that of such as were in my house while I was chancellor, I used to examine them with torments, causing them to be bounden to a tree in my garden and there piteously beaten” (Complete Works of St Thomas More, Vol. 9, p. 117/3-9, published by Yale University Press, 1963).
More’s close friends were reporting to him these “tales so blown about” that “a right worshipful friend of mine did of late within less than this fortnight tell unto another near friend of mine that he had of late heard much speaking thereof” (117/10-13). More went out of his way to recount the two instances of whipping which he had ordered at Chelsea, where he held the jurisdiction and was charged to uphold good order.
One case was a man, previously detained as a lunatic at Bedlam, who repeatedly came into church and lifted up the skirts of women over their heads as they bowed at the moment of the consecration. The local people requested that he be stopped, and as he was deaf to warnings, More ordered him to be “striped with rods” (birched) while “bounden to a tree in the street before the whole town”. He never re-offended: “God be thanked I hear none harm of him now” (118/6-32).
The second was of a young servant in the More household who had been influenced by the heretical ideas of George Joye “against the blessed sacrament of the altar”. The boy’s name was Dick Purser. When he “began to teach another child in my house”, the matter was brought to More’s attention. “I caused a servant of mine to stripe him like a child before mine household, for amendment of himself and example to such others” (118/5).
Both cases had to do with disrespect for the Mass. Whipping was an acceptable punishment both at home and at school, not to mention Bedlam, and More recounts the events with no gloating. Some heretics were held in custody at More’s house where he examined them and tried “to win them back to orthodoxy by argument”, says J. B. Trapp, editor of the Apology (CW9/xxxii). One of them, the priest George Constantine, escaped from the stocks while in More’s custody.
Writing of these cases, More says: “And of all that ever came in my hand for heresy, as help me God, saving as I said the sure keeping of them – and yet not so sure neither but that George Constantine could steal away – else had never any of them any stripe or stroke given them, so much as a flip on the forehead” (118/32-36).
Perjury at the Trial?
The documentary raises new questions about the evidence of Richard Rich at More’s trial, which Roper reported to have been labelled by More himself as perjury: “In good faith, Master Rich, I am sorrier for your perjury than for my own peril” (Roper, Early English Texts Society, p. 87).
The BBC posits that the conversation between More and Rich on the supremacy of the king did take place but was understood by both of them to be “privileged” talk between two lawyers and not admissible as evidence.
This question was canvassed in the very first issue of Moreana where E. E. Reynolds described his discovery of Rich’s autograph record of his conversation with More in the Tower on 12 June 1535. In Moreana no 3 (June 1964) 14 pages by Professor Derrett explain a view similar to that held by John Guy. In the same issue, Reynolds gives a short response: “Perhaps it comes down to this. After many years studying the life and works of Thomas More, I believe that when at his trial, he denied having said the words reported by Rich, he was speaking the truth. Dr. Derrett doubts this”.
In Moreana no 10 (May 1966) Fr Brian Byron corrected the transcript of some parts of the report as given by Reynolds and Derrett. By comparing the evidence of the indictment, Roper’s Life and Rich’s autograph, he suggested that More’s defence was that he and Rich were discussing a case in which the election of a Pope by the English Parliament was envisaged. To deny such would not constitute any crime.
He wrote that “More’s assault on Rich at the trial was the most devastating personal attack that More ever made in his life…It is difficult to improve on More’s own arguments of his innocence to this charge and of the unlikelihood of his revealing his mind to Rich when he had steadfastly refused to discuss the matter with anyone else, even the King through his Councillors.”
Discussion at Fontevraud
On Wednesday 11 July 2001, most of the participants attending the international Thomas More Conference in the Royal Abbey of Fontevraud gathered to watch the BBC film. In the vaulted monastic hall, the stark phrases rang out, as John Guy declared “during his Chancellorship he burned six heretics with satisfaction, even relish”, and the sound of the whip in the flogging scene as the actor More cried: “I have the power of God and right…recant Constantine, or burn in everlasting fire!” A devious character is presented, who claims he wants to leave the public scene in May 1532, but continues to “play politics by other means” by writing books. The film also claims that More was “horrified that people would read the Bible”.
The discussion of the film was led by John M. Headley, who suggested that “John Guy should have exercised his own conscience and withdrawn his participation. Here we have a very erudite and learned historian in a film which strains credibility”.
Father Marc’hadour praised the film for showing More as a man of prayer “more than do Zinneman or Anouilh” but lamented the “serious historical inaccuracies”. In a letter, written from the Tower at the beginning of May 1535, More says: “I had fully determined with myself, neither to study nor meddle with any matter of this world, but that my whole study should be upon the passion of Christ and mine own passage out of this world” (Rogers, p. 552/64-8). The film as dating from May 1532 when More resigned the chancellorship cites this quotation. A thesis is then built of a man who says one thing and does the opposite.
The books More wrote between his resignation and the end of 1532 did have a political dimension yet they belonged primarily to the campaign against heresy for which he had been commissioned by the king and the bishops. More certainly shared the common opinion of the time that heretics were the worst of traitors, he added. “Everyone believed that, even Luther and Zwingli. Thieves were put to death for their crimes, it was an accepted punishment – how much more so for seditious heresy.”
Far from being “horrified that ordinary people would start reading the Bible”, More recommended translating the scriptures into English (CW6, 337-8; 340-41) but he wanted an authorised version, which is what the Anglican Church produced with the Bishops’ Bible in 1568 and the King James Version of 1611. In A Dialogue Concerning Heresies (June 1529) he quotes the decree of 1408, called the Arundel Constitution after Archbishop Arundel, then Primate of the English Church. It required that no translation of religious literature into English made in the time of Wyclif or since be published “till the same translation were by the diocesan [bishop] or, if need should require, by a provincial counsel approved” (CW6, 315/28-35). “Tyndale’s New Testament, published without this approval, was thus a breach of the law, and its obvious theological agenda confirmed the wisdom of demanding episcopal supervision. More was the first to suggest a team of translators, the method that was adopted later for the King James version.”
Was it naïve of More to accept the Great Seal with some hope of achieving some good, or of minimising the evil? In 1529 More may have thought the worst could be avoided. “Henry’s infatuation for Anne Boleyn, which did not last long, could have passed even more quickly. More knew the king to be a fickle man”.
William Rockett pointed out, “nothing is said in the film of the arrangement with the king for More to be excused from dealing with the divorce if his conscience would not allow him to do so”. Henry told More to “first look unto God and after God unto him, which most gracious words was the first lesson also that ever his Grace gave me at my first coming into his noble service” (letter to Cromwell written at Chelsea 5 March 1534, Rogers, p. 495).
More repeated the same phrase in a letter to Dr Wilson, his fellow prisoner in the Tower (Rogers, p. 534), and to Meg in a letter of 3 June 1535, adding that it was “the most virtuous lesson that ever prince taught his servant” (Rogers, p. 557). To Cromwell, More also describes how “the King’s Highness”, being advised “of my poor opinion in the matter…graciously taking in gre my good mind in that behalf, used of his blessed disposition in the prosecuting of his great matter only those (of whom his Grace had good number) whose conscience his Grace perceived well and fully persuaded upon that part” (Rogers, p. 496).
Not enough distinction is made in the film between the different strands of events in those crucial years, Rockett believes. “The Protestant faction was not the same as the proponents of the divorce”. Luther and Tyndale were both against the divorce. “Then the Supremacy is another question altogether”. More was writing against the heretics, but not against the divorce. “The main political drive of the king was to secure the divorce, and More held himself separate from that”.
Regarding the question of perjury at the trial. Fr. Marc’hadour said: “Could Thomas More have lied on 1 July 1535, adding that if what Richard Rich had said was true he would rather not see the face of God? No document in the public record office carries more weight for me than that loud discrediting of the witness. And other witnesses were still around, including Rich himself, when Roper’s memoir began to circulate.”
Clarence Miller pointed out that the ecclesiastical courts condemned the six heretics burned during More’s chancellorship. “More had nothing to do with them. They were not in his jurisdiction”. Richard Schoeck added that “in the ecclesiastical courts a miscreant was accorded 40 days to change his mind, and then he was turned over to the civil authority.”
For Archibald Young the most critical charge in the film is that More denied to others a right to follow their conscience, a right he claimed for himself. But, in fact, “More never said anything publicly against the king’s statutes, he broke no law, and he subscribed to all the laws of the state. He followed the same principle in 1534, which he had outlined in his Utopia in 1516.” (See also “Revising the Revisionists: Modern Criticism of Thomas More”, Moreana 133/65-81).
As he said in his letter to Margaret in May 1535, there is a world of difference between private belief and public declaration: “I do nobody harm, I say none harm, I think none harm, but wish everybody good. And if this be not enough to keep a man alive, in good faith I long not to live” (Rogers, p. 553).
Paul Sawada mentioned an article from the Law Quarterly Review of January 1983 by H. Schulte Herbrüggen “The Process against Sir Thomas More”, LQR 99: 113-136, which suggests that More refused to take the oath on a legal point “because the oath went beyond the scope of the Act of Succession itself”. He also pointed out that in the 16th century “everyone considered the soul as more important than the body. This was the basis of a different value judgment regarding heresy”.
The question of Richard Rich’s evidence at More’s trial struck a chord with Fr Brian Byron. “There are three documents which are important in this matter: first, the Public Record Office report, secondly the indictment, and thirdly Roper. More accused Rich of perjury because they had been discussing the primacy of the Pope, not the supremacy of the king in England. The important phrase is where More says ‘most Utter partes doo not affirme the same’. Other countries would not recognise a Pope created by the Parliament of England. This is the line followed by Peter Ackroyd in his book where he quotes the relevant section of the PRO document.
A Note from St Dunstan’s
On 6 July 2001, Canon Michael Bunce gave the annual address in St Dunstan’s Church at Canterbury and spoke about the issues raised in John Guy’s documentary. “We now know…that More was rather like King Canute trying to turn back the tide. He stood at the crossroads of the old world and the new. He was both a Renaissance man and a Medieval man. He was both a humanist and a traditionalist…he had a foot firmly in both camps”.
“The fabric of medieval society was a complete unity – or at any rate, it strove to be. There was a broad harmony between Church and State. What was good for one was good for the other. It was into this late medieval world that Thomas More was born… In the end, when crucial choices have to be made, it’s always the familiar and the well tested which form our anchor. Thomas More, in the heady days of the Renaissance and the new Humanism, fell back on the certainties of the old world”.
One thing is certain – the BBC documentary, while flawed historically, has been a good springboard for debate. Kevin Eastell uses it for his classes on Thomas More in Paris at the extension of the University of St Thomas, Minnesota.
Reviewed June 2002
You may conceivably decide that demonization and trivialisation of a saint reveals a remarkable lack of consideration for the feelings of others. I raise the point in view of John Guy’s odd decision to take part in a TV programme blighted by audio/visual images communicating wildly prejudiced and highly partisan early Protestant propaganda. The justification of surrendering editorial control to a BBC Producer simply will not do. Why did John Guy ignore the risk of his argument being overthrown in the inevitable peer review process? Why did he make an elementary error in a matter of fact, obvious to an expert? Why did an erudite and learned professor risk his reputation as a serious person? NIET suggests a hidden agenda and an end in view and this we may see in time. Such behaviour may make sense, eventually.
Reviewed July 2002
I respectfully decline on scientific and methodological grounds, as already explained and made clear, to make comparison of any supposed action or actions of Thomas More in the past with any supposed action or actions of the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court during the recent Presidential Election.
Merely a pointer-out-of things, I recall the so-called “Submission of the Clergy” when Henry VIII’s demands in royal matters of state were placed before the bishops in an ecclesiastical court and on 15 May 1532, a date memorable in English history, the majority made their complete surrender to the king. The convocation had cast their vote in matters of English civil or common law instead of the constitutional canon law of Rome -- and Sir Thomas More resigned the Chancellorship next day.
The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court knows it and now you know it.
The limitations put in place by the Founding Fathers of the United States of America separating matters of State Law and Constitutional Law were contradicted and in dispute in the US 2000 Presidential Election. This is slightly troubling.
Briefly, the dispute concerned nine judges sitting in the Supreme Court of Justice. Five judges were deemed to have “elected” the next president of the United States against the will of four other judges. The five may deny it -- the four may not.
You may not be at all surprised that from time to time the Lord Chancellor of England, Sir Thomas More, is reported to have invited the judges in the High Court to dine with him at his home in Chelsea. Recent investigation of the Holbein evidence shows that the “King’s Great Matter” concerning his divorce from Katherine of Aragon was a matter of great concern to Thomas More, greater than had ever been thought before. We may reasonably assume that More sounded out his colleagues on their opinions if called upon to judge the case. Holbein asserts that More’s mind was clear on what must be done but he could not say out loud what his mind was. Instead, if I were writing a play and giving full rein to my dramatic instincts, there is one story about an inquiry More might perhaps have repeated over dinner, without prejudice, to his dear friends and invited guests from the American Bar Association.
And More tells a tale of a case between a Londoner and a Northerner, which had to be settled by an inquiry of twelve men, ‘a jury, I remember they called it, or else a perjury’. The perjury was packed with Northerners, all but a poor Southerner called Company. The Northerners agreed on a verdict, when Company dissented.
‘Company’ quoth they, ‘play the good companion, come thereon forth with us, and pass even for good company.’ ‘But’, retorted Company, ‘when we shall hence, and come before God, and that he shall send you to Heaven for doing according to your conscience, and me to the Devil for doing against mine, if I shall then say to all you again, “Go now for good company with me,” would ye go?’
There is a prayer for dissenters, presumably, in the holy sayings and writings of Thomas More:
“The things, good lord, that I pray for, give me thy grace to labour for. Amen.”
More has been highly regarded by friends and enemies alike over a considerable period of time. For instance, when accused at his trial of maliciously refusing to swear an oath of royal supremacy, his denial suggests that he took the swearing of an oath very seriously indeed:
‘If I were a man, my Lords, that did not regard an oath, I needed not, as it is well known, in this place, at this time, nor in this case, to stand here as an accused person.’
I have to draw attention that since each one of More’s seventeen judges had sworn to maintain individual and collective juridic impartiality in the administration of justice you may not be surprised that notwithstanding the undoubted legitimacy and supremacy of the High Court of England, which was unchallengeable, there are senior lawyers to-day who measure harshly and condemn the findings and sentence of the court of last resort at the trial of Thomas More in Westminster Hall.
Later, More wrote: ‘I meddle not with the conscience of any man that hath sworn…nor I take it not upon me to be their judge.’
You may conceivably decide this was the behaviour of a remarkable Statesman, the most famous intellectual and Man of Truth and Courage in the reign of Henry VIII, and every country needs such men.
I am convinced, as already described and made clear, that Thomas More was a great and perhaps even greater man than we might ever have thought of him before.
#60 “I see a modern comparison in the war between the legal heirs and rightful heirs in the 16th century and what has recently happened in the US presidential election, where the son of a dynasty, George W. Bush, has been appointed the legal heir to the White House (by a complaisant judiciary) when Albert Gore was the rightful heir (with the votes and approval of most Americans).”
First, may I draw attention to the simple historical fact that genealogical wars between rightful heirs and legal heirs in the Judaeo-Christian ethic began in or about 1900BC, recorded in the Books of the Kings. The events that transpired more than 3400 years later in Tudor England is one more instance of bloody tactical problem-solving by protagonists of rightful heirs and legal heirs primarily concerned with the on-going strategic and peculiarly royal problem of ‘Continuity’.
The recent war of the Democrats and Republicans in the US 2000 Presidential Election shows the same strategic problem of ‘Continuity’ and the tactical decision of the protagonists to fight the Battle of the Florida Recount at the psychological level -- with paid advocates.
In this connexion, I have to draw attention that the Will of one US Supreme Court Judge, in a split five to four decision, negated and made null and void the Will of a substantial number of African American voters in Florida, silencing an alleged majority in favour of Democratic continuity in the White House – and Will when it is used to bend another to that Will is War. That is Truth and, perhaps, the Judges in the US Supreme Court of Justice know it.
Notwithstanding ‘human fallibility’, which is unchallengeable, if we follow the example of men like Thomas More, it is not acceptable for a judge in a position of great benefit to act, wittingly or unwittingly, from political expediency.
With perfect hindsight – may I add that the major lesson to be learned and inwardly digested by US Electorate 2000 and taught to their children is that every vote is important and to ensure that every vote cast hereinafter is a valid vote.
Finally, may I add that if interested in methods, we must learn to think for ourselves, not relying on the opinions of others, no matter how eminent -- and the correct method is the on-going hard labour of Education from moment to moment – (what can be drawn out and not what we stuff in!)
The risk is that if we do not learn the lessons of history we are condemned to repeat them. The repetition of lessons of history is the repetition of multiple and profound problems, as many visitors have noted, mostly the same profound problems. It is only the superficial details that differ.
Last revision: 010101