Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Richard III’s mistress and his defeat at Bosworth

At the end of the medieval period, historical novelist, Elizabeth Ashworth,  speculates upon the identity of the mother of Richard the Third's two illegitimate children. Anne Harrington is the subject of her latest book.

If Lord Thomas Stanley and his brother William Stanley had supported Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth on 22nd August 1485, he would probably have won and there may never have been a Tudor dynasty. Many suggestions have been made about why the Stanleys decided to support Henry Tudor rather than Richard, but one that is rarely discussed is the long standing enmity between Richard and Thomas Stanley over the inheritance of Hornby Castle.
  At the Battle of Wakefield in 1460, the owner of Hornby, Sir Thomas Harrington, was killed alongside his son, John Harrington, and Richard, Duke of York (Richard III’s father). Because Thomas died first and his son second, the Harrington lands passed through John to his two young daughters, Anne and Elizabeth.  If John had died first, the lands would have passed from Thomas to his next son, James Harrington.
The wardships of Anne and Elizabeth Harrington, were given by the king, Edward IV, to Lord Thomas Stanley who then had the right to marry them to husbands of his choosing – men who would become owners of the Harrington lands.  Considering this to be unfair, James Harrington took possession of his nieces and fortified Hornby Castle against the Stanleys who tried to take it by force by bringing a cannon named the Mile End from Bristol to blast the fortifications. But it seems that the Harringtons had the support of the king’s youngest brother.  A warrant issued by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, on the 26th March 1470 was signed ‘at Hornby’. 
Hornby Castle as it looks today
This evidence places seventeen year old Richard and fifteen year old Anne together in the castle. It is possible that these two young people were attracted to one another, and in my novel By Loyalty bound I suggest that Anne Harrington may have been Richard's mistress. Although this is based on speculation there is some circumstantial evidence.  Richard’s illegitimate son was named John – which was the name of Anne’s father.  His daughter was named Katherine.  This name does occur in the Harrington family. It is also worth noting that in the church of St Wilfrid at Melling near Hornby, there was a chapel that was originally dedicated to St Katherine.  But perhaps more telling, there was a chantry chapel in the medieval church of St George at Doncaster founded by John Harrington (Anne’s great uncle) and his wife Isabel where they were buried. It was dedicated to St Katherine and there were stained glass windows depicting members of the Harrington family and asking for prayers for their souls.  Is it possible that Anne named her daughter after a favourite family saint?
Bosworth: the last charge. courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
James and Robert Harrington, who had been retainers of the Earl of Warwick until his rebellion, were both taken into the service of Richard when he was Duke of Gloucester. They both fought by his side at Bosworth.  If Richard had been successful he was planning to re-open the debate about Hornby with a view to returning it to the Harringtons.  
Anne was married off to Edward Stanley, a son of Lord Thomas Stanley. He was considerably younger than Anne and they had no children.  After her death he married again and had a son and heir, but despite protests from the Harrington family, Hornby Castle remained in the possession of the Stanleys.
The dispute about the possession of Hornby adds an extra dimension to the enmity between Richard and Lord Thomas Stanley. It may have been instrumental in his defeat and death at Bosworth – and it may also account for why the name of Richard’s mistress has vanished from history.  


About the Author.
Elizabeth sold her first article at the age of eleven. This was followed by  short story sales to Pony Annual just four years later and since then her work has been published in a wide variety of publications including Lancashire Magazine, Lancashire Life, The Lady, My Weekly, People's Friend and Take a Break Fiction Feast.
Elizabeth has written three local interest books - Champion Lancastrians, Tales of Old Lancashire and Lancashire - Who Lies Beneath?
Her first historical novel The de Lacy Inheritance was published by Myrmidon Books in June 2010 and her second novel An Honourable Estate is available as an e-book and a paperback, along with its short prequel The Lady of Haigh. A third novel, By Loyalty Bound, which tells the story of the mistress of Richard III was published by Claymore Press on 31st May 2013 (in the UK).
You can find out more about Elizabeth, her books and research on her website:

You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @elizashworth

Further details of Elizabeth's books can be found here if you are in the UK and here if you are in the US.

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