2nd Duke of Buckingham, Anthony Woodville, Dowager Queen Elizabeth, Earl Rivers, Elizabeth Woodville, Execution, Henry Stafford, King Edward V of England, King Richard III of England, Lord Protector
On the death of King Edward IV on April 9, 1483, his 12-year-old son, Edward V, succeeded him. Richard was named Lord Protector of the Realm and at Baron Hastings’ urging, Richard assumed his role and left his base in Yorkshire for London. This was in response to the Woodvilles’ attempt to monopolise power, Richard quickly moved to take control of the young king
On April 29, as previously agreed, Richard and his cousin, Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, met Queen Elizabeth’s (Elizabeth Woodville) brother, Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, at Northampton. At the queen’s request, Earl Rivers was escorting the young King Edward V to London with an armed escort of 2,000 men, while Richard and Buckingham’s joint escort was 600 men.
King Edward V had been sent further south to Stony Stratford. Richard had Earl Rivers, his nephew Richard Grey and his associate, Thomas Vaughan, arrested and charged with treason against the Lord Protector after appearing before a tribunal led by Henry Percy, 4th Earl of Northumberland. Rivers had appointed Richard as executor of his will.
The result of the tribunal was Earl Rivers, Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughan were imprisoned and then beheaded at Pontefract Castle on June 25, 1483 as part of the duke’s path towards kingship (as Richard III).
What made Earl Rivers and his associates actions treasonous was that by following the orders of Queen Elizabeth they had set themselves up, or more precisely, we’re set up, to challenge the authority and wishes of Richard as Lord Protector. Their actions were an example of the bitter rivalry between Richard and Queen Elizabeth and the rest of the Woodville clan.
Another reason for the arrest and execution of Earl Rivers and associates was the plot that had been uncovered against Richard as Lord Protector where the Woodville family wanted to remove Richard from his position as Lord Protector. After the perpetrators had been executed Richard and Buckingham moved to Stony Stratford, where Richard informed his nephew Edward V of the plot aimed at denying him his role as Lord Protector.
Richard proceeded to escort the king to London. They entered the city on May 4,displaying the carriages of weapons Rivers had taken with his 2,000-man army. Richard first accommodated Edward in the Bishop’s apartments; then, on Buckingham’s suggestion, the king was moved to the royal apartments of the Tower of London, where kings customarily awaited their coronation.
With her younger son and daughters, Elizabeth again sought sanctuary. Lord Hastings, the late king’s leading supporter in London, initially endorsed Gloucester’s actions, but Gloucester then accused him of conspiring with Elizabeth Woodville against him. Hastings was summarily executed. Whether any such conspiracy really occurred is not known. Richard accused Elizabeth of plotting to “murder and utterly destroy” him.
On hearing the news of her brother’s April 30 arrest, the dowager queen fled to sanctuary in Westminster Abbey. Joining her were her son by her first marriage, Thomas Grey, 1st Marquess of Dorset; her five daughters; and her youngest son, Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York.
On June 10/11, Richard wrote to Ralph, Lord Neville, the City of York and others asking for their support against “the Queen, her blood adherents and affinity” whom he suspected of plotting his murder. At a council meeting on 13 June at the Tower of London, Richard accused Hastings and others of having conspired against him with the Woodvilles and accusing Jane Shore, lover to both Hastings and Thomas Grey, of acting as a go-between.
According to Thomas More, Hastings was taken out of the council chambers and summarily executed in the courtyard, while others, like Lord Thomas Stanley and John Morton, Bishop of Ely, were arrested. Hastings was not attainted and Richard sealed an indenture that placed Hastings’ widow, Katherine, under his protection. Bishop Morton was released into the custody of Buckingham. On June 16, the dowager queen agreed to hand over the Duke of York to the Archbishop of Canterbury so that he might attend his brother Edward’s coronation, still planned for June 22.