Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Butt of Malmsey

Now that Richard III has been found, it's time to talk about his brother George, the Duke of Clarence. Author Stephanie Mann says:
George Plantagenet, Duke of Clarence, Earl of Warwick, Earl of Salisbury, and Lord of Richmond; brother of King Edward IV and King Richard III, died in the Tower of London on February 18, 1478--murdered and drowned in a butt of malmsey wine, at least according to Shakespeare. He was the third son of Richard of York, the great-grandson of Edward III and Cecily Neville. He had married Isabella Neville, daughter of the Kingmaker, Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick (she died in 1476). Thus their two surviving children, Margaret and Edward, were left to the care of their aunt, Anne Neville until she died in 1485. Both of his children would also be imprisoned in the Tower and taken from it to be executed by the victorious Tudors:

--Margaret Pole, 8th Countess of Salisbury (14 August 1473 – 27 May 1541). Married Sir Richard Pole; executed by Henry VIII.

--Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick (25 February 1475 – 28 November 1499). Executed by Henry VII for attempting to escape the Tower of London, in connection with the pretender, Perkin Warbeck. Evidently, his close confinement for so many years had made him most naive and unworldly. With his execution, the male line of the House of York was finished. (Read entire post.)
Our Oxford don says:
 Michael Hicks, who has written a typically balanced and well researched biography of the Duke in False Fleeting Perjur'd: George Duke of  Clarence 1449-1478, also wrote the Oxford DNB life of Duke George which can be read here.There is another online life of Clarence here which contains other biographical links. There is an online piece about the Duke's downfall, written from a Ricardian standpoint, here, which contains additional interesting information.
The story of Clarence being drowned in a butt of malmsey is nearly contemporary with his death, and his daughter, Bl.Margaret Pole, wore a small barrel on a bracelet, presumably as a reminder of her father's fate. The best explanation I have seen is that he was drowned in a bath tub made out of a vat which had held malmsey - perhaps King Edward recoiled from literally spilling his brother's blood, and opted for drowning as a means of execution.
The Duchy of Clarence is one of the oldest royal Dukedoms, first bestowed in 1362, and deriving its name from the lands of the Clare inheritance - a point brought out at the town of Clare in Suffolk. It is not a particularly auspicious title - of the five Dukes none has left a male heir who has been able to inherit the title. (Read entire post.)

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