Urswick, Christopher

   Between 1483 and 1485, during the last phase of the WARS OF THE ROSES, the priest Christopher Urswick served both Margaret BEAUFORT and her son Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond, as a trusted agent in their efforts to wrest the Crown from RICHARD III and the house of YORK.
   Urswick, who may have belonged to a Lancashire GENTRY family long associated with the Stanleys, was brought to the attention of Margaret Beaufort, then wife of Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley, by Margaret’s trusted Welsh physician, Lewis Caerleon. Because she sought to overthrow Richard III in favor of her exiled son, Margaret needed able and discreet servants; accordingly, she took Urswick into her household as her confessor. In 1483, Dr. Caerleon, who was also personal physician to Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE, then in SANCTUARY at Westminster, acted as go-between for Margaret and the former queen, who concocted between them a plan whereby Richmond agreed to marry ELIZABETH OF YORK, EDWARD IV’s daughter, in return for the support of the WOODVILLE FAMILY and other dissident Yorkists. Margaret proposed sending Urswick to BRITTANY to inform Richmond of the queen’s involvement and the marriage plan, but news that Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham, was willing to abandon Richard and join the conspiracy caused Margaret to cancel Urswick’s mission and send another deputation instead.
   After the failure of BUCKINGHAM’S REBELLION in the autumn of 1483, Urswick fled to BURGUNDY with Bishop John MORTON. In 1484, when Morton discovered that Richard III was secretly negotiating with the Breton treasurer, Pierre LANDAIS, to have Richmond surrendered into English custody, the bishop dispatched Urswick to Brittany to warn Richmond, who, in turn, sent Urswick to CHARLES VIII to request asylum in FRANCE. After obtaining the king’s approval, Urswick returned to Richmond, who shortly thereafter fled to the French COURT. Having helped save the earl’s life, Urswick became Richmond’s confessor, advisor, and confidential agent. In 1485, fearing that Richard III might marry Elizabeth of York to someone else, Richmond considered sending Urswick into northern England to persuade Henry PERCY, earl of Northumberland, to arrange a marriage for Richmond with one of Northumberland’s sisters-in-law, the daughters of the late Welsh Yorkist,William HERBERT, earl of Pembroke. Although he probably never reached Northumberland, the importance of the mission indicated Urswick’s standing with Richmond.
   Urswick accompanied Richmond’s army to WALES in August 1485 and was likely present at the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD, although, as a cleric, he did not fight. Richmond, now HENRY VII, rewarded Urswick with numerous appointments—king’s almoner, dean of York, and, in 1495, dean of Windsor. A loyal supporter of the house of TUDOR until his death in 1521, Urswick was also a friend of the historian Polydore Vergil and thus a likely source for Vergil’s ANGLICA HISTORIA, which is particularly reliable for Richmond’s activities between 1483 and 1485.
   Further Reading: Griffiths, Ralph S., and Roger S. Thomas. The Making of the Tudor Dynasty (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1985).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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