Council Meeting of 13 june 1483

   The meeting of EDWARD V’s regency COUNCIL that convened at the TOWER OF 64 COUNCIL MEETING OF 13 JUNE 1483 LONDON on Friday, 13 June 1483, was used by Richard, duke of Gloucester, to destroy possible opponents to his forthcoming usurpation of his nephew’s Crown. By easing the duke’s path to the throne, this council meeting became an important factor in the revival of dynastic warfare in the mid-1480s. On 12 June, Gloucester summoned two meetings of royal councilors to convene the following day. One group, headed by Chancellor John RUSSELL,was to meet at Westminster to discuss the king’s coronation. The second group, led by Gloucester, was to meet at the Tower to discuss more urgent political issues. Besides Gloucester, the group that gathered at ten o’clock in the council chamber in the White Tower included William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings; Thomas ROTHERHAM, archbishop of York; John MORTON, bishop of Ely; Thomas STANLEY, Lord Stanley; John HOWARD, Lord Howard; and Henry STAFFORD, duke of Buckingham. During the course of the meeting, Gloucester surprised his colleagues by accusing Hastings of plotting his destruction with Queen Elizabeth WOODVILLE and with EDWARD IV’s former mistress, Jane SHORE. The two near contemporary chroniclers of this council meeting, Polydore Vergil in his ANGLICA HISTORIA, and Sir Thomas More, in his HISTORY OF KING RICHARD III, both believed that Gloucester’s charge was pure invention. Hastings was a known opponent of the WOODVILLE FAMILY and had helped Gloucester frustrate the family’s attempt to control the government, while the queen was considered most unlikely to plot with her late husband’s former lover.
   Although Hastings, having grown suspicious of Gloucester’s intentions, may have begun to talk with his rivals, the only declaration of such a plot comes from Gloucester himself. More likely is that Gloucester, having decided to take the throne, realized that Hastings would have to be eliminated because he was unshakably loyal to the son of Edward IV and would never accept Gloucester’s usurpation. According to More, whose information, like Vergil’s, probably came from Morton, Gloucester charged the two women with witchcraft and, in a scene made famous by William Shakespeare in RICHARD III, displayed his withered left arm as proof of their sorcery. Everyone in the chamber,wrote More,“knew that his arm was ever such since his birth.” Vergil, meanwhile, said nothing of the arm and stated simply that the witchcraft had made the duke weak and unable to sleep or eat. Whatever his claims, Gloucester then pounded the table and cried “treason,” a signal for Thomas HOWARD, who waited outside with armed men, to invade the chamber and seize Hastings, Rotherham, Morton, and Stanley.
   Morton and Rotherham were confined in the Tower, and Stanley was detained in his lodgings, but Hastings was hauled outside to Tower Green and summarily executed on a block of wood; he was given no trial and only a few minutes to confess to a priest. Although Hastings was the most influential, and therefore the most dangerous to Gloucester’s plans, all four men were old servants of Edward IV and were thus unlikely to accept Edward V’s deposition. By striking quickly, and before his intentions were clear, Gloucester was able to prevent his most dangerous opponents from acting against him. Within two weeks, the duke had made himself king as RICHARD III, and within two months, rumors began circulating that Richard had murdered Edward V and his younger brother, Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York. Given the king’s willingness to use violence to attain his ends, many once loyal adherents of the house of YORK believed the rumors and began plotting with former Lancastrians to overthrow Richard and replace him with Henry Tudor, earl of Richmond (see Henry VII, King of England), the surviving Lancastrian heir.
   Further Reading: Kendall, Paul Murray, Richard the Third (New York:W.W. Norton, 1956); Ross, Charles, Richard III (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981);Wood, Charles T., “Richard III,William, Lord Hastings, and Friday the Thirteenth,” in Ralph A. Griffiths and James Sherborne, eds., Kings and Nobles in the Later Middle Ages (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1986), pp. 155–168; the text of More’s History of King Richard III, which contains an account of the 13 June council meeting, is available on the Richard III Society Web site at www.r3.org/bookcase/more/moretext.html.

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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