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Thomas Grey



Thomas Grey, first Marquess of Dorset, was the oldest son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband. Like his mother, he has been the subject of several myths, dating to recent times rather than rooted in contemporary evidence.


The first myth appears in W. E. Hampton's Memorials of the Wars of the Roses. This book, put out by the Richard III Society in 1979, contains descriptions of memorials and tombs connected to various Wars of the Roses personages, with a potted biography of each one. Though most of the biographies are fairly straightforward, Hampton's account of Dorset is a rather different affair.

After a more or less factual recounting of Dorset's life, Hampton suddenly changes tack and launches into an account of Dorset's supposed sexual exploits with the daughters of the late John Neville, Marquess Montagu. He writes that Dorset appears to have fathered a bastard daughter on Elizabeth Neville, Lady Scrope of Masham, though Hampton rather damages his case by noting that the father could have been Dorset's son instead. (Dorset senior, Dorset junior, what's the difference?) Hampton's claim appears to be based solely upon Lady Scrope's will, made in 1513-14, which leaves "To Mary, doughter in base unto Thomas Grey marques Ders', my bed that the saide Lorde Marques was wont to lye in, & all the parcell that belongithe therto, & all the aparell of the same chamber." (Testamenta eboracensia, vol. 5). Notably, Lady Scrope does not identify Mary as being her own illegitimate daughter, and as Lady Scrope was married to Thomas, Lord Scrope from at least 1477 to his death on April 23, 1493, and to Henry Wentworth from around 1494  until his death in 1500, it seems unlikely that she would unabashedly refer to Dorset's bed in her will if he had been anything other than an innocent houseguest during this period. Lady Scrope did make the second Marquess of Dorset (the first marquess had died in 1501) the overseer of her will, but this hardly suggests that she had been the concubine of either the late marquess or his living son.


Hampton then moves to the case of Lady Scrope's sister Anne Neville, married to Sir William Stonor. "The marriage took place at the end of 1481, and almost immediately afterwards she rode to join the Marquis in Taunton Castle. She wrote from there to Stonor in February, 1482, having, as she says, been with the Marquess longer than anticipated. In August she presented Stonor with a son . . ."

By this, Hampton apparently is implying that while Anne was staying with Dorset, he took the opportunity to father a child upon her, which was passed off as Stonor's. Aside from the fact that there's no apparent reason why Anne couldn't have been pregnant with Stonor's child before she went to visit her guardian, the actual letter by Anne hardly implies such debauchery. Here it is, from Kingsfield's edition of The Stonor Letters and Papers:


    27 FEBRUARY [1482]

    Syr, I recomaund me unto you in my most h[ert]y wise, right joyfull to here of yowre helthe: liketh you to knowe, at the writyng of this bill I was in good helthe, thynkyng long sith I saw you, and if I had knowen that I shold hav ben this long tyme from you I wold have be moche lother then I was to have comyn into this ferre Countrey. But I trust it shall not be long or I shall see you here, and else I wold be sorye on good feith. Syr, I am moche byholdyng to my lady, for she maketh right moche of me, and to all the company, officers and other. I have early trust uppon your comyng unto the tyme of thassise, and else I wold have send Herry Tye to you long or this tyme. I have deiyvered a bill to Herry Tye of suche gownes as I wold have for this Ester. And I beseche oure blessed lord preserve you. From the Castell of Taunton the xxvij day of Februarer.

    Your new wyf Anne Stonor.

Nowhere does this quite sweet letter mention Dorset, though the reference to "my lady" probably refers to Dorset's wife, Cicely Bonville. Would Cicely be making "right moche" of a young lady who was carrying on an affair with her husband? Would a young lady who was being sexually exploited natter on happily about her Easter gowns?

But it gets worse. Having accused Dorset of debauchery with both Lady Scrope and Anne Stonor, Hampton then accuses him of child abuse, namely, with regard to Edward, Earl of Warwick, the son of the late Duke of Clarence. Warwick, the nephew of both Edward IV and Richard III, was imprisoned by Henry VII in 1486 and was executed in 1499 on dubious charges of treason. We're told by Hampton: "His [Dorset's] treatment of Clarence's son, young Warwick (before 1483) may have caused the boy to be mentally retarded."

There are two rather big problems with this claim, which is also reflected in several historical novels. First, as Hazel Pierce, the biographer of Warwick's sister Margaret, Countess of Salisbury, points out, the evidence that the Earl of Warwick was mentally retarded rests on a single statement by Edward Hall that Warwick had been imprisoned for so long "'out of al company of men, and sight of beastes, in so much that he coulde not descerne a Goose from a Capon.'" (An online version of Hall renders this passage as, "And Earl Edward, who had been imprisoned since childhood, so far removed from the sight of man and beast that he could not easily tell a chicken from a goose, although he had deserved no punishment by his own wrongdoing and had been brought to this by another man’s fault.") Read reasonably, this statement does not imply that Warwick was mentally deficient, simply that long imprisonment had left him ignorant and naive. Pierce also notes that in a later petition to Henry VIII excusing her brother's alleged treasonous behavior, Margaret described her brother only as unworldly and inexperienced, though it would have been to her advantage to describe him as mentally deficient had he been so. Henry VII himself never described Warwick as being mentally retarded ("idiot" is presumably the word that would have been used at the time), and neither did Richard III, though doing so would have been to both men's advantage given the potential threat to the crown the boy presented to them. Indeed, Richard III thought the boy presentable enough in 1484 to knight him.

Assuming for the sake of argument, however, that Warwick was indeed mentally retarded, how on earth can Hampton and others assume that Dorset was responsible? If Warwick was retarded from birth (in February 1475), Dorset can hardly be blamed; if Warwick was normal at birth and was later damaged by childhood neglect or abuse, Dorset is only one of several possible culprits who had charge of Warwick before Henry VII took him over in August 1485. Dorset did not obtain the wardship of Warwick until September 1480, over two years after Warwick's father, the Duke of Clarence, was executed; in the interim, Warwick was a ward of Edward IV. After Richard III took the throne, Warwick was put in the care of Richard III's queen, Anne, though he spent most of Richard III's reign at far-off Sheriff Hutton. There is not a shred of evidence, however, that any of these people or their servants neglected or mistreated the boy before his long imprisonment at the hands of Henry VII began--and that includes Dorset. Indeed, Dorset in particular had an excellent incentive to treat Warwick well: he had many daughters, and might well have planned to marry one of them to Warwick.


Other modern admirers of Richard III have alleged, again without any evidence, that Warwick was imprisoned by Dorset before being liberated by Richard III. Audrey Williamson in The Mystery of the Princes, for instance, writes that Dorset kept "the boy in safe custody, in the Tower" and later that it was "Dorset . . . who kept the ill-starred Warwick immured in the Tower." Though Williamson's book does contain references, she doesn't cite any for her claim that Dorset (whose conduct, naturally, is contrasted with that of the saintly Richard) locked Warwick in the Tower.

Bertram Fields in Royal Blood also repeats the story of Warwick's imprisonment: "Clarence's son, Warwick, had also lived in the Tower after his father's attainder in 1478, having been ordered by Edward IV to remain there in the custody of the marquess of Dorset" (p. 123). Though the publisher of Royal Blood omitted the references the author supplied, they can be found at the Richard III Society's American branch website. The notes for the page on which this statement appears, however, contain no citation to support Fields' statement about Warwick.

Williamson's and Fields' unsourced statements about Dorset locking Warwick in the Tower likely originate with Clements Markham, who wrote a book in defense of Richard III in 1906. Markham writes that Richard "liberated [Warwick] from durance in the Tower, where he had been kept by the Marquis of Dorset as his ward, ever since the death of his father Clarence." Markham cites no evidence for his statement.

Modern academic historians, by contrast, offer no support for the notion that Dorset imprisoned Warwick in the Tower. Christine Carpenter in her Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry on Warwick makes no reference to Warwick's being imprisoned in the Tower prior to Henry VII's reign. Cora Scofield, whose biography of Edward IV is unsurpassed in its detail, makes no mention of Warwick's being in the Tower, either as a prisoner or as a resident, although she did find a reference to one of the boy's attendants, Agnes Stanley. Charles Ross in his biography of Edward IV mentions only that Dorset was given the wardship and marriage of Warwick. Hazel Pierce in her biography of Warwick's sister, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, likewise does not state that Dorset imprisoned either Warwick or his sister. Paul Murray Kendall, who was not at all inclined to miss an opportunity at taking a swipe at the Woodvilles, does not claim they incarcerated Warwick. He simply writes that the boy was brought "up from the country" to join Richard's household when he took power.

What do contemporary sources say about Warwick's whereabouts? Mancini writes that about the same time Richard, Duke of Gloucester, took Richard, Duke of York, out of sanctuary, he "gave orders that the son of the duke of Clarence, his other brother, then a boy of ten years old, should come to the city: and commanded that the lad should be kept in confinement in the household of his wife." If Edward was already living in the Tower as Dorset's prisoner, it's odd that Mancini would write that he was brought to the city.

In fact, Edward IV's wardrobe accounts for 1480 suggest that far from being immured in the Tower, the five-year-old Warwick was being handsomely outfitted, at least as far as his feet were concerned:

To th'Erle of Warrewyk to have for his were and use, iiij peire of shoon double soled and a peire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled, by vertue of a warrant undre the Kinges signe manuelle and signet bering date the second day of Juyn in the xx{ti} yere of the moost noble reigne of our said Souverain Lorde the King, Shoon: iiij paire double soled; a pair of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled.

To th'Erle of Warrewyk to have of the yifte of oure said Souverain Lorde the Kyng for his use and were, a peire of shoon sengle soled of blue leder; a paire of shoon of Spaynyssh leder; a paire of botews of tawny Spaynyssh leder; and ij paire shoon sengle soled; and to Sir William A Parre Knyght to have of the yift of oure said Souverain Lorde the King for covering of his brygandyns, iij yerdes and iij quarters of crymysyn cloth of gold uppon satin grounde; and to the Maister of the Kinges Barge ayenst the commyng of the righte high and right noble Princesse Lady Margarete the Duchesse of Bourgoingne suster unto our saide Souverain Lorde the Kyng, a gowne of blac chamelet, by vertue of a warrant undre the Kynges signet and signe manuelle bering date the xxiiij{ti} day of Juylle in the xx{ti} yere of the moost noble reigne of oure said Souverain Lord the Kyng unto the saide Piers Courteys for deliveree of the said stuff directe, Cremysyn clothe of gold the grounde satyn, iij yerdes iij quarters; chamelet, ix yerdes di'; Shoon: j paire sengle of blue leder; a paire of Spaynyssh leder sengle soled; ij paire blac; Botews, j paire of tawny Spaynyssh leder.

Indeed, the latter entry suggests that little Warwick was being dressed up to see his aunt Margaret, Duchess of Burgundy, who was soon to visit England.

Finally, contrary to the notion that Warwick was in Dorset's custody immediately after the death of Clarence, Dorset was not granted Warwick's wardship and marriage until September 16, 1480, more than two years after Clarence's execution. You can find the grant on page 212 of the Calendar of the Patent Rolls, 1476-1485, which is on the Internet Archive and Google Books. (Note also that Dorset paid for the wardship.)

Grant to the king's kinsman Thomas, marquess of Dorset, for the sum of 2,000£. paid by him to the king, of the custody of the lordship or manor of Ryngwood, co. Southampton, the lordship or manor of Canford with its members, co. Dorset, the lordship or manor of Dunyate with Dunpole with its members and the lordship or manor of Yarlyngton and Shipton, co. Somerset, the lordship or manor of Ambresbury and the hundred of Ambresbury, Wynterbourne and Alleworthbury, co. Wilts, the borough, town, hundred and liberty of Teukesbury, the lordship, manor or hundred of King's Barton by Bristol alias Barton Bristol and the great court of Bristol alias the great court of the honour of Gloucester by Bristol called Earles Court, co Gloucester, and the lordship or manor of Busheley, co. Worcester, with knights' fees, advowsons, wards, marriages, reliefs, escheats, courts, leets, views of frank-pledge, fairs, markets, parks, forests, launds, chaces, warrens, waters, fisheries, liberties, franchises, profits and other commodities from Easter last during the minority of Edward son and heir of Isabel late the wife of George, duke of Clarence, and the custody and marriage of the latter without disparagement, and so from heir to heir, without rendering anything to the king until he shall be fully satisfied of the said sum, finding a competent sustenance for the said Edward. By p.s.

Nothing I've found indicates where Dorset lodged his ward after obtaining his custody in 1480, but guardians often raised wards in their own households, and it's quite likely that Dorset followed this practice. As mentioned previously, it's also likely that Dorset planned to marry Warwick to one of his own daughters (he eventually had eight daughters by his second wife, Cecily Bonville).

So for the story that Dorset imprisoned his ward, we have no contemporary evidence, only the statements of three twentieth-century writers, none of whom cite a supporting source and all of whom are biased heavily in favor of Richard III and against the Woodvilles. Not, I think, the most reliable accounts--but, sadly, those modern writers who are hostile to the Woodvilles have seldom been held by Richard III's admirers to the same standard of accountability and accuracy as those who are hostile to Richard III.


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