Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Money, Money, Money

These days—if you look at the Queen of England, for example—you know her purse doesn’t contain any money. Nor, does she need to ever handle any money. English monarchs in particular, almost never have to have cash on hand.

This was not so for Richard III before he became England’s king. In 1469 he requested a loan of £100 of the king’s Undertreasurer. The introduction and letter were copied from the American Branch website of the Richard III Society (
Richard's earliest surviving letter dates from 1469. When travelling with Edward IV to put down a disturbance in Yorkshire, he writes from Castle Rising, Norfolk, this urgent request for a loan of £100, to Sir John Say, the King's Undertreasurer, whose memorial brass survives at Broxbourne, Herts. [illustrated*]. The Duke's title at the head and the anxious postscript are in Richard's own hand:
The Duke of Gloucester
Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. And forasmuch as the King's good Grace hath appointed me to attend upon his highness into the North parts of his land, which will be to me great cost and charge, whereunto I am so suddenly called, that I am not so well purveyed of money therefore as it behoves me to be, and therefore pray you as my special trust is in you, to lend me an hundredth pound of money unto Easter next coming, at which time I promise you you shall be truly thereof content and paid again. The bearer hereof shall inform you, to whom I pray you to give credence therein, and show me such frendliness in the same as I may do for you hereafter, wherein you shall find me ready. Written at Rising the 24th day of June.
R. Gloucestr

Sir J Say, I pray you that you fail me not now at this time in my great need, as you will that I show you my good lordship in that matter that you labour to me for.
 Source: British Library Cotton Vespasian Ms. F iii f 19
*Illustration not available.

For Want of a Nail
Most accounts indicate that Richard III was eager to fight Henry Tudor in the spring and summer of 1485. In “The Broken Sword,” Rhoda Edwards’ novel about Richard III’s reign, Edwards posits that Richard’s eagerness was at least in part caused by the condition of his treasury. Richard couldn’t sit back and wait for Tudor to arrive in England before he gathered his troops. He had to place people at the most likely harbors and have them ready to send messengers to Nottingham as soon as they saw Tudor’s ships arriving from France, while using the fleet to stop the invasion before they could reach British soil. Richard was spending money he didn’t have to be ready to defend his crown. Soon after Henry landed at Milford Haven in early August, Richard called his troops to assemble at Leicester. According to Edwards, by the time Henry arrived at the battlefield, Richard probably felt he could not afford delaying the fight to draw Henry into a less advantageous position. Sadly, Richard was killed in Battle, and not for want of a nail, but perhaps for lack of money. 

1 comment:

  1. He should have raised the taxes on the very rich to help pay to defend the country from (what he believed to be) a usurper. For want of a fair tax rate, a country is lost.

    Of course, he'd probably already drained the peasantry dry.

    Interesting article.