Update and New Anthony Woodville Content

Things have been a bit hectic here lately with lots of things going off here, so thought it would be best to explain what’s happening. Before I start though, I want to make it clear I will still be blogging, but it may reduce to one post a month from now on. There are still so many stories I want to share, so I will continue doing that for as long as I possibly can do. I also want to take the time to say thank you to all you readers and followers of the blog. It means a lot that people are interested in what I write.

Next week marks the 100th Anniversary of the first Remembrance Day here in the UK and to mark it, I’ll be writing about Walter Tull. He was one of the first black professional footballers and the first black officer in the British Army during World War One. His story is a very special one and it will be an honour to share it with you all.

Newns, T., Epitaph of Walter Tull at the Sixfields Stadium in Northampton (2009), Wikimedia Commons

Some of you regular readers will know about my research into the life of Anthony Woodville, the fifteenth century knight and brother- in-law of Edward IV. I have been doing this on and off for the past 6 or 7 years now, so you can imagine it means a lot to me. Back in June, I was asked, alongside my good friend Michele Schindler, to give a talk on Anthony Woodville and Francis Lovell’s connections to Richard III. This is now available to view on YouTube, so I’m attaching it here for you to watch if you want to.

I was also asked by Rebecca, who runs the Tudor Dynasty podcast, to write an episode on Anthony Woodville. This is now available through any app you listen to podcasts through. If that’s not for you, you can easily listen by using the following link: https://tudorsdynasty.podbean.com/e/a-brief-history-executed-brother-of-a-queen.

There is also some other news that I’ll be announcing next week that I really can’t wait to share with you. It’s been a long time coming, but I hope you’ll be as excited about it as I am. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this content and let me know what you think.

New and Exciting Updates

I don’t usually write many personal posts on the blog, but I thought that this would be worth sharing with all of you blog followers. In case you don’t follow me on social media, there have been quite a few exciting updates recently that I want to share. Hopefully it’s the sign of good things to come.

I have just finished a guest post for the Ministry of History. I feel quite privileged to have been asked to write yet another guest post for someone else’s blog. I have written quite a few now and I always enjoy it and see it as a lovely opportunity to collaborate with other history bloggers. I haven’t done one before for that particular website, but as the site also specialises in telling lesser known parts of history, I thought it was good to write about the Matchgirls Strike of 1888.

Herbert Burrows and Annie Besant, social campaigners, together with Matchgirls Strike Committee in 1888, Wikimedia Commons

The girls and young women who went on strike worked for the Bryant and May match factories in London. The conditions and pay were beyond awful. The girls even marched to Parliament to get their voices heard. The industrial action they took helped to make their lives better and most importantly, raise awareness of the dangerous conditions and poverty they lived and worked in. If you would like to learn more, you can find the post here.

In terms of my Anthony Woodville research, things have been a little slow going as I’m reaching the end of my work contract as a project archives assistant, so I’m putting a lot of effort into that. Sadly a family bereavement has also meant any personal research has had to be put on the backburner. However, I have kindly been invited to be a guest on a popular podcast to talk about William Caxton the book printer and translator during the reign of Edward IV, and of course not forgetting Anthony’s involvement as patron and translator himself.

William Caxton showing the first page from his printing press to King Edward IV, Cassell’s Illustrated History of England (1909), British Library

I haven’t appeared on a podcast before, although I have listened to a few myself, so it feels kind of surreal to have been invited. Plus the podcast has had some very prominent and already well established historians. I literally can’t quite believe that I have been asked to appear, so this is so exciting to me. I will also be writing up a short everything you need to know about Anthony Woodville type post to accompany the podcast, so look out for those when it’s all available.

In the meantime, I just want to take the opportunity to thank you all for continuing to support and read the blog. The blog has just has it’s best ever month in terms of views since I started it in 2018, for which I am eternally grateful. It’s great to know that people love what I produce as sharing history has become a passionate hobby of mine. Hopefully I’ll be able to share more with you after the podcast things are finished, and I have some very special stories coming up.

Anthony Woodville Talk

Next month I’ll be giving my first ever live online talk on Anthony Woodville. It will be a joint talk with Michele Schindler, who has written on Francis Lovell, the best friend of Richard III. We will be talking on Anthony and Francis’ connections to Richard III and a bit about their lives too.

The talk is for Be Bold Network, a free organisation that helps connect history teachers with the knowledge they need for the school curriculum. I feel very honoured to be asked to contribute, especially as my own secondary school history teacher wasn’t a very good influence, despite history being my favourite subject.

If you would like to get hold of a ticket, you can book through the following eventbrite page. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/michele-schindler-danielle-burton-richard-iiis-advisors-adversaries-tickets-155981780705

Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, presenting his translation of the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers to Edward IV, 19th Century (Private Collection: Look and Learn)

Elizabeth Scales: Heiress, Wife and Lady-in-Waiting

Unfortunately like many women who lived in the medieval period, not much is known about the Lady Elizabeth Scales, other than she was the sole heir to her father’s estates and wife of Anthony Woodville. Most of what we do know of her is glimpsed through how others commented on her, or in connection to her wealth and status as a woman of her own means, with a husband who provided her status as the wife of the much favoured brother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Just like many other women of her time, there are no sources that speak with her own voice or showing her as her own person, just how she connected to the political world around her. Whilst it is difficult to reconstruct Elizabeth, I hope this blog post may help to answer at least some questions about who this mysterious, and often forgotten, woman of the late 15th century was.

Elizabeth Scales was the only surviving child of Thomas, Lord Scales and his wife, Emma. The pair had did have a son, but it is believed he died at a young age, meaning Elizabeth grew up as the heir to her father’s estates.[1] According to the post-mortem inquisitions, her birthdate is estimated at around 1436.[2] Whilst it was rare for women to inherit estates, it did happen. Just as in the case of the Earldom of Warwick, titles could pass to women, hoping that their husband could continue the line at a later date.

Image from page 304 of Wright, T., The Homes of other days: a history of domestic manners and sentiments in England from the earliest known period to modern times (1871). Credit: The British Library.

Her first husband, Henry Bourchier, had died in 1458 and the date of her second marriage to Anthony Woodville is unknown, but it is believed by Susan Higginbotham to have been in the run up to the Battle of Towton in 1461.[3] This can be reasonably assumed as William Paston falsely reported Anthony’s death at the battle, where he refers to him as Lord Scales.[4] With this in mind, it is clear that the early parts of their marriage would have been tumultuous, as Thomas Scales was murdered in 1460, as well as facing the bloody battle at Towton.

Elizabeth would have known Anthony even before their marriage as both of their fathers had been friends for many years. Lord Scales was the one who had nominated Richard Woodville, Anthony’s father, to become a Knight of the Garter in 1450.[5] The pair at this time were loyal to the Lancastrian King Henry VI and were known to offer him military support. Not long after the nomination was made, both men fought alongside each other to stamp out Cade’s Rebellion.[6] They were also regularly seen at court in each other’s company.

Following the death of her father, Elizabeth inherited many manors in Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Essex and Suffolk.[7] This does give some indication of motive behind the marriage between Elizabeth and Anthony, but to suggest this alone was a factor simplifies the motives for marrying at that time. As both families were intertwined through ties of friendship, they would have both been known to one another and would probably wish to strengthen this bond. It may even be possible that there was some love, or at least affection between the pair.

The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM)/Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, there are no sources that survive that tell us anything in depth about their relationship or what their feelings were towards one another. The only glimpses we have are comments from their time at court, where they were often noted to be in one another’s company. In November 1464, they were part of King Edward’s party at Reading, where they were playing cards together. At this game, John Howard lent Elizabeth 8s and 4d to play.[8] They also were both part of the entourage that escorted Margaret of York to her wedding to Charles the Bold in Bruges. Anthony was chosen as he had been part of the negotiations for the match and as an experienced married woman and member of the court, his wife, Elizabeth, was deemed a good choice for a companion. No doubt Elizabeth would have offered good advice for what lay ahead. Elizabeth was also chosen for this role as she was a lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth Woodville, so she was also the Queen’s representative. During the period 1466-1467, we know Elizabeth was paid £40 for the role of lady-in-waiting, the same as the Queen’s sister, Anne.[9] In today’s money, this would equate to nearly £27,500. From this it is clear how valued Elizabeth was within the Queen’s household.

In 1466, Anthony placed a legal case to ensure if his wife died before him, the Scales’ estate would pass to him, rather than to distant relatives.[10] Unfortunately, we don’t know Elizabeth’s feelings on this manoeuvre, meaning that it could have been possible that she agreed with this decision, as before this, the both of them had managed the Scales’ manors and lands together, most notably at Middleton in Norfolk. However, this was outside usual practice and again, there is nothing that suggests Elizabeth’s exact opinion on the matter.

Middleton Towers near King’s Lynn (Author’s Own Image)

Elizabeth died in 1473, when Anthony was away on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. No matter what their relationship was really like, this must have been a massive blow. Anthony had gone on this pilgrimage in honour of his late mother and in doing so, was not there when his wife died. Perhaps this is why the pilgrimage was a profound experience for him, especially as he adapted the pilgrimage shell as his personal symbol from then onwards, as well as it being the reason for his later translation of the Dictes and Sayings of Philosophers.

Anthony did go on to later remarry, but despite more than one match being offered for him, including Mary of Burgundy and Princess Margaret of Scotland, he didn’t do so until around 1480 to Mary FitzLewis, an acquaintance through family connections. In his will Anthony makes more mention to his first wife than his second, which may suggest he had more affection for Elizabeth than Mary. In it he asked that 500 marks be used for prayers in the name of the souls of Elizabeth, her brother Edward, and all the Scales family.[11] The will is perhaps the only source we have where Anthony directly mentions Elizabeth. Lynda Pigeon has described the will as making “no affectionate mention” to Elizabeth, which wrongly suggests the use of a will.[12] A will is a business transaction and as Anthony’s was written whilst incarcerated at Sherriff Hutton, probably knowing his fate was execution, it would have been made hastily and with the knowledge that it may not have been carried out.

As I have already mentioned, there are little sources that describe the personality of Elizabeth, or her relationship with Anthony. I hope this blog post has helped show glimpses of what little is known about this woman who does appear to have been very capable in her roles as heiress, courtier and wife. She did not have children of her own, but she would have known of Anthony’s illegitimate daughter, Margaret, that he had before their marriage. Perhaps that means we can add a mother figure to the list of achievements this remarkable woman had to her name, no matter how little we know about her.


[1] http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/scales/htm

[2] TNA: (142/1/36 Cambridge); (142/1/37 Hertford); (142/1/38 Norfolk) cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles: The Wars of the Roses and England’s Most Infamous Family (Stroud: The History Press, 2013), p. 78.

[3] Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 78.

[4] James Gardiner (ed), Paston Letters, no. 90, part 1.

[5] George Smith (ed) Coronation of Elizabeth Wydeville: Queen Consort of Edward IV on May 26th, 1465 cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 78.

[6] I. M. W. Harvey, Jack Cade’s Rebellion of 1450 cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 78.

[7] Pidgeon, L., ‘Antony Wydevile, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers: Family, Friends and Affinity, Part 2.’, The Ricardian, 16 (2006), pp. 16-17.

[8] Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 79.

[9] A. R. Myers, ‘The Household of Queen Margaret of Anjou, 1452-3’, The Bulletin of the Rylands Library, 40 (1957-58) cited in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 79.

[10] Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 80.

[11] Anthony’s Will, appendix in Higginbotham, S., The Woodvilles, p. 181.

[12] Pidgeon, L., ‘Antony Wydevile, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers: Family, Friends and Affinity, Part 2.’, The Ricardian, 16 (2006), p. 3.

Anthony Woodville and the Smithfield Tournament

The Smithfield tournament is perhaps the only instance of there being a slight to Anthony Woodville’s honour. For Anthony this slight was taken very personally as it meant he had been accused of cheating by his opponent. For a loyal knight such as Woodville, this would have been a rather personal insult.

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Tournament (19th Century), Private Collection / © Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

The tournament was arranged to start an alliance between England and Burgundy to gain a powerful ally to help consolidate the Yorkist Edward IV’s reign.[1] The tournament was initially arranged by Elizabeth Woodville and her ladies in 1465. In a scene similar to something from Arthurian legend, Anthony was given, by the ladies in waiting, a letter ordering him to honour his queenly sister by partaking in a tournament with Anthony, the Bastard of Burgundy, as well as a gold collar being placed around Woodville’s thigh.[2] However, the Bastard of Burgundy, as an illegitimate brother to Charles, Duke of Burgundy, was too busy fighting in the wars against the French. This meant he was unavailable until 1467.[3]

Upon the Bastard’s decision to finally take up the challenge, he arrived in England with a large retinue made up of 400 knights, lords, squires and others.[4] After three days of rest for the Burgundian visitor, he and his large retinue, with large amounts of pomp and ceremony, visited Edward IV and accompanied him to open parliament.[5] This amount of pageantry was to set the tone for the whole tournament as Anthony Woodville, whilst a devout and pious man, knew how to live it large when it came to tournament spectacle. Even whilst staying at the Bishop of Ely’s palace in Holborn in the lead up to the tournament, Woodville’s household were known to be full of prayer and godly worship while wearing sumptuous silks and cloths of gold outfits.[6] The pageantry didn’t stop there. It had been agreed in the rules laid out for the tournament that the knights would be allowed to have spare horses. Anthony had 9 horses in total. Each horse was extravagantly dressed in various fabrics ranging from cloths of gold, velvets and damasks, all richly decorated with gold or furs.[7]

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The Tournament (19th Century), Private Collection /© Look and Learn / Bridgeman Images

However, large the spectacle, it did not take away from the seriousness of the fight that was to follow. On the first try the lances didn’t hit so they were replaced with swords.[8] It was at this moment that things seemed to go wrong. The Bastard’s horse was spooked for some reason and reared, trapping its rider to the ground.[9] He instantly accused Woodville of cheating, but this was probably due to his fear of cheating, as he a previous German squire opponent had hidden daggers in his horse armour.[10] To prove he hadn’t cheated Woodville rode over to Edward IV, showing he had no concealed weapons.[11] Due to the accusations Edward deemed it necessary to dismiss the knights until the following day.[12]

The second day’s action was to be fought on foot with axes, which were a popular choice of weapon for foot combat during tournaments.[13] Both men fought hard and during the fight, Woodville’s axe sliced the Bastard of Burgundy’s visor.[14] The men still continued to fight and it was only with the intervention of King Edward’s men that stopped the two men from seriously hurting one another.[15]

Despite the controversy of whether or not cheating did happen during the tournament, it still managed to achieve its overall goal of improving Edward IV’s popularity and help secure a lasting alliance with Burgundy.[16] This was also helped by Edward IV’s younger sister Margaret marrying Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, of which Anthony was also vital in an ambassador role to help negotiate the marriage terms.[17] From Anthony’s involvement in increasing relations with Burgundy, it shows just how vital he was in international matters as well domestic ones in England.

[1] Kettle, A., ‘Parvenus in Politics: The Woodvilles, Edward IV and the Baronage 1464-1469’, The Ricardian, 15 (2005), p. 17.

[2] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance: A Moment in the Twilight of Chivalry’, The Sewanee Review, 20.3 (1912), p. 368.

[3] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 371.

[4] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 371.

[5] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 372.

[6] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 372.

[7] Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry (London: Longmans, 1968), pp. 37-38.

[8] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 372; Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, p. 342.

[9] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 372; Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, p. 342.

[10] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 372.

[11] Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, p. 342.

[12] Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, p. 342.

[13] Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, pp. 21 and 343;

[14] Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, p. 343; MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, p. 374.

[15] Uden, G., A Dictionary of Chivalry, p. 343.

[16] MacCracken, H. N., ‘The Flower of Souvenance’, pp. 370-371; Kettle, A., ‘Parvenus in Politics’, p. 17.

[17] Kettle, A., ‘Parvenus in Politics’, p. 16.

Anthony Woodville and the first English printed book

The Wars of the Roses is a period that many find fascinating, including myself. With such great figures as Edward IV, Elizabeth Woodville, Richard Duke of York, Richard III and the Earl of Warwick, it can be such an action packed era to look at. As a longstanding member of the Richard III Society, I have been associated with those involved in the conflict for a while now but it was not until I became a history student at Derby University did I want to learn more than just the basics.  However, as much as I have loved learning about these people, there was one who instantly stood out for me, Anthony Woodville. Personally I think that he is one of the underrated characters of the period. Without his thirst for knowledge, we wouldn’t have had printed books in England as early as the late fifteenth century, for Anthony was William Caxton’s patron and encouraged him to bring his printing industry from Burgundy to London. He was a man who was dedicated to family, religion and chivalry. Most importantly, he was one of the best tournament champions in England at the time.

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Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, presenting his translation of the Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers to Edward IV, 19th Century (Private Collection: Look and Learn)

Anthony was the oldest surviving child of Richard and Jacquetta Woodville (the dowager duchess of Bedford). Still, he seems to have been outshadowed by his much more famous sister, Elizabeth Woodville, the wife of Edward IV. It is clear that both Anthony and Elizabeth had a strong relationship as he helped defend her when Lancastrian ships attacked London. He was also within Edward IV’s confidence as he accompanied him into exile in Burgundy in 1470.[1] It was during this time in exile that it is believed Anthony first became acquainted with William Caxton, a writer and printer in Bruges. With a shared interest in books, Anthony soon became Caxton’s patron and persuaded him to relocate to London upon their return.[2] It was in 1476 that Caxton is known to have set up his printing press and books translated by Anthony were soon in publication. The Dictes and Sayings of Philosophers was translated into English by Anthony and was the first book with an accurate date to be published in England in 1477.[3] It is a collection of wisdoms by ancient philosophers. The translation was taken from a French version of the original Arabic.[4] This French version was discovered by Anthony during one of his many pilgrimages, this one was to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.[5]

The translation of The Dictes and Sayings came at a time of hardship in Anthony’s personal life. It is believed to have been translated not long after the death of his mother, Jacquetta, in 1472 and a pointless mission to Brittany where he had lost a lot of men under his control.[6] The translation was unusual for the time as Anthony had purposefully omitted misogynist language.[7] Caxton was known to have not liked this removal that Anthony had made. It was Anthony’s chivalrous nature that won out during this translation process, rather than a desire to conform to wider societal norms. In fact, he was perhaps one of the final knights of his time who tried his best to keep chivalry alive at a time when, in hindsight, it would never be revived.

A manuscript copy was presented to Edward IV, as seen in the image above, which was directly copied from a printed version of the text. It is quite possible that The Dictes and Sayings of Philosophers and Anthony’s other book The Cordyal were used in his role as tutor to the future Edward V.[8] With this in mind, who knows what type of king Edward would have made when he had been taught by one of the greatest minds and athletes of his day.

[1] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anthony-Woodville-2nd-Earl-Rivers (Accessed 14/09/18)

[2] Davies, C. S. L., Peace, Print and Protestantism, 1450-1558 (London: Hart-Davies MacGibbon Ltd, 1976), p. 132.

[3] https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anthony-Woodville-2nd-Earl-Rivers (Accessed 14/09/18)

[4] Hellinga, L., William Caxton and Early Printing in England (London: British Library, 2010), p. 61.

[5] Pidgeon, L., ‘Antony Wydevile, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers: Family, Friends and Affinity, Part 2.’, The Ricardian, 16 (2006), p. 5.

[6] Pidgeon, L., ‘Antony Wydevile, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers: Family, Friends and Affinity, Part 2.’, p. 5.

[7] Pidgeon, L., ‘Antony Wydevile, Lord Scales and Earl Rivers: Family, Friends and Affinity, Part 2.’, p. 15.

[8] Hellinga, L., William Caxton and Early Printing in England, p. 64