Sample IBDP History IAs on British History

DP Essays on British History

To what extent did William’s Feigned-Retreat Tactics determine his victory in the Battle of Hastings?

Word Count: 1917
Internal Assessment

Section A: Plan of Investigation.
To what extent were the feigned tactics initiated by William of Normandy the crucial factor that determined Norman Victory at the Battle of Hastings? To answer this question, the focus will be on their importance in relation to other factors, in particular the possible weaknesses and misjudgments of the other side. Key sources will be Toby Pursor, respected historian and specialist of this period, and the Bayeux tapestry which is the only contemporary source from that time we have. Whilst biased and apparently simplistic as propaganda, it still offers clues that provide nuanced views on the battle of Hastings. In support will be a number of other recently-published sources that focus on this key event to provide a broad overview of an event to try to recreate the distant and scantily-recorded past, in particular the tactics and reality of warfare a millennium ago.

Section B: Summary of Evidence.
B.1 William’s Army:
William of Normandy brought 7500-8000 men to England[1]; among the army were 3,000 mounted men, 1,000 archers, and 4,000 infantry[2]. His army was composed of Normans in the center; Bretons on the left flank; men from Picardy and Flanders on the right flank[3]. In front of the cavalry line was the infantry, and in front of the infantry were the archers[4]. The knights were equipped with lances, maces, swords, and shields, and all wore chainmail shirts and iron conical helmets with nose protection[5]. They all stood at the bottom of a ridge where the Anglo Saxon army stretched across at the top to block the Normans from the London-Hastings Road. The slope was called Santlache Ridge, later called Senlac Ridge[6].

B.2 Harold’s Army:
Harold’s army counted around 7000[7]-8000[8] men.  Amongst the army were Harold’s two younger brothers: Leofwine and Gyrth[9]. Harold’s army also included élite huscarls (king’s bodyguards), thegns, and peasants drawn from the Kent and Sussex fyrd (militia)[10]. All soldiers fought on foot, which was the Anglo-Saxon custom of Warfare[11]. Huscarls and thegns wore chainmail and conical helmets with nose protection, armed with lances, and two-handed battle-axes that could slice a man in half in one hit[12]. Peasants were armed with anything they could find at their disposal: scythes, daggers, hooks, spears, pitchforks, and stones. The Anglo Saxons had no cavalry and had little missile arm (composed of archers) compared to William’s army[13].

B.3 Course of the Battle:
The Battle of Hastings began on October 14th 1066 at approximately nine o’clock[14]. William began sending Infantry up the ridge to soften the Anglo-Saxon shield wall, along with a volley of arrows shot directly at the wall. This attack however had minimal impact on the Anglo-Saxons. William then made a surprising decision to send his Cavalry up the ridge[15]. The Saxon shield wall, again, resisted the cavalry charge and succeeded to dismount some cavaliers off their horses[16]. Unable to penetrate the Saxon front, the Norman army suffered a significant amount of casualties[17].  

After a Norman Cavalry charge on the Saxon shield, the left flank (Breton) of the Norman army fled the battle as they heard rumors that their leader William had been killed[18]. William was very much alive. He was dismounted by an Anglo-Saxon Soldier, but quickly mounted another horse, and lifted his helmet to reveal his face to announce that he was still alive. He then deliberately ordered his army to initiate feigned retreats after seeing that his Breton cavalry had surrounded and bogged down the Saxons that had followed them.  
The Bayeux Tapestry shows William remounted, and lifting his helmet facing his army. Eustace of Boulogne[19], holding a papal banner, points William out to the Norman army[20].
In the afternoon, William had changed tactics. Instead of ordering his soldiers to directly attack the Saxon Front, he focused on getting his cavalry to draw the undisciplined fyrdsmen on Harold’s right flank. The feigned retreat tactic on the Saxon Army was used at least twice in the afternoon until the shield wall on top of Santlache hill was gradually disintegrated[21]. Towards dusk, William ordered a general attack to all his Cavalry and Infantry on the weak Saxon wall. Archers were now ordered to fire a rain of arrows on the English instead of aiming directly at the shield. Now that the English line had shortened, the cavalry managed to race up the ridge, surround Harold’s army from both flanks and wipe out the remaining huscarls and thegns[22]. Harold Godwinson got hit in the eye by a Norman arrow and got struck down by a mounted man[23]. The Battle of Hastings was over.          
Section C: Evaluation of Sources.
1.Purser, Toby. Medieval England 1042-1228. Oxford: Heinemann,
2004. Print.
Written by a medieval historian for the purpose of offering a general overview of the period with particular focus on the Battle of Hastings, its cause and aftermath for English society, Purser provides a study of the tactics from both Anglo-Saxons and Normans combined with a variety of reasons to explain why William won the battle, including references to various other historians[24]. Given its recent publication, it enjoys the most up-to-date research of this event current, intended to be “ the ideal book for students studying the Norman invasion.”[25]
However, his discussion of the battle is mainly limited to Harold’s mistakes from his lack of leadership and luck, thus providing little insight on the tactics of the Normans themselves. This indirect bias tends to focus blame on the Anglo Saxons for their decisions rather than credit the Normans for their strategy. Only ten pages of this book are dedicated to the Hastings campaign, which means that for specialists the book is not specific enough to deeply study why the Normans won the battle. Again, given the fact that it was written over a millennium after the events described, this is an unavoidable limitation for any such investigation.     

2. The Bayeux Tapestry, 1070. Musée de la Tapessserie de Bayeux, Bayeux.

Kept in the Bayeux museum, the Bayeux tapestry is considered the most important surviving artifact of the Middle Ages. Woven in circa 1070, 4 years after the Norman conquest of England, it intends to illustrate, in the Norman point of view, the events from Edward the Confessor’s death to William’s success in claiming the English throne. The tapestry itself shows a well equipped and organized Norman army initiating their feigned retreat tactics to draw the undisciplined English fyrd down the ridge, slaughtering them to the last man. If anything, according to this tapestry, it means that the feigned retreats did happen at the battle of Hastings, thus making this source valuable for a specialist studying medieval warfare tactics. Although simple and often bizarre in its designs and presented in a 'cartoonish' manner, nevertheless it was held in esteem by both Napoleon and Hitler, enough for the latter to requisition it during the war,  as it showed the last successful invasion of England.[26]. 
However, limitations regarding this tapestry are significant. It is unclear who This tapestry brought up some of the most intriguing questions in medieval history, such as: Who ordered the production of this tapestry? One can argue that bishop Odo, William’s half brother, commissioned the tapestry to be woven for the glory of William, the late historian Frank Rede Fowke agreed with this consensus and summarized this evidence in 1898. Also, how does this tapestry inform us about Hastings?  How accurate are the descriptions? For example, an annotation within the tapestry saying “Harold rex interfectus est” (king Harold is dead) is presented above two illustrations: a standing soldier with an arrow stuck to the level of his eye, and a Norman cavalier striking down an Anglo Saxon soldier. One can wonder to which illustration is this information linked to; did Harold really die from an arrow to the eye?        

Section D: Analysis.
Historically, the battle of Hastings is considered the “most decisive battle in English history”[27] in which both leaders claimed legitimacy as rightful heirs to Edward the Confessor’s throne. Medieval historians still argue which factor was the one that resulted the victory of Normandy. It is argued that William’s feigned retreat tactics made the Normans win the battle, but to what extent is this argument the only possible reason why William won? Thus it is crucial to observe the various view points on this event.

 The most significant argument to explain William’s success in Hastings was because his Norman army was far more superior in cavalry and archery than Harold’s army. Cavaliers all fought in special units, the conroi, and were highly trained to follow strict specific orders without confusion. This disciplinary understanding amongst the Norman troops is crucial as it permitted them to enable these fake retreats[28]. In the Bayeux Tapestry, it is woven in great detail thousands of horsemen managing to draw the English away from their defensive line from the ridge only to hack them down at the bottom in the marshy valley.  Also, the tapestry illustrates a perfect scene of the Norman army regrouping when William re-mounted his horse and lifted his helmet to show he was very much alive, and later on commissioned the feigned retreats. This, again, suggests William was fully capable of commanding a whole army, he was well organized and prepared for this battle, as the tapestry shows him embarking on the shores of England full of food supplies, weapons, and live horses. As a result the fake retreats at Hastings were enabled under the cunningness of William, commanding a well prepared, who proved their efficiency on the battlefield, as the Anglo-Saxon defensive line gradually disintegrated leading to Harold’s death.    
On the other hand, Purser argues that the Normans won the Battle of Hastings due to the circumstances against Harold Godwinson and for his lack of leadership. Indeed in September and October of 1066, Harold was confronted by two fierce rivals, William of Normandy and Harald Hadrada of Norway, and had to keep his armies and fleet moving from London to Stamford Bridge to Hastings in the space of a few days[29]. Upon Harold’s return from Stamford Bridge, “he did not wait to remobilize 30,000 or 40,000 fyrd troops from the shires of all England.”[30] He wanted to defeat William rapidly, unaware of what was awaiting him at Hastings.  Thus, “Harold, not William, was taken by surprise… Harold was not courageous enough to adapt to the feigned retreats, he could neither seize the movement for a general charge nor command his troops to remain on the hill.”[31]  Furthermore Harold’s army lacked cavalry contrary to William, and a large majority had been decimated at the previous battle at Fulford Gate[32]. This lack of leadership, supported by the fact that his Anglo-Saxons chose to follow the fleeing Bretons only to be caught in their trap at the bottom of the hill reinforces his argument.  As a result it is fair to say that lacked leadership and was unable to maintain discipline within his Anglo-Saxon army at Hastings.  

Section E: Conclusion.

Harold clearly had several weaknesses, as Pursor outlines, ranging from his own deficiencies as a leader to his decision to attack at a disadvantageous moment. Nevertheless, his defense does seem to have been strong enough to withstand the Norman cavalry. This is why it can be concluded that William’s tactics at the battle of Hastings were effective. Through his feigned retreat, inviting Harold's defensive shield to break and attack, he managed to fatally weaken the main advantage Harold enjoyed. Added to this was William's disciplined and well-prepared army, crucial to ensure Norman victory at Hastings, which can be seen in the Bayeux tapestry as it illustrates effectively the well-armed Norman cavaliers intercepting and decimating the undisciplined Anglo-Saxon soldiers.   

Section F: Bibliography.
Beeler, John. Warfare in England, 1066-1189. Ithaca, NY: Cornell UP, 1966. Print.
Hamilton, Janice. The Norman Conquest of England. Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century, 2008. Print.
Malam, John. The Battle of Hastings. Slough: Cherrytree, 2007. Print.
Priestley, Chris. The Battle of Hastings. London: Scholastic, 2003. Print
Purser, Toby. Medieval England 1042-1228. Oxford: Heinemann, 2004. Print.
Szabo, John F. "Introduction." The Bayeux Tapestry: A Critically Annotated
Bibliography. N.p.: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015. Ix. Print.
Primary Sources:
The Bayeux Tapestry. 1070. Musée De La Tapessierie De Bayeux,
  [1] Malam, p.19  [2] Beeler, p.17   [3] Priestly, p.93  [4] Priestly, p.93  [5] Hamilton, p.79  [6] Priestly, p.91  [7] Purser, p.31  [8] Beeler, p.16  [9] Priestly, p.90  [10] Purser, p.32  [11] Purser, p.32  [12] Bayeux Tapestry (woven c. 1070)  [13] Beeler, p.17  [14] Hamilton, p.32  [15] Priestley, p.95  [16] Bayeux Tapestry (woven c. 1070)  [17] Beeler, p.19  [18] Purser, p.33  [19] Beeler, p.20  [20] Bayeux Tapestry (woven c. 1070)  [21] Purser, p.33  [22] Beeler, p. 23  [23] Bayeux Tapestry (woven c. 1070)  [24] Purser, p.233  [25] Purser, back cover  [26] Szabo, p. ix  [27] Purser, p.34  [28] Purser, p.32  [29] Purser, p.34  [30] Purser, p.31  [31] Purser, p.34-35  [32] Devries, p.298


Do the bones found in the Tower prove Richard III’s involvement in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower?
 Section A: Identification and Evaluation of Sources
Question: Do the bones found in the Tower prove Richard III’s involvement in the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower?
Source 1: Thomas More: The History of King Richard III (1519)
Published in 1519, this first biography of Richard is an unfinished account of his life and establishes the narrative of Richard's involvement in the princes’ deaths1. Much of the book centres around their fate, making it a crucial source for this investigation. Significantly, it was written during Henry VIII’s reign, reflecting the Tudor propagandist line of Richard the evil tyrant2. As a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s household, who deeply despised Richard, More probably overstated rumours of Richard’s role in the disappearance of the Princes to gratify his patrons' antipathy towards him3.This is reflected in More’s narrative, known more for its dramatic writing style than its historical accuracy, the former chairman of the Richard III Society describing it as “not history, but a literary exercise in the dramatic presentation of villainy”4 5. Such purpose is further reflected in content describing Richard as “malicious, wrathfull, [and] envious”, betraying clear subjective bias 6.Approximately one- third of it contains speeches invented by More for his characters which, though based on authentic source material, presents a tyrannical view of Richard 7. Furthermore, More’s history has its obvious flaws: some names and dates are incorrect or missing, and some of its content results from “divining upon conjunctures”8. Nevertheless, much of what More writes is substantiated by contemporary sources of the time like Mancini which More didn’t have access to, and, being a high member of Henry VIII’s court, More was able to obtain first-hand information from courtiers who had been alive during Richard’s reign, leading to Alison Weir arguing ‘there’s little reason to doubt its overall authenticity” 9 10.

Source 2: Paul Murray Kendall: Richard III (1956)
Runner up for the National Book Award in 1957, Kendall was praised for his “brilliantly successful [research], combining sound scholarship with literary distinction”11. Described by A.L.Rowse as ‘the best biography of Richard III,' Kendall sought to "portray what manner of man Richard was and what manner of life he led,’ helping fill in details about his character and motivations to truly assess his involvement in the disappearance of the princes12. By relying on “source material contemporary with Richard’s day”, Kendall casts doubt on Richard’s role.13 Nonetheless, his complete disregard of Tudor accounts severely limits his availability of sources 14. Kendall’s attempt to educate a general audience hinders depth as he spends much time providing context. Argumentation for the princes’ disappearance, however, remains easy to follow as he specifically devotes an entire section to the case. Nonetheless, with the mystery being over 500 years old, Kendall relies on his own interpretations of the sources, especially that of the bones, in order to assess motive15. Desmond Seward describes Kendall as a ‘romantic apologist’, who bases his interpretations on conjecture16. Yet, with the examinations of the bones found in the Tower of London twenty years prior, Kendall presents new evidence which sources like More’s weren’t able to access17.

Section B: Investigation
In 2012, the skeleton of Richard III was found in a Leicester car park, DNA analysis proving it to be Richard’s “beyond reasonable doubt”18. Richard’s supporters said that they hoped the discovery would force academics to “re-examine history”, especially with the many ‘false claims’ surrounding him19. The bones’ discovery thus reignited debate about his role in the most controversial rumour surrounding his reign; the disappearance of the Princes. Ironically, nowadays this debate centres on a separate collection of bones found in the Tower of London in 167420. Traditionalists have maintained that Richard stands convicted of the crime, as asserted by Tudor historians and blazoned by Shakespeare’s melodrama. Revisionists, like Kendall, insist that the case against Richard is fraudulent, have either declared the case an enigma or blamed someone else21. Equally, none of the contemporary evidence, being based on the assumption that Richard was responsible for the deaths of the princes, conclusively proves his guilt22. The key therefore to answering this question is the analysis of forensic evidence presented by the bones since this is the only physical evidence available that, unlike contemporary sources, cannot be tampered with and it’s significant that they were found in the Tower, where the princes were under Richard’s protection23.
Dr Starkey argues that although the bones on their own don’t prove Richard’s involvement, the location where they were found does, since their discovery corroborates More’s account of the burial of the Princes25. The bones were where he had described them to be “at the stair foot, meetly deep under the ground”26. The fact that this information came from More, who served Henry VIII as Lord High Chancellor of England, gives its historical weight as the authority he represented would indicate that the information was accurate27.Being a valued member of court, More also had access to sources unavailable to the general public, and could interview members of court that were in the Tower during the princes’ disappearance, like John Argentine, the physician to Edward V28. The burial place is also significant, since this was a private passage for the King 29. Thus, the bones wouldn’t have been able to be buried without Richard knowing, as he frequently used the passage30. Furthermore, as argued by Starkey, “there would’ve been no possibility that Richard wouldn’t have known if someone else were involved in the murder”31. This was because the Tower’s constable, Sir Brackenbury, one of his most devoted followers, wouldn’t grant access to the Tower without Richard’s authority32. Richard was therefore the only person capable of allowing murder to take place in the Tower. Ultimately the bones, if they are the Princes, prove that Richard had to be involved simply due to the location of the burial site33.
Furthermore, the forensic evidence from 1933 highlights the likelihood that the bones are the Princes34. The bones were examined by Dr Tanner and Professor Wright. Using dental evidence they estimated that the elder child was twelve and the younger nine to eleven, the ages of the princes when they disappeared35. This evidences that the Princes would’ve died during Richard’s reign, when he was the only one able to access them. 
Furthermore, the pre- molar teeth for both sets of bones were missing, a condition known as hypodontia, which Jean Ross, the senior lecturer in anatomy at the Charing Cross Medical School, considered to be unusual for this set of teeth36. Crucially that same condition was found in the skeleton of Anne de Mowbray, the Princes’ second cousin37. Hypodontia is genetic in origin and has a prevalence of 2-8% 38.The chance that the both bones and a blood relative of the Princes had the same genetic condition is extremely low, indicating that the bones shared a blood relationship to somebody that the Princes did too. This is valuable since in comparison to sources like More’s, medical evidence can’t be tampered with and thus provides unbiased evidence, which is crucial for this investigation. The report concluded, if the bones were of the Princes “by no possibility could either have been alive on August 22nd, 1485”39. This would confirm that at the time when Richard was responsible for them, the princes were dead.
However, Kendall questions a number of assumptions raised by traditionalists. In regard to the site where the bones were found, he argues that traditionalists who view More’s statements as the truth overlook More’s subsequent statement that the bones were later moved to a “better place”40. According to Kendall, if one were to believe More, the skeletons cannot have been those of the Princes41. Nevertheless, it’s difficult to invalidate More based on one statement. It’s also unclear what a ‘better place’ refers to; a better place wouldn’t even necessarily mean that the bones left the Tower. Furthermore, with regard to forensic evidence there are a few issues with the conclusions. These were founded on the basis of the Princes having been suffocated, yet as later forensics show “blood stains on the skull or jaw can’t support suffocation”42. Not only would this call into question the validity of the forensic research, but also that of More as he recorded how, under Richard’s orders, the princes were “smothered to death”43.
Secondly, Kendall argues the forensic investigation was conducted on the unscientific assumption that the bones belonged to the Princes. Wright looked for evidence that the bones were between the ages of ten and thirteen and assumed that the bones were those of males44. This indicates that the conclusions drawn would only substantiate the bones being the Princes, rather than presenting an unbiased report45. Nevertheless, as Kendall isn’t a medical expert it’s difficult to assess if the research was truly ‘unscientific’ based on this specific aspect. He had to rely on other research to conclude this, which, apart from suffocation, drew similar conclusions to those of Wright and Tanner.
Most substantially; the bones haven’t been dated and thus could’ve belonged to any historical period46. The princes weren’t the only children who disappeared in the Tower during the “turbulent age” and the white Tower, in which the bones were found, has stood for almost 900 years, during which “many secret bloody deeds have been enacted”47. Similar sets of bones have been found which could equally have been those of the Princes48. However, Kendall fails to recognise that the bones were discovered with “pieces of velvet about them”49. According to the Archaeological Resource Centre in York, velvet was invented in the 1400’s in Renaissance Italy and wasn’t made in England before the sixteenth century. In the 1480’s wearing imported velvet signified a higher rank, not only because of the price but also because of the social conventions50. Thus, the bones found in 1674 must have died in the fifteenth century at the earliest, and as no other pair of royal children had disappeared during the previous 200 years, it’s a fair assumption that these are the bones of the Princes51.
Overall, based on a combination of the forensic evidence, such as hypodontia, and the historical evidence, such as the velvet, and the place where the bones were found, it’s highly likely that the bones belong to the Princes. The bones thus confirm that the princes were dead by the end of 1483, therefore, it’s probable, that they were killed with Richard’s knowledge in 1483. Though Richard wasn’t present at the time of their disappearance, because the princes disappeared in the Tower and their bones were found there, he had to have known about it and thus per the question must have been involved.

Section C: Reflection
A challenge I faced was to understand the past given the paucity of objective information. Most contemporary sources are prejudiced against Richard and none indisputably certify Richard as the killer, nor mention the resting place of the Princes52. The lack of 15th documentation forced me to use Tudor accounts like More’s which are misleading and often biased, hostile towards Richard and contradictory. Previous accounts were hidden or destroyed, whilst those proclaiming Richard a tyrant were accepted 53.
The invalidity of history’s understanding through false claims hereby also creates grave danger. More created an image of Richard as a sadistic murderer, arguably the dominant factor in Richard’s legacy, paving the way for dramatists like Shakespeare’s characterisation. We should understand how the way history is told influences perception. Without More’s biography, we may never have known the “deformed and unfinished” tyrant from Shakespeare. The forensic analysis of the bones reflects this, conducted in the assumption that they belonged to the Princes and that Richard orchestrated their murder was, i.e. evidence of arguably historically inaccurate texts influencing not only historians, but also forensic scientists. An issue for historians relying on forensic evidence is that they have to trust the interpretations of experts in another field, meaning they’re unable to form conclusions on their own.
I found that historians, from different periods, disagreed over the same facts, and exhibited political, regional and cultural biases. A problem was identifying which speculative, and difficult to validate, theories, would likely be closes to the truth, taking into consideration not only the ‘selectivity’ in choosing sources, but the omissions, inferences and socio-political background of the historian. Tudor historians, writing after Henry’s ascension were unable to criticise him, and were thus heavily biased, partially incorrect or over-exaggerated.
I therefore focused on the objective scientific evidence of the bones, which also provided a likely burial site, although on their own, the bones cannot definitively prove Richard’s involvement, which isn’t helped from the heaps of competing theories arising from them. Even the chairman of the ‘Richard III Society’ didn’t feel able to provide a conclusion54.
Though the 1933 report adjudged the bones to be most likely those of the princes, this cannot be confirmed until further research, including DNA analysis, is carried out. No age or sex is established from the bones, rendering it difficult to unequivocally assert Richard’s complicity. This raises a question of morality; should the bodies be disinterred again to quell the curiosity of a small body of historians, or is the sanctity of one’s resting place more important?

1. “Appendix I: Who Murdered the Princes?” Richard III, by Paul Murray. Kendall, Fayard, 1956, pp. 1–52.
2. “Appendix 2: Tanner.” MYTHOLOGY OF THE 'PRINCES IN THE TOWER', by John Ashdown-Hill, AMBERLEY PUBLISHING, 2020, pp. 223–257.
4. “Chapter 5: The Fate of the Princes .” Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, by A. J. Pollard, Sutton, 2002, pp. 115–143.
5. “Early Stories of Richard III.” Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, by Anthony James Pollard, A. Sutton, 1996, pp. 1–22.
6. Lewis , Matthew. The Survival of the Princes in the Tower . The History Press , 2017.
7. Mackintosh, Eliza. “'Beyond Reasonable Doubt,' Bones Are the Remains of England's
King Richard III.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 4 Feb. 2013, identified/2013/02/04/d79e87b2-6ebb-11e2-ac36-3d8d9dcaa2e2_story.html. Accessed 20 Oct. 2020
8. Mancini, Dominic, and C. A. J. Armstrong. The Usurpation of Richard the Third: De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium Libellus. Oxford University Press, 1969
9. More, Thomas, and Richard Standish Sylvester. The History of King Richard III and Selections from the English and Latin Poems. Yale University Press, 1976.
10. “National Book Awards 1957.” National Book Foundation, 6 Mar. 2018, Accessed 6. July 2020
11. Potter, Jeremy. “To Prove A Villain: The Real Richard III.” Richard III Society – American Branch, 1991, Accessed 14 Oct. 2020
12. Pronay , Nicholas, and John Cox. The Crowland Chroncile Continuations . Sutton Publishing Ltd, 1986.
13. Seward, Desmond. The Wars of the Roses: and the Lives of Five Men and Women in the Fifteenth Century. Constable, 1995.
14. “Sir Thomas More.” Tudor Times, 17 Sept. 2016, more-1. Accessed 28 Oct. 2020
15. Williams C. Graham The Trials of King Richard III, BBC, 21 Feb. 1984. BBC
16. “Thomas More's History of King Richard III.” The British Library, The British
Library, 8 Jan. 2016,
17. “Tooth Agenesis.” NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders), 9 Jan. 2019, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020 1018. Unwin, Richard. Westminster Bones: the Real Mystery of the Princes in the Tower . Richard Unwin , 2015.
19. Walker, Elsie. “[Editorial]: The Body of Richard and the Afterlife of
Shakespeare.” Literature/Film Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 2, 2014, pp. 410–413. JSTOR, Accessed 25 Oct. 2020. Accessed 14 Oct. 2020
20. Wegemer , Gerard. Thomas More on Statesmanship. Catholic University of America Press, 1996.
21. Weir, Alison. Richard III and the Princes in the Tower. Vintage Books, 2014.
22. Wilkinson, Josephine. The Princes in the Tower: Did Richard III Murder His
Nephews, Edward V & Richard of York? Baker & Taylor, 2014.


  Did Mary, Queen of Scots, write the Glasgow Letter?

A: Plan of the Investigation

 In June 1567 the Casket Letters were seized by Mary, Queen of Scots’ political opponents, but they disappeared around 1584. Among them was the Glasgow Letter, which, if written by Mary, proves Mary’s guilt in murdering Henry, Lord Darnley. ‘Did Mary, Queen of Scots write the Glasgow Letter?’ is the question this investigation answers. To do so, the copies and translations of the Letter made in 1568 will be used to compare its style with that of known works of Mary’s, alongside an assessment of the manner of the Letters’ discovery and presentation to Queen Elizabeth I and an evaluation of the motives of other suspected authors of the Letters.  The 1568 copy and translation of the Glasgow Letter and Mary, Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters by A.E. MacRobert will be evaluated because the 1568 copy is the only current record of the Letter, and MacRobert’s book offers a contemporary analysis of the question.

B: Summary of Evidence

In November 1566, leading Scottish nobles and Mary probably swore to get rid of Darnley, Mary’s second husband. In 1567, he recuperated from an illness in Kirk O’ Field, where, on 9 February, Mary visited him. Mary was “suddenly reminded” to attend wedding celebrations in Edinburgh. That night, an explosion killed Darnley, to which Mary’s first reactions were “horror and shock”. She then married the chief suspect, Lord Bothwell, was forced to abdicate, and fled to England, where her cousin Queen Elizabeth I ordered an inquiry into whether or not Mary was guilty of murdering Darnley.
This inquiry took the form of two conferences in York and Westminster from October 1568 to January 1569, at which Mary’s half-brother, the Earl of Moray, presented the Casket Letters –eight unsigned letters allegedly from Mary to Bothwell– to the English commissioners. Mary denied writing them, arguing they were forgeries, and that her handwriting could easily have been duplicated.

According to Moray’s diary, the letters were acquired on 20 June 1567. The Earl of Morton, the most prominent Scottish noble against Mary, declared at Westminster that he received a tip-off from Sir James Balfour regarding a casket of letters that Bothwell, who was planning his escape from Scotland, was anxious to retrieve. He sent his servant, George Dalgleish, to do so, but Dalgleish was intercepted by a servant of Morton’s, and produced the silver casket after being subjected to interrogation. Morton kept the Casket overnight and opened it the following morning. According to A.E. MacRobert, “there is no certainty that the contents were not… manipulated… between 15 June and 20 June”. It was “distinctly affirmed” by those who took up arms and captured Mary on 15 June that it was from the Letters they derived knowledge of her responsibility for Darnley’s death.  On 26 June, however, Morton issued a proclamation blaming Bothwell for Darnley’s death, and that he had forced Mary into marriage.

Contrastingly, the Glasgow Letter’s contents, if accurate, reveal Mary’s love for its recipient, including the phrase “Being gon, from the place where I had left my harte” (see Appendix A) when referring to Edinburgh where Bothwell lived. It also contains something resembling a table of contents. Like the other Casket Letters, there is no existing copy of the original letter, and the contents must be analysed using the English and Scottish translations, first supplied by Moray to Queen Elizabeth in 1567. Noteworthy are the differences between the English and Scottish versions: the last six lines of the Scottish version do not appear in the English version. These lines instruct the reader, allegedly Bothwell, to “Remember you…Of the Erle of Bothwell” (See Appendix A). John Guy points out that the contents and fluidity of the Letter is highly disjointed and that the French grammar used in the Letter is rather too poor for a woman of Mary’s education, especially given her having lived in France for thirteen years.

Queen Elizabeth wrote to Moray in May 1568 after Mary had fled to England, enquiring into his reasons for his conduct towards his Queen. Moray replied in June by sending Scottish translations of the Letters, although Elizabeth had assured him she spoke better French than Scottish. During the conferences, furthermore, the original Letters in French were not produced. The enquiry was ended with the majority of the commissioners accepting the Letters as genuine after comparing them with examples of Mary’s handwriting, but Queen Elizabeth concluded that nothing was proven.

C: Evaluation of Sources

Mary, Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters by A.E. MacRobert offers a contemporary analysis of who wrote the Casket Letters, published in 2002. Its purpose is to identify what truly occurred between 1567 and 1568 and offer a re-examination and interpretation of existing evidence. Being a secondary source, and having been published well after the Letter’s publication, it is of value as its author has access to most documents relating to the case (the official state papers regarding Mary having been published in 1900). The author is therefore able to collate and build upon other historians’ views, with the benefit of hindsight. However, his argument can only be classified as an interpretation of documents relating to the case – the state papers which included the minutes from the York and Westminster conferences; Moray’s diary – but cannot draw an absolute conclusion since the original Letter has been lost and his interpretation comes long after the event. MacRobert is a Cambridge graduate also the author of “The 1745 Rebellion and the Southern Scottish Lowlands” - he is well acquainted with Scottish history of this time period. However, not much further information about him is available. The source’s purpose is valuable since it answers the question specifically, focuses on a very specific time period (1567-1568), considers solely the events in this period which pertain directly to the Letter and has access to all evidence currently available to do so. 

The 1568 copy and translation of the Glasgow Letter was transcribed by Scottish translators in Moray’s service, and was sent to Queen Elizabeth following Elizabeth’s questioning of Moray’s treatment of Mary, with the purpose of providing evidence to Elizabeth that the Scottish nobles’ actions against Mary were justified. Being a primary source, and having been used in the actual enquiry in 1568, it is of great value because it contains those contents that were used against Mary, and influenced decisions made against her. Furthermore, it is the only record of the document. However, having been transcribed by those in service of Mary’s greatest antagonist, the source presents limitations in that it cannot be considered an accurate representation of the contents of the original Letter. It having been transcribed by clerks, furthermore, presents a limitation as the handwriting of the copy is not representative of that of the original. The copy’s purpose also presents a limitation in that its contents may have been altered for this purpose, as contemporary historians (Fraser, Guy and MacRobert) argue.

D: Analysis

The Scottish Lords that took up arms against her used the assertion that Mary killed Darnley as justification. By forcing her abdication, they allowed her son, James, to ascend the throne – that throne which became united with that of England in 1603. If, however, the Scottish Lords fabricated the Glasgow Letter, their assertion of Mary’s murdering Darnley is unsupported, and their actions, against her and in crowning James, unjustifiable.

The discovery of the casket and the time between this event and the Letter’s publication, firstly, raises doubts on its authenticity. The Glasgow Letter was, as they affirmed, the reason for the Scottish Lords taking up arms against her on 6 June 1567 and capturing Mary on 15 June, but according to Moray’s diary, the letters were not acquired until 20 June. The Letter, thus, is highly unlikely to have been the true reason for the Lords’ political agitation, unless they had prior knowledge of its contents or had fabricated the Letter after capturing Mary to justify their unlawful actions. The latter theory fits with the Lords’ curious approach to presenting the Letter to Queen Elizabeth in 1568 after she requested a reason for the Lords’ motivations against their Queen: after a month’s delay, the Letter was sent in a Scots, not even English, translation rather than the ‘original’ French, which Elizabeth had requested. If the Letter had been sent in the original French, it could have been argued Moray was merely “wary of Elizabeth’s reaction”, as Henderson argued in 1889. Contrastingly, MacRobert, perhaps the most capable current expert on this age, concludes the Scots translation “raises question-marks against [Moray’s] integrity”. The Lords’ integrity may further be questioned as Morton, having acquired the Casket on 20 June, kept it overnight and only opened it officially the following morning, substantiating MacRobert’s assertion that “there is no certainty that the contents were not… manipulated”. Furthermore, Morton issued a proclamation blaming Bothwell for Darnley’s death on 26 June 1567, though the Letter subsequently used as evidence for Mary’s guilt in murdering him was discovered on 20 June.

The contents of the letter itself, secondly, should be evaluated. The issue, of course, is that the actual contents of the original Letter (if it existed) cannot be examined because it disappeared around 1581 – instead, only the 1568 copy made by Moray’s translators can be used. The divergences between the English and Scottish translations (most notably the exclusion of the last six lines of the Scots version from the English version), could reveal the substandard accuracy of the translators at this time and shows the letter is a poorly constructed forgery (why would Mary ask Bothwell to remember himself of himself?), as MacRobert argues, but contrastingly, Henderson concluded these last six lines were not important enough to be included in the English translation as he supposed these were but a list of things for the messenger to remember. The disjointed structure of the Letter, furthermore, is curious: towards the middle, it includes a list of things resembling a table of contents. More recent historians (Fraser, Guy and MacRobert) conclude from this that the Letter was either a letter written by Mary with incriminating passages inserted, or that Mary had sent this letter to someone other than Bothwell. Henderson, however, argues that the structure of the letter supports either Mary having written it herself completely, or that the Letter was “founded on some original composition of hers”, which is a logical conclusion as most paragraphs that do not include incriminating details are compatible with other writings of Mary’s.

It was clearly in the Lords’ interest to either completely fake the Letter, or insert incriminating passages into a letter of Mary’s: they only published it in 1568 when asked for a justification for their actions towards their Queen even though the Letter had been found in 1567. Furthermore, the Lords gained from Mary’s abdication: firstly, Morton himself became Regent of Scotland in 1572, and secondly, the Protestant Lords had disagreed heavily with Mary’s Catholicism during her reign. 

E: Conclusion

Though it is impossible to conclude with absolute certainty that Mary wrote the Letter because it has disappeared, the evidence collected in this investigation suggests that Mary wrote an original composition, which the Scottish Lords modified to include incriminating passages. Including incriminating passages in a letter of Mary’s will have served the Lords well, as those passages actually written by Mary would have convinced the English commissioners of her guilt. This is supported by the disjointed structure of the Letter, with some passages resembling Mary’s style well, while others (including incriminating details) do not. The Casket’s discovery would have been a pleasant surprise for the Lords after they had taken up arms against Mary – here was an opportunity to ‘legalise’ their actions. The delay between the Casket’s discovery and its opening will have given the Lords time to insert the passages, and sending Elizabeth a Scottish translation can be explained by the Lords’ proficiency in that language over French. It can be concluded, then, that Mary wrote certain parts of the Letter, but she is not the author of the whole.

Works Cited

Bain, Joseph. "Calendar of State Papers, Scotland: Volume 2 - 1563-69." 1900. General Register Office (Scotland). Edinburgh. British History Online. Web. 14 Oct. 2012. .

Chalmers, George. The Life of Mary, Queen of Scots; Drawn from the State Papers with Six Subsidiary Memoirs. London: John Murray, 1818. Print.
Fraser, Antonia. Mary Queen of Scots. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1969. Print.
Guy, John. "My Heart is my Own": The Life of Mary Queen of Scots. London: Fourth Estate, 2004. Print.
Henderson, T.F. The Casket Letters and Mary Queen of Scots: With Appendices. Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1889. Print.
MacRobert, A.E. Mary Queen of Scots and the Casket Letters. London: I.B. Taurus, 2002. Print.
N., J.F. Mary Stuart and the Casket Letters. Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas, 1870. Print.
Weir, Alison. Mary, Queen of Scots and the Murder of Lord Darnley. London: Random House, 2003. Print.
Wormald, Jenny. Mary, Queen of Scots. London: George Philip, 1988. Print. 

Codebreakers crack secrets of Mary Queen of Scots’ lost letters

Were the religious reforms during the reign of Henry VIII the cause of the execution of Lady Jane Grey?

A: Plan of Investigation

In 1554 Lady Jane Grey (born 1537), also known as the Nine Day Queen was executed in London1. She was the great granddaughter of King Henry VII[1]
This investigation will establish whether there is a link between the religious reforms put in place during the time of Henry VIII’s reign and the causes of Lady Jane Grey’s execution. For this investigation many sources will be consulted, and will be searched for evidence suggesting a link between the Religious Reforms and Jane’s execution. This essay will address the question: Were the religious reforms during the reign of Henry VIII the cause of the execution of Lady Jane Grey?

B: Summary of Evidence

Background Information
·      King Edward died on 6 July 1553. Four days later, Jane was proclaimed queen. Mary Tudor had widespread popular support and by mid-July, even the Duke of Suffolk [Jane’s father] had abandoned his daughter and was attempting to save himself by proclaiming Mary queen.3
·      The Duke of Northumberland’s A supporters melted away and The Duke of Suffolk easily persuaded his daughter to relinquish the crown.2
·      She was deposed 19th July 1553, 9 days following her instatement as Queen on the 10th. [2]
·      She was protestant, and those trying to have her as the monarch were strong protestants including her parents and father-in-law.3
·      Religions of the relevant Tudor monarchs:
1.     Henry VIII – initially Catholic but reformed the Church in order to get a legitimate divorce and became protestant.
2.     Edward VI – under his reign the Church of England became more protestant, as he was fiercely protestant.
3.     Lady Jane Grey – protestant.
4.     Queen Mary I – strongly Roman Catholic; went about to change the religion of the country from protestant.
5.     Queen Elizabeth I – protestant; but wanted to have a compromise between the Catholics and Protestants. [3]

Suggesting a link between Religious Reforms and Jane Grey’s Execution
·      Mary Tudor became a catholic icon during the reign of Edward VI, due to his increasingly protestant policy. [4]
·      C S L Davies describes Jane Grey’s rise to power as “the only successful rebellion of Tudor England” [5]
·      There was a plan, on Thomas Seymour’s B part, to marry Jane to King Edward. [6]
·      Lady Jane Grey was one of more than 100 people to be beheaded during the reign of Mary I, including Jane’s husband. 9
·      Edward VI had wanted Lady Jane Grey to succeed him in order to maintain the protestant succession. 10
·      By the time of the Tudor era in England, the reformation was already beginning in Europe, challenging the rule of the Catholic Church. 10
·      The reformation in England reached fever pitch in the middle of the 16th century. It was an upheaval of “far-reaching political and social significance.” 10
·      It is considered that Henry VIII’s love letter to Anne Boleyn was the trigger of the religious reformation in later years. 11
·      The Reformation stemmed from Henry’s Desire to marry Anne after a divorce from Katherine of Aragon. Which could only be given to him by the Pope. The Pope did nothing to help Henry and Henry decided he would only get a divorce if he made his own church. In order for this to happen, Henry needed legislation from the Reformation Parliament. 11

Suggesting no link between religious reforms and Jane Grey’s Execution
·      Edward VI was privy to Northumberland’s plans for Jane accession. 9
·      On June 21 1553, the Duke of Northumberland, drafted letters bastardising Mary and Elizabeth and thus making them ineligible to ascend to the throne. 9
·      Not only did her ascension disregard the Tudor line of accession; it also disregarded the Stuart line of accession. 9
·      Henry VIII wrote in his will that should his three children die without children of his own the crown should be passed to his niece Frances Grey, mother of Jane Grey. 12

Miscellaneous Information
·      This oil painting (see below), currently hanging in the National Gallery in London was painted in 1883 by Paul Delaroche and depicts the execution of Jane Grey. [7]
·      Lady Jane Grey was one of the best scholars of her day.[8]
·      After Catherine Parr’s death, her husband, Thomas Seymour, gave Parr’s household to Jane Grey. 7
·      The library of Henry VIII was searched for information that would back Henry’s case in setting up a new church. 11
·      It was this research from the libraries, that Henry became convinced that he was the leader of his own national church, and thus, encouraged him to break from Rome, in the 1530s. 11

C: Evaluation of sources
The sources used as evidence in this essay, are of varying degrees of subjectivity. Obviously all the sources are secondary sources, because none of the authors of the sources were alive at the time of Lady Jane Grey’s life. This is a limitation of all the sources referenced in this essay. The origin of the sources varies; some from more subjective websites written in favour of the British Monarchy, (source 4) to more deeply researched history books (sources 7 and 9). Source 10 is a book: Tudor England by Peter Brimacobe, it was written in 2004. The origin of the book is a British historian who specialises in Tudor history. the purpose of the book is to entertain and to educate. The value is that it seems to be that it is a well researched and as it is a published work, it is likely to have been reviewed, it is good for taking in facts but it shows only one side, and doesn’t show alternate points of view. Its limitations are that it isn’t trying to a great work of historical literature and is purely to entertain and to provide the reader with background knowledge of the subject. Another source of use is source 9: The Tudor Years by John Lotherington. The origin is a British historian; he is also a history teacher in a UK school. The purpose of this publication is to educate, and therefore we can assume that it is more objective than some other sources may be. The value of this book is that it offers a range of causes for Lady Jane Grey’s crowning, which lead to her execution. The limitation of this source is the fact it is a secondary source and therefore may not be as factual as a primary source could be.

D: Analysis
The vast majority of the sources consulted agree that the reason for Lady Jane Grey’s execution was the fact that she was queen, because of this we need to look at the reasons she became queen, due to the fact that the causes of the latter are also the causes of the former. With this in mind we can look purely at the causes of her ascension to the throne. Lady Jane Grey was executed, in short, because she was a protestant queen, in the way of Catholic Mary’s ascension to the throne. So with that in mind, the causes of Jane being queen, and Mary’s Catholicism become important. It is an interesting point to note that Henry VIII was only able to marry Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour because of the split with Rome, noting that Edward was a product of Henry’s marriage to Jane Seymour, and Edward was one of the people who allowed Jane to become queen, it is vital to state that perhaps in this sense the religious reforms are indirectly responsible for her ascension and execution. Whilst correlation is obvious: the religious reforms happened, and in 1554 Lady Jane Grey was executed, but causation would be more difficult to prove. In this case, it would be near impossible to prove that there was a cause and effect link between the Religious Reforms and the execution of a queen 21 years later.
The Tudor Years by John Lotherington states that one of the main reasons for the crowning of Lady Jane Grey was her father’s want to further his own status. Additionally, her ascension disregarded both Tudor and Stuart lines of monarchies, implying that Edward’s plan was for her to purely maintain the protestant monarchy, probably due to the fact that his father’s views had had an impact on him in his childhood, which implies that this may have been another way in which the religious reforms indirectly caused Jane Grey’s death. Despite these two indirect causes, there is no historiography suggesting a direct link between the reformation of the Church and the execution of Lady Jane Grey.  On the other hand it is widely accepted that without the pressures of the Protestant Catholic divide at the time, there would have been no need for Lady Jane Grey to be queen and by extension executed. It is noteworthy that it was the catholic Mary I who sentenced Jane to death3. But this is still an indirect link – a secondary cause- as such and a long term cause at that, the Catholic Protestant divide was only a side effect of the Church Reformation and was not the goal of the reformation as much as the goal was to allow Henry VIII to divorce Catherine of Aragon.

E: Conclusion
The historiography supports the idea that whilst the religious reforms were a long term; secondary; indirect cause. It was in no way the “trigger” cause of the execution of Lady Jane Grey. This puts the research question of Were the religious reforms during the reign of Henry VIII the cause of the execution of Lady Jane Grey?” in a somewhat grey area. Due to the fact that it has neither no effect nor is the only cause of the execution.
The trigger causes were the Duke of Northumberland’s desire to get ahead in life, and the fact that Mary I felt insulted by Jane’s ascension. Two main points caused this offence: firstly, that Jane’s crowning disregarded the pre-decided line of succession, and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, that Jane was protestant. The historiography of this topic suggests that whilst the long term causes stretch back decades before the execution the trigger- her ascension- was just a few months before her execution. As Lotherington says in his book, Jane Grey was executed because she was used as a pawn in other peoples’ power games.

F: Bibliography

[1] Britannica online encyclopedia (





6 (24.02.2010)

7Elizabeth; David Starkey;2000

8 England Under The Reign Of Edward VI and Mary I; Patrick Fraser Tytler; 1839

9  The Tudor Years; John Lotherington, 1994

10 Tudor England; Peter Brimacombe; 2004

11 Henry VIII, Man and Monarch; David Starkey and Susan Doran; 2009

12 Henry VIII, Eric Ives; 2007

A The Duke of Northumberland was the father of Jane’s husband: Lord Guildford Dudley. Northumberland spearheaded Jane’s rise to power.
B Thomas Seymour married Catherine Parr after Henry VIII’s death. Jane was sent to live in Seymour and Parr’s household.