Speculation on Buckingham’s Actions

by Paul Egelstaff

Note: This speculation is personal and does not reflect the views of the Richard III Society of Canada. However it is speculation such as this makes Richard’s period in history of continuing interest to Society members and friends.

Buckingham’s actions highlight his political inexperience, his motives however, are a huge opportunity for speculation. He comes out from the Woodville shadow in April 1483 and is executed for high treason six months later. Did he expect to win more power for himself, perhaps even the crown itself? By wearing the cartwheel badge of Thomas of Woodstock at Richard’s coronation, he had been flaunting his royal descent. Was leading a rebellion against Richard a sign he was repulsed at the rumour of Richard murdering the sons of Edward IV? Yet the rumour seems to have started around Buckingham’s own castles in Wales. Did that master of intrigue, John Morton, who he had in custody persuade him to change his allegiance?

Buckingham had been a Woodville lackey for eighteen years. Suppose that with Edward’s death he felt he could at last emerge from the wings and shine in his own way, in his own right. Also suppose he is an average dumb 15th century lug with an over-inflated ego (think of the period and his position).

The first thing Buckingham does is turn against those he has come to hate. He joins forces with Richard against the Woodvilles, to thwart a power play for the young Edward V (who they have controlled since birth). Giddy with their success, Buckingham plays the popinjay in London. Finally he doesn’t have a Woodville breathing down his neck. At Richard’s coronation there are those who speculate on who is to be crowned: at times Buckingham looks like the lead actor. Harry is now on a high. The ultimate revenge against the “Woodville Witch” would be to do away with her sons. In one stroke he can destroy her power base. Acting partly on impulse, Buckingham lingers in London for a week after Richard leaves on his coronation procession. During the week he takes care of the Princes and makes sure their mother knows. He then meets Richard briefly in Gloucester and goes back to Brecon. Elizabeth Woodville, believing Buckingham acted with Richards’s blessing, gives consent for Henry Tudor to marry her daughter.

Back in Brecon, Buckingham doesn’t feel so grand and invincible. He also has Cardinal John Morton to give him a dose of reality. How does he face Richard with the truth? Not only has he done in the Woodvilles, he has just done away with the sons of the late king. Morton suggests that his goose is cooked and the only way out is to join forces with the Tudor. They discuss what to do, time is pressing, Richard is bound to know soon. Buckingham’s own indiscretions have started rumours of the Princes’ demise. So Buckingham emerges at the head of a rebellion against Richard, a rebellion that coincides with Henry Tudor’s attempted invasion. Elizabeth Woodville now sees the person (Henry Tudor) she cut a deal with, actually in league with the person (Buckingham) who killed her sons. She reluctantly makes a deal with Richard for the care and marriage arrangements of her daughters. And the rest, as they say, is history.