Eclipses and Death in the House of York
Was the fall of House of York due to the help of an
his astronomical tables drawn up on 16 March 1485, in the tower of
where he had been placed at the command of King Richard III, Lewis of
called attention not only to his own plight but also to his abiding
So writes Perl Kibre1about the physician
who attended to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII. From
description of Caerleon, one could almost shed a tear for this poor
situation who was obviously a highly educated man in scientific matters.
However, the above date might look familiar to most if not all
is in fact also the date of the death of Ann Nevill, Richard III's wife
we all know, history states that she died on the day of an eclipse of
that was seen from London that day. Caerleon's 'astronomical tables'
fact a thesis on eclipses2 and so, as Richard grieved for the loss
of his childhood sweetheart, the skies over London were darkening and it
fitting that at exactly the same time, Caerleon was busy signing off his
and thus it is certain that he had calculated and predicted the eclipse
that took place that day.
Now for most historians this is all coincidental and
some may even state that Richard deliberately announced Ann's death on that day
to 'bury bad news' (no pun intended) and so deflect any accusations of his
involvement in her death or even for a touch of the theatrical, which he
appeared to have been so fond of. But, let us not forget why Richard had placed
Lewis of Caerleon in the Tower. He was put there together with Thomas Nandycke
and others due to their involvement in the failed 1483 uprising. Why Richard
kept Caerleon alive and yet had Nandyke executed has never been fully
understood, maybe he thought Caerleon's undoubted mathematical and medical
skills would be more useful to him alive than dead.
For some proof let us go back to 15 January 1478 and
the wedding of Ann Mowbray3 who was married to Richard of York;
Edward IV's son. This was the day before parliament opened and began with the
trial against the Duke of Clarence. After sentencing Clarence to death, one of
the first acts passed by this new parliament was the declaration that the newly
married king's son should enjoy the Dukedom of Norfolk and Mowbray inheritance
for life. In other words if Ann Mowbray should die before her husband and
without issue, then he would inherit all that the Mowbrays possessed. This went
against all the traditional rules of inheritance and the other noble families'
of England were not happy with such a precedent being set.
But were the
Mowbrays so very surprised? It has been stated that they had come to some
financial agreement over all this and so accepted the deal. This of course
smacks of the cold ruthlessness of the Woodville family in their ongoing cycle
of mopping up family inheritances by way of marriage.
If you're as cynical as myself, then it comes as no
surprise to learn that some twenty-two months later on the 26 November 1481
that the death of Ann Mowbray is recorded, she having died some time during the
week before. Now most historians regard her death as simply unfortunate,
pointing to the high infant mortality rate of the time. Any thought of the
possibility of intrigue is dismissed as just another rabid conspiracy theory.
Nobody would kill a young child for money; would they? A look at the NASA
website of astronomical events4 may tell us a different story, as it
shows that on the 21 November 1481 there was a solar eclipse (eleven days after
Ann Mobray's eighth birthday).
For the moment let us leave aside the question; if she
died on an eclipse or not, or if it was coincidence or not and ask the
question; were the Woodvilles so ruthless and so greedy as to resort to
infanticide to increase their wealth? Personally I believe they were, medieval
life was ruthless and the Woodvilles had already shown how ruthless they could
be by the infamous ill matched marriages they arranged. Maybe a look at some
other notable deaths in the House of York can prove or disprove the thought
that some sort of skulduggery was afoot.