Katherine Neville, Baroness Hastings

So who did kill the Princes in the tower? Sunday’s penultimate episode of The White Queen did a good job of considering all the likely suspects.

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Ricardians will be delighted that Richard received a TV absolution – no real evidence here then, according to Phillipa Gregory, although his meddling wife Anne may have been responsible for 500 plus years of bad press.

Sadly I have to admit that pious Lady Margaret Beaufort and her slippery husband Lord Stanley are looking none to innocent, which brings me circuitously to another Neville sister, Katherine.

Slippery Stanley played by Rupert Graves

Slippery Stanley played by Rupert Graves

Katherine, named for her father’s sister, Katherine, Duchess of Norfolk, was born during the 1430s and was first married to William Bonville, Lord Harrington in 1458. This marriage proved to be a short one as Lord Harrington was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 along with the Duke of York and Katherine’s brother Thomas. Her father, the Earl of Salisbury, was executed at Pontefract the day after the battle. Katherine’s daughter Cecily was born after Harrington’s death.

The Princes in the Tower by John Everett Millais

The Princes in the Tower by John Everett Millais

Katherine’s second marriage to Edward IV’s friend William Hastings was most probably arranged for her by her brother Warwick.

During these difficult times large landowners such as Hastings had to box clever, but there was never really any doubt as to where William’s loyalties lie. In 1461 he joined Edward’s campaign to take the throne for which he was created Baron Hastings of Hastings, and later chamberlain. Hastings fought at Barnet, the battle that saw the fall of Warwick, and again at Tewkesbury, where Margaret of Anjou was defeated.

Just how happy Katherine’s second marriage was is difficult to assess. The couple had five children that survived infancy, a relatively small family by the standards of the day, probably because Hastings was frequently absent from the marital bed, for various reasons! As Edward’s right hand man and best buddy, William, like his king, was a notorious womaniser.

The Princes in the Tower by Paul Delaroche

The Princes in the Tower by Paul Delaroche

But actually no one had a bad word to say against William – well, apart from Elizabeth Woodville who was not overly keen on him as she suspected he encouraged the king in his licentious ways. But everyone else thought he was a good bloke. So where did it all go wrong? 

Hastings and the slippery Stanley were all for crowning the young prince, King Edward V. When Richard imprisoned the boys and their uncle, Earl Rivers, Hastings and Stanley apparently accepted his explanation that Elizabeth Woodville was being obstructive. But then Richard had Hastings, Stanley and others he suspected of conspiracy, seized in the Council chamber. Stanley escaped with a minor injury – well he would, wouldn’t he – but Hastings was beheaded without the formality of a trial.

The Princes in the Tower by James Northcote

The Princes in the Tower by James Northcote

How did these events impact upon Katherine? Well, she never married again, for one thing. And she lost much of the land Edward IV had given to his loyal servant. However, when Henry VII took the throne, Katherine and her son had some of their property returned. Unfortunately for Katherine her recovered estates included tenants who were slow to pay their rents and she in turn frequently found herself in debt.

Richard III played by Aneurin Barnard

Richard III played by Aneurin Barnard

Katherine died at the beginning of 1504. In her will dated November 22, 1503 she stated her wish to be buried ‘in our Lady Chappell within the parish church of Ashby de la Zouch, between the image of our Lady and the place assigned for the vicar’s grave.’

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