Death Be Pardoner To Me: The Life of George, Duke of Clarence

BOOK: Death Be Pardoner To Me: The Life of George, Duke of Clarence
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The Life of George, Duke of Clarence


Dorothy Davies


Copyright 2008, 2014

Dorothy Davies


The right of Dorothy Davies to be identified as author of

this work has been asserted in accordance with the

Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988


All Rights Reserved


No reproduction, copy or transmission of the publication

may be made without written permission.

No paragraph of this publication may be reproduced,

Copied or transmitted save with the written permission of the publisher, or in accordance with the provisions of the

Copyright Act 1956 (as amended).


Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to

this publication may be liable to criminal

prosecution and civil claims for damages.


Fiction4all is an imprint of



This Edition Published 2014



Dedicated to the memory of George Plantagenet, K.G.,

Duke of Clarence,

Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.


Requiescat In Pace.



It is also dedicated to the memory of David Millard, medium and friend.

The Duke of Clarence came from what seems to us to have been a time of courtly knights, chivalrous adventures and behaviour (on the surface, at least.) David was a latter-day ‘white knight’ who often came to the rescue when mediums were needed for the church I served, to help during Open Days when he would do seemingly endless readings without charge. He was there when called on if he was not booked elsewhere, no matter what the weather. (He had to get a ferry to reach us and David was no sailor!)

David had his own demons to fight, his own treachery to battle and his own suffering to endure; his was not an easy pathway. He is sadly missed on this side of life.

David, you are not forgotten and never will be.

Requiescat in Pace.




From Immortality

Olton Pools, Sidgwick and Jackson Ltd.,1917


There in the midst of all these words shall be

Our names, our ghosts, our immortality.


Last Confessional


John Drinkwater,

(From Swords and Ploughshares, Sidgewick and Jackson, 1917)


For all ill words that I have spoken,

For all clear moods that I have broken,

For all despite and hasty breath

Forgive me, Love, forgive me, Death.


Death, master of the great assize,

Love, falling now to memories,

You two alone I need to prove,

Forgive me, Death, forgive me, Love.


For every tenderness undone,

For pride when holiness was none

But only easy charity,

O Death, be pardoner to me.


For stubborn thought that would not make

Measure of love’s thought for love’s sake,

But kept a sullen difference,

Take, Love, this laggard penitence.


For cloudy words too vainly spent

To prosper but in argument

When truth stood lonely at the gate,

On your compassion, Death, I wait.


For all the beauty that escaped

This foolish brain, unsung, unshaped,

For wonder that was slow to move,

Forgive me, Death, forgive me, Love.


For love that kept a secret cruse,

For life defeated of its dues,

This latest word of all my breath –

Forgive me, Love, forgive me, Death.



Author’s note:


Any historian, amateur or professional, studying the life and times of Richard III and Edward IV will be aware of their brother, George, duke of Clarence. He is mentioned in all their books but only one has been written about his life: ‘False, Fleeting, Perjur’d Clarence, George Duke of Clarence 1449-78’ by Michael Hicks, to which I am indebted for much detailed information. It is a mystery why other authors have not found him worthy of attention. The title is the description given to him by Shakespeare and it is that description which has come down the ages, along with the myth surrounding his execution.


Mary Clive’s comment in ‘
Sunne of York’
(the life of Edward IV) that Clarence was ‘essentially insignificant’ gave me the extra incentive I needed to write this book, just to prove otherwise. No one who was brother to two Kings, who held great estates and power, who switched sides seemingly on a whim, who allied himself with the great Warwick, then became reconciled with his brother King Edward IV and had his estates and lands restored to him but who was finally executed at King Edward IV’s command can be ‘essentially insignificant’ in the annals of history. Such a man leaves his footprints on the lives of those around him in a most emphatic way. In many ways, George, duke of Clarence, is as maligned as his more famous brother, King Richard III, as he is known for only two things: being a traitor to King Edward IV and allegedly drowning in a vat of malmsey wine. Research shows there was much more to this charismatic Plantagenet than that. It is my hope that I have brought something of the real duke of Clarence to life and, by looking past the historical statements written about him, have perhaps revealed the reasons for his many strange acts. The book has been a challenge to write; one I have welcomed. I consider myself a Clarencian as well as a Ricardian!


I wish to thank the following people for their assistance:


The staff at Tewkesbury Abbey.

Robert Yorke, Archivist at the College of Arms, for his help in supplying articles and the detail from the Rows Rol showing Clarence’s arms.

The Richard III Foundation for articles from their extensive library.


I would mention here my dearest friends Mary Holliday and Terry Wakelin, both of whom supported me throughout the writing of this book. I also want to mention AW and GP, for ongoing support and help.


A percentage of the royalties generated by this book are to be paid to Tewkesbury Abbey, site of the tomb of the duke and duchess of Clarence, to aid restoration work and to contribute to the ongoing costs of maintenance.


Dorothy Davies,

Isle of Wight, the year of Our Lord 2008



So incompetent has the generality of historians been for the province they have undertaken, that it is almost a question, whether, if the dead of past ages could revive, they would be able to reconnoitre the events of their own times, as transmitted to us by ignorance and misrepresentation.

Horace Walpole, 1768





George duke of Clarence was the third living son of Richard, duke of York and Cecily Neville. Their first two sons were Edward, earl of March, later Edward IV, and Edmund, earl of Rutland, murdered on the battlefield at Wakefield, December 1460, during which Richard duke of York was killed. George’s younger brother, Richard, became duke of Gloucester and later King Richard III.

The duke of Clarence lived at the time historians refer to as the Wars of the Roses, although it was not known by that name in the 15
century. This was actually internecine warfare between two major ‘houses’, Lancaster and York.

Henry VI, a Lancastrian, was king of England from 1422 to 1461. He had a son, Edward, Prince of Wales, by his wife Margaret of Anjou.

Edward IV was proclaimed king in 1461, after winning major battles against the Lancastrians, despite the fact that Henry VI still lived.

An uprising drove Edward IV into exile and Henry VI regained the throne for a year.

Edward IV returned to England and reclaimed the throne, sending Henry VI to the Tower, where he later died.

Despite further uprisings, Edward IV held the throne of England until his death in 1483. His son Edward, by his wife Elizabeth Woodville, was officially Edward V, until the allegations of a pre-contract of marriage rendered the marriage illegal and the offspring of that marriage illegitimate, thus disbarring Edward V from becoming King. Instead Parliament offered the throne to Richard of Gloucester, who was Lord Protector under King Edward’s will. He became Richard III.


This is a brief outline of the major players of the time. Within this framework, George duke of Clarence played his not insignificant part in English history.



Chapter 1


I dreamed:


Of being king.

Of being the owner of Fotheringhay.

Of having a wonderful marriage.

Of fathering many children.

Of having power.

Of being part of the York family.

Of living to an old age.


Where has Fortune taken my dreams? Here am I, a prisoner in the Tower of London, in luxurious apartments I will admit, but a prisoner for all that. I was brought here by order of King Edward IV, my own brother.

My liege ran out of patience with what he called a wayward, treasonable, unreasonable brother. My liege took a quill and signed his name on the warrant of execution with bold strokes – I know, they showed it to me, his men who came with mixed emotions to tell me of the decision – and in the bold strokes with which he signed his name, I knew there was no going back. No words would move him; no prayers could reach him.

The men came with eyes that said ‘poor man, ordered to die by writ signed by his own brother.’

Eyes that said ‘well, Clarence, you overstepped the invisible line. Much you should not have said, much you should not have done, but you said it and you did it. What kind of prize fool are you?’

Eyes that said, ‘so much for royalty and aristocracy, the end comes to us all at some time and who are you to think you could outwit it, foolish one?’

Then they left me alone with my thoughts, paper, ink, quills and a supply of malmsey wine. They left me to solitude and loneliness. I reflect on my dreams as the wine fails adequately to dull my senses and my thoughts, no matter how much I drink, for of a surety my very blood must be malmsey wine by now and it makes no difference to me. I pour it out as fast as I pour it in and somehow it passes through my body without affecting me. Too many drunken nights, Clarence, I say, catching myself staring at the jewelled mazer as if I had not seen it before, though it has been in my hand virtually the entire time I have been here. Too many drunken nights, days, weeks, months in the past and now. But hell and damnation, how else do I stop the pain in my head? The pressure that is like a blacksmith tightening his hold on a piece of metal and then hammering it endlessly, endlessly, endlessly until I want to shriek aloud to the heavens, in the name of all that is holy, end this and end it now!

No one knows of this. Pride stops me saying ‘I have this problem…’ for in all honesty, to whom can I turn? I know, deep inside, in the place where all truth is known and none can disguise it, that my physician could do nothing for me, nothing to take the pain from my head, nothing to prolong my life. I know it and accept it.

I could send a note to my brother the king to say he could hold his hand, he could delay the execution, for I will shortly leave this world of my own accord and thus take the taint of ordering my death from his mind and his reign. Why do I not do it? Why do I hesitate to write such a note? Is there still a part of my conscious mind which resents all that has happened? The way the Yorks acted as if I was not a York; as if I was not brother to both March and Gloucester; the arguments, the battles over land, the forbidding of my marriage, the lack of support at my trial; my complaints seem endless.

BOOK: Death Be Pardoner To Me: The Life of George, Duke of Clarence
2.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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