Danielle Burton and her work on Anthony Woodville - Sophisticate or Schemer? Guest Post

Today I wanted to share with you the work of Danielle Burton, a fellow history blogger, who writes at Voyager of History. Danielle was so helpful in the initial stages of my own research into some of the forgotten women of the Wars of the Roses, pointing me in the direction of effigies, monuments and giving her advice about Elizabeth Scales. I asked if she'd like to come over to the blog here and share with you her research into the period, which currently centres on Anthony Woodville, the brother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Danielle has a book out on the subject, Anthony Woodville: Sophisticate or Schemer

I would first like to thank Jo for inviting me to do a bit of a piece about my research into the life of Anthony Woodville, brother-in-law of Edward IV, in anticipation of my debut book, a biography of his life entitled Anthony Woodville: Sophisticate or Schemer, which is due to be published on 15 February in the UK. I didn’t want this to be an ordinary interview style post, so I hope that this is ok and you enjoy it anyway.

I have been interested in the Wars of the Roses period since childhood, something that has been
passed onto me by my parents, who are also interested in the period. I have been taken to castles
and battlefields of the period since, well, forever. We also live only about an hour away from the
battlefield at Bosworth, where Richard III was killed fighting for the throne with Henry Tudor. 

So of course we have spent many a year at their Bosworth Festival held on the closest weekend to the battle’s anniversary. As a family, we have also been a part of the Richard III Society for twenty years this year.

Earl Rivers presenting his book and Caxton, his printer, to Edward IV by Charles Grignon
(Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection)

It is in this context that I have known of Anthony Woodville for many years, especially as he was

executed at Pontefract Castle in June 1483, the day before Richard, duke of Gloucester, the brother of Edward IV, asked to become King instead of his young nephew, Edward V. It was through this that I began to research Anthony’s life, for most people know of how his life ended, not what had gone before, or just how complicated the events leading up to his execution actually were.

Upon beginning to delve deeper into his life, it was clear that Anthony Woodville was perhaps not quite the schemer that the rest of his family have been portrayed at. Instead, he often kept out of the prominence of politics at the time, whilst still being connected to events by his sister, Elizabeth Woodville, scandalously marrying Edward IV. I don’t want to reveal too many spoilers in case anyone wishes to read my book to discover more, but Anthony Woodville’s life is pretty much a real life version of what we imagine medieval knights got up to; poetry, jousting, pilgrimages.

Most importantly, he was one of the most important patrons of William Caxton, the person who
brought the printing press to England, as well as his translator. It is entirely probable that it was
Caxton’s connections with Anthony that made him move his printing shop to Westminster. Yet other than those who already know of this, Anthony’s role in the early production of printed material in England has been largely forgotten in his public perception.

William Caxton showing the first page from his printing press to King Edward IV, from Cassell's Illustrated History of England (1909) Courtesy of the British Library under Creative Commons 2.0

Whilst recently being interviewed for some podcasts on the topic, I mentioned Edward’s ideal of creating a new Camelot in England, based on the idealised chivalry portrayed in Arthurian legend. This was a form of propaganda which was hoped would maintain a certain image of heroism and strength needed for Edward’s reign and expected dynasty, after he had won the throne by deposing Henry VI, who had difficulties ruling. When this period is seen through this new Camelot lens, it becomes obvious that actually Anthony was central to that, for he was the one helping to fuel a culture of chivalry, especially through tournaments and literature, albeit at times behind the scenes. I used the analogy of Anthony being the Merlin to Edward’s Arthur, i.e. he was the one behind the scenes working towards this goal of Camelot.

Without going into too much detail, I hope that gives a bit of an explanation as to what makes
Anthony Woodville such a fascinating character that has sadly been a bit forgotten in the epic period that is the Wars of the Roses, but actually he was instrumental in it none the less. Perhaps as the period has been looked at so much through the military side of things, which does make up a large part of it, although not all, that is why Anthony has been often overlooked. Whilst he did take part in some of the famous battles, such as Towton and Barnet, he was usually defending or maintaining lands elsewhere, or just the records don’t tell us just what he was doing when these battles were going on.

In the meantime, you can preorder Anthony Woodville: Sophisticate or Schemer through Amazon (affiliate link) directly from the publishers, Amberley, or from other good book retailers, with publication due on 15 February, if you are in the UK. For American readers, the kindle version is currently available to preorder through Amazon.

Danielle is a historian, author and history blogger. She has a First in History and an MA in Public History and Heritage from the University of Derby. She has also worked in heritage, in both paid and voluntary roles, since 2016, most recently as an archive assistant at the Derbyshire Record Office and as a visitor centre assistant for Masson Mills, part of the Derwent Valley World Heritage Site.

Follow Danielle on her socials to keep up with new work and updates on the book:

Twitter: @PrincessBurton
Facebook: www.facebook.com/voyagerofhistory
Instagram: @voyagerofhistory
Blog: www.voyagerofhistory.wordpress.com

Enjoyed this? You might also enjoy Emmeline Fiennes Lady Say and Cade's Rebellion of 1450, The Women of Reading Abbey and In Defence of Richard III.

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