Today Tracy and I went to St Mary’s Church, Eastwell; for here, in this abandoned church ruin is the reputed resting place of Richard Plantagenet – Richard III’s (alleged) illegitimate son.
The story goes that Richard was brought up not knowing his parents, and by a schoolmaster who taught him Latin, a sign of someone being educated according to his status and visited four times a year by a mysterious man who paid for his upkeep. At 16 he was taken to his father’s tent the night before the Battle of Bosworth. There, Richard III informed him that he was his son, told him to watch the battle from a safe vantage point and that if he won, he would acknowledge Richard Jr as his son. If he lost, Richard told the boy to forever conceal his identity.
But Richard III lost – so Richard Jr fled to London.
He was apprenticed to a bricklayer, but kept up the Latin he had learned by reading during breaks. He kept to himself, in case he was recognised.
And this is what he did for his entire life.
Sixty years after Bosworth, he was employed by Sir Thomas Moyle, lord of the manor at Eastwell as a gardener and bricklayer. Moyle discovered Richard reading and, hearing his story, offered him stewardship of the house’s kitchens. Richard was used to seclusion and declined the offer. Instead, he asked to build a one-room house on Moyle’s estate to live in until he died.
“Plantagenet Cottage” still stands on the site and a well in Eastwell Park still bears his name.
The parish records record that Richard died in 1550 at the age of 81. The register entry reads:
“Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22 daye of December, anno ut supra. Ex registro de Eastwell, sub anno 1550.”
Heneage’s Memoirs of King Richard III states: “Anciently, when any person of noble family was interred at Eastwell, it was the custom to affix a special mark against the name of the deceased in the register of burials. The fact is a significant one, that this aristocratic symbol is prefixed to the name of Richard Plantagenet.”
But for one lost battle, he could have been King Richard IV.
But now he is nothing more than a forgotten footnote to history.