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opening a writing-school had been abandoned almost from the first; and Mr. Cookesley looked round for some one who had interest enough to procure me some little office at Oxford. This person, who was soon found, was Thomas Taylor, Esq., of Denbury, a gentleman to whom I had already been indebted for much liberal and friendly support. He procured me the place of Bib. Lect. at Exeter College; and this, with such occasional assistance from the country as Mr. Cookesley undertook to provide, was thought sufficient to enable me to live, at least till I had taken a degree.
60.—THE STORY OF RICHARD PLANTAGENET. [There is an old tradition that Richard III. had a natural son, whom he caused to be carefully educated, and to whom he discovered himself on the night before the battle which lost him his life and his crown. The story was first made known in a letter, printed in ‘Peck's Desiderata Curiosa,' from Dr. Thomas Brett to Dr. William Warren, which letter was written in 1733.]
* * * * Now for the story of Richard Plantagenet. In the year 1720 (I have forgot the particular day, only remember it was about Michaelmas) I waited on the late Lord Heneage, Earl of Win. chelsea, at Eastwell-house, and found him sitting with the register of the parish of Eastwell lying open before him. He told me, that he had been looking there to see who of his own family were mentioned in it. But, says he, I have a curiosity here to show you, and then showed me, and I immediately transcribed it into my almanack, “ Richard Plantagenet was buried the 22nd day of December, anno ut supra. Ex Registro de Eastwell, sub anno, 1550.” This is all the register mentions of him; so that we cannot say, whether he was buried in the church or churchyard; nor is there now any other memorial of him except the tradition in the family, and some little marks where his house stood. The story my lord told me was this:
When Sir Thomas Moyle built that house (Eastwell Place), he observed his chief bricklayer, whenever he left off work, retired with a book. Sir Thomas had curiosity to know what book the man read, but was some time before he could discover it, he still putting the book up if any.one came towards him. However, at last Sir Thomas surprised him, and snatched the book from him, and, looking into it, found it to be Latin. Hereupon he examined him, and, finding he pretty well understood that language, inquired how he came by his learning : hereupon, the man told him, as he had been a good master to him, he would venture to trust him with a secret he had never before revealed to any one. He then informed him, that he was boarded with a Latin school-master, without knowing who his parents were, till he was fifteen or sixteen years old; only a gentleman (who took occasion to acquaint him he was no relation of his) came once a quarter, and paid for his board, and took care to see that he wanted nothing. And one day this gentleman took him, and carried him to a fine great house, where he passed through several stately rooms, in one of which he left him, bidding him stay there.
Then a man, finely dressed, with a star and garter, came to him, asked him some questions, talked kindly to him, and gave him some money. Then the fore-mentioned gentleman returned, and conducted him back to his school.
Some time after, the same gentleman came to him again, with a horse and proper accoutrements, and told him he must take a journey with him into the country. They went into Leicestershire, and came to Bosworth field; and he was carried to King Richard III.'s tent. The king embraced him, and told him he was his son. “But, child,” says he,“ to-morrow I must fight for my crown. And, assure yourself, if I lose that I will lose my life too: but I hope to preserve both. Do you stand in such a place (directing him to a particular place), where you may see the battle, out of danger. And when I have gained the victory come to me; I will then own you to be mine, and take care of you. But, if I should be so unfortunate as to lose the battle, then shift as well as you can, and take care to let nobody know that I am your father; for no mercy will be showed to any one so nearly related to me." Then the king gave him a purse of gold, and dismissed him.
He followed the king's directions; and, when he saw the battle was lost, and the king killed, he hasted to London, sold his horse and fine clothes, and, the better to conceal himself from all suspicion of being son to a king, and that he might have means to live by his honest labour, he put himself apprentice to a bricklayer. But, having a competent skill in the Latin tongue, he was unwilling to lose it; and having an inclination also to reading, and no delight in the conversation of those he was obliged to work with, he generally spent all the time he had to spare in reading by himself.
Sir Thomas said, “You are now old, and almost past your labour; I will give you the running of my kitchen as long as you live.” He answered, “ Sir, you have a numerous family; I have been used to live retired; give me leave to build a house of one room for myself, in such a field, and there, with your good leave, I will live and die." Sir Thomas granted his request; he built his house, and there continued to his death.
I suppose (though my lord did not mention it) that he went to eat in the family, and then retired to his hut. My lord said, that there was no park at that time; but, when the park was made, that house was taken into it, and continued standing till his (my lord's) father pulled it down. “But,” said my lord. “ I would as soon have pulled down this house;" meaning Eastwell Place.
I have been computing the age of this Richard Plantagenet when he died, and find it to be about 81. For Richard III. was killed August 23, 1485, which, subtracted from 1550, there remains 65, to which add 16 (for the age of Richard Plantagenet at that time), and it makes 81. But, though he lived to that age, he could scarcely enjoy his retirement in his little house above two or three years, or a little more. For I find, by Philpot, that Sir Thomas Moyle did not purchase the estate of Eastwell till about the year 1543 or 4. We may, therefore, reasonably suppose that, upon his building a new house on his purchase, he could not come to live in it till 1546, but that his workmen were continued to build the walls about his gardens, and other conveniences off from the house. And till he came to live in the house he could not well have an opportunity of observing how Richard Plantagenet retired with his book. So that it was probably towards the latter end of the year 1546 when Richard and Sir Thomas had the fore-mentioned dialogue together. Consequently, Richard, could not build his house, and have it dry enough for him to live in till the year 1547. So that he must be 77 or 78 years of age before he had his writ of ease.