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Richard Plantagenet

In the year 1720 I waited on the late Lord Heneage, Earl of Winchelsea at Eastwell-house, and found him sitting with the register book 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 shew you.” And then shewed me (& I immediately transcribed it into my almanack):

Rychard Plantagenet was buryed on the 22 daye 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 the churchyard; nor is there now any other memorial of him, except the tradition in the family, & some little marks on the place where his house stood. The story, my lord told me, was:

When Sir Thomas Moyle built Eastwell-house he observed his chief bricklayer, whenever he left off work, retired with a book. Sir Thomas had a 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 toward him. However, at last, Sir Thomas surprised him, & snatched the book from him, & looking into it, found it to be Latin. Hereupon he examined him, & finding he pretty well understood that language, he enquired, 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.

I was, said he, brought up at my nurse’s house (whom I took for my mother) till I was seven years old. Then a gentleman, whom I did not know, took me from thence, and carried me to a private school in Leicestershire

That he was boarded with a Latin Schoolmaster, 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 to him) came once a quarter, & paid for his board, and took care to see that he wanted nothing. And one day, this gentleman took him & 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 drest, with a star and garter, came to him, asked him some questions, talked kindly to him, & gave him some money. Then the ’forementioned 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, & told him, he must make a journey with him into the country. They went into Leicestershire, & came to Bosworth Field; and he was carried to King Richard III’s Tent. The King embraced him, & 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, & take care of you. But, if I should be so unfortunate as to lose the battel, then shift as well as you can, & take care to let no body know that I am your father; for no mercy will be shewed to any one so 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 that the battle was lost & the king killed, he hasted to London, sold his horse, & fine cloaths, &, the better to conceal himself from all suspition of being the son to a king, & 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, & 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.

Part of a letter written by Dr. Thomas Brett on 1st September 1733 to his brother William. The only recorded reference to Richard Plantagenet.

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