Desiderata Curiosa


Thomas Brett, L. L. D. to William Warren, L. L. D. president of Trinity Hall: containing an account of Richard Plantagenet (a natural son of Richard III.) who died 22. Dec. 1550. (4 Edw.VI.) – Dated 1 Sept. 1733.
From the original; communicated by the said Dr. Warren, with the consent of the said Dr. Brett.
Dear Will.
1. ****Now for the story of Richard Plantagenet . In the year M,DCC,XX (I have forgot the particular day, only remember it was about Michaelmas) 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 [thus]:
2. When Sir Thomas Moyle built that house (that is Eastwell Place) 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[1], & 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[2].
3. 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.
4. 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[3]. Then the ‘forementioned gentleman returned, and conducted him back to his school.[4] 5. 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 K. Rchard III. 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 [nearly] related to me. Then the king gave him a purse of gold and dismissed him. [5]
6. 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[6]. 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.
7. Sir Thomas said, you are old now, 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 home of one room for myself in such a field, and there, with your good leave, I will live and die: and if you have any work that I can do for you, I shall be ready to serve you. Sir Thomas granted his request, he built his house, and there continued to his death.
8. 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, & 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.
9. I have been computing the age of this Richard Plantagenet when he died, & find it to be about eighty one. For Richard III. Was killed Aug. 23. M,CCCC.LXXXV. which (subtracted from M,D,L,), there remains LXV. To which I add XVI. (for the age of Richard Plantagenet at that time, & it makes LXXXI. –But, though he lived to that age, he could scarce 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 M,D,XLIII, or IV.We may therefore reasonably suppose, that, upon building a new house on his purchase, he could not have come to live in it until; M,D,XLVI and that his workmen were continued to build the walls about his gardens and other conveniences off form the house. And till he came to live in the house he could not [well] have [an] opportunity for observing how Richard Plantagenet retired with his book. So that it was, probably, towards the latter end of the year M,D,XLVI - So that he must be lxxvij or lxxviij years of age before he had his writ of ease. I shall be glad to hear from you whenever it sutes your conveniency, and am, Dear Brother Will, Your most humble servant Spring Grove, Sept 1, 1733 THO.BRETT.


  1. have another account; but not of equal authority. However I shall subjoyne the most material differences. F.P. - "The knight, once coming into his room as he lay asleep, with his hand on the table; he saw a book lying by him."
  2. 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
  3. Who examined me narrowly, and felt my limbs and joints, & gave me ten pieces of gold, vis. crown-gold, which was the current money then, and worth ten shillings apiece.
  4. About a year after, he sent for me again, looked very kindly on me, and gave me the same sum.
  5. He asked me whether we heard any news at our school? I said, the news was, that the Earl of Richmond had landed, & marched against K. Richard. He said he was on the king's side and a friend to Richard. Then he gave me twelve hundred of the same pieces, & said, if K. Richard gets the better in the contest, you may then come to court, & you shall be provided for. But if he is worsted or killed, take this money and go to London, & provide for yourself as well as you can.
  6. After the battel was over, I set out accordingly for London. And just as I came into Leicester, I saw a dead body brought to town upon an horse. And, upon looking steadfastly upon it, I found it to be my father. I then went forward to town. And (my genius leading me to architecture) as I was looking on a fine house which was building there, one of the workmen employed me about something, & taught me the trade, which now occupies me.