November 11th doesn’t seem to be a very popular day for Ricardian “happenings.” Besides a receipt signed in 1471 by Richard to one of the king’s “commisaries,” & appointments to a Commission of the Peace in 1477 & another in 1480, I find this from 1822.
11th November 1822 is the date of the following annotation to a document.
An annotation was made of the presentation from Henry Peyto-Verney, 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke, to William Hamper of a document signed by King Richard III. It is described as a letter signed with King Richard’s “monogram” [or sign manual] dated 22 February, written in English on vellum, 10 lines on one membrane, 212 x 293mm, integral address panel, seal slits, remnant of seal on verso (minor wear and losses to folds, small tape repairs on verso, trimmed at lower margin obscuring a countersignature), window-mounted.
Offered for sale
In June 2012, this document was offered for sale at Christie’s (so before the Greyfriars excavation), and the above annotation provided part of its provenance. It had last been sold on 16 May 1960 for $850. The earlier part of its history is even sketchier, with Christie’s guessing that the document came to the 16th Baron Willoughby de Broke [teh family being of Compton Verney fame] when he bought the manor of Brookhampton in 1795.
A summary of the letter’s contents was given as:
RICHARD III (1452-1485), king of England. Letter … to the justices of the peace in Warwickshire, Westminster, 22 February n.y. [1484 or 1485], informing them that ‘grevous complaint hath be [sic] made unto us on the behalve of oure pooer Subgiet Robert Dalby of an Iniurie surmised to be done unto him by oone Robert Worsley of Chepyngton in wrongfully w[i]t[h]holding frome him the Manoire of Brokhampton’, requesting therefore, ‘trusting in yo[u]r Wisdomes lernyng and indifferency [i.e. impartiality] if it be as is surmised that ye se[e] oure said Subgiet put in the peasible possession of the said Manoire’
A pre-sale estimate of the price expected to be realized was £10,000 – £15,000 ($16,000 – $23,000). Christie’s noted further:
A RARE ROYAL SIGNATURE. According to our records, no document with a signature of Richard III as king has been offered at auction for at least the last forty years.
Sold for a large price
In the end, however, the document sold for £109,250 ($168,901) or more than 10 times its estimate. This little episode illustrates several points of interest:
- Documents have been and (we hope) may still be found in the collections of ancient houses.
- Sales are promoted for their “celebrity” signatures, rather than for the tidbits of history they contain – who were Robert Dalby & Robert Worsley? what did the local justices decide after being directed by the King to look into the matter? Was it King Richard’s usual practice to push dispute resolution back down to the local level rather than resolving them himself?
- There appears to be incentive for documents to disappear from public repositories; indeed some of us have discovered that documents that appear in the catalogues of local record offices, may not now be found.