Fascinating news last week, that a body dug up in a Leicester car-park last year, has been identified by scientists “beyond reasonable doubt” as that of Richard III, killed in 1485.
This announcement followed comparison of the king’s mitochondrial DNA, with that of his sister Anne’s descendant via an unbroken female line. There is one slender link between Richard and a vicar of Halifax, which historians may previously have missed. Long before he came to Halifax in 1496, Dr. Thomas Brent had established substantial royal connections, having earlier been almoner to Queen Elizabeth (Woodville, died 1492) wife of Edward IV. In 1483, after Thomas Langton had been appointed Bishop of St. David’s, Prior Sellyng of Canterbury wrote to Richard, Duke of Gloucester, requesting the new bishop’s now-vacant parish of All Hallows’, Lombard Street, London, be presented “to Master Thomas Brent.” The prior claimed that the parish had been promised in writing, to Brent at its next vacancy, by both the late King Edward IV, and by Queen Elizabeth. Richard did not accede to the prior’s request, appointing his own nominee, William Beverley, as rector of All Hallows’. The above request is undated, but was written when Richard was Protector of England, following the death of his brother Edward IV in April, but before he seized the crown in June. As confessor to Richard’s sister-in-law, Thomas Brent was a churchman closely connected with the Yorkist royal family. I suggest he would have at least been acquainted with the man who ruled England from 1483 to 1485. Was Brent peeved at being passed over in 1483? We cannot know; but in 1500, whilst he was vicar of Halifax, he was serving Richard’s successor, Henry VII, as a royal chaplain. A canon of St Paul’s Cathedral, Brent held other religious posts, in plurality. For many years he was Dean of the Collegiate Church of South Malling, Sussex, just across the river from Lewes Priory, which house then held the presentation of the vicars of Halifax. Brent resigned his Halifax vicarage in 1502, and died in 1515. Having read widely about Richard III, I have been much impressed by his positive military and administrative record in the North of England. It seems most appropriate that the king should be buried in York Minster, and not in the Midlands.
David C Glover