The Catte, the Ratte and Lovell our Dogge
In London during July 1484, King Richard III was monarch having succeeded following the death of his brother Edward IV. However, as history was to show in dramatic effect, his rule was not universally welcome.
It was William Collingbourne, a landowner from Wiltshire, who was to was to pen, in opposition to Richard and his friends, a note which was to come down to us in history. The note, mocking the King and therefore his regime and authority was ‘the catte, the ratte and Lovell our dogge rulyth all Englande under a hogge’. It was also perhaps a slight on Richard’s motto of ‘Loyaulte Me Lie‘ meaning ‘Loyalty Binds Me’ in reference to his commitment to his friends and allies. He pinned this note to the door of St Paul’s Cathedral in the City to ensure maximum impact on public opinion.
This token of opposition referred to:
1. William Catesby (The Catte) whose badge was a white cat. Catesby was Chancellor of the Exchequer and Speaker of the House of Commons under Richard III. He fought alongside the King at Bosworth and was captured and executed three days later in Leicester.
2. Richard Ratcliffe (The Ratte) was a close ally of Richard, who knighted him and created him the High Sheriff of Westmoreland. He was killed at Bosworth supporting his King.
3. Francis Lovell (Our Dogge) was a close friend and ally of Richard. He was to replace William Hastings as Lord Chamberlain and acted to supress the Buckingham Revolt. Lovell fought alongside Richard at Bosworth and escaped in the aftermath. He went on to lead a revolt against Henry Tudor in Yorkshire and an attempt to assassinate Tudor in York before heading into exile in Flanders. Lovell was later prominent in the Lambert Simnel attempt to unseat Henry VII and fought at the Battle of Stoke Field but afterwards disappeared into legend.
Collingbourne had significant landholdings and had prospered under the reign of Edward IV being appointed sheriff and Commissioner of Peace amongst other roles. However, he positioned himself in opposition when Richard came to the throne and was likely involved in the Buckingham revolt in favour of Henry Tudor. In addition to this treason, he also wrote to Henry Tudor whilst the latter was in exile and encouraged him to land a force in England – there is some confusion over the date of this letter but this correspondence may have coincided with the failed revolt. Regardless, it was his skill with a pen that was cited in his trial for high treason which led to his death. In his indictment it was not just his writing to Henry Tudor but also his ‘writing various bills and writings in rhyme’ that were highlighted as the damning evidence.
Collingbourne was arrested in either October or November 1484 and tried at The Guildhall. He was convicted of treason and then executed.
Richard III Society: ‘Richard III & his World‘
Hanham, Alison: ‘Richard III and his early historians‘
Ross, Charles: ‘English Monarchs series‘