Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Who Was Margarett Keymes?

If you make a habit of studying the Wars of the Roses and early Tudor era, you have undoubtedly encountered the debate over Perkin Warbeck, probably more times than you care to count. Was this charming Edward IV look-a-like really his son, Richard of York? Could he have been a well-trained doppelganger or even an unrecognized bastard son?

Of course, he could have been any of these, which is why the debate ensues to this day. Into this sometimes heated discussion quietly slips a girl who may or may not have anything to do with it.

Katherine Gordon before Henry VII
'Margarett Keymes' is mentioned in the will of Katherine Gordon. Katherine was the daughter of the Scottish Earl of Huntley and was married to the infamous Perkin Warbeck during his ill-fated bid for the English crown. After his death in 1499, Katherine went on to live several decades and marry three additional husbands. When she died in 1537, she left 'suche of my apparell as shalbe thought mete for her by the Discretion of my husband and my saide executor' to her 'Cosyn margarett Keymes'.

I was made aware of this mention after writing a blog stating that Cecily of York had no surviving children. This was supplied as evidence that she had left a daughter, Margaret, as offspring of her final marriage to Thomas Kyme (sometimes Kymbe or Keme). If so, it would also be evidence that Katherine Gordon went to her death 38 years after her first husband still believing that he was the true son of Edward IV and that his sisters, including Cecily, were therefore her relations.

Cecily of York
In her book, The Perfect Prince, Ann Wroe takes this mention as proof positive of both these controversial points. Historian Rosemary Horrox also points to evidence of Cecily and Thomas living on the Isle of Wight and having children there to back up these claims, but this evidence also claims that Cecily is buried on Isle of Wight, which is incorrect. (Source mentioned as Heraldic Visitation of Hampshire, 1576, which I have not been able to obtain a copy of thus far. In records kept by Margaret Beaufort, Cecily is recorded as living, dying, and being buried in places besides Isle of Wight.) In this article, historian Susan Higginbotham clarifies that Cecily and her third husband only spent brief time on Isle of Wight and that there is no evidence that Cecily bore any children who survived her.

If that is the case, who is Katherine's 'Cosyn margarett Keymes'? I admittedly have not exhaustively researched this topic, so would rather open it for discussion.

Perkin Warbeck
Do you believe that Katherine Gordon always kept faith in her doomed first husband? It is a romantic notion, yet there is no record of her mentioning him after his death. Her will mentions her 'dere and welbelovyd husband Sir Mathew Cradock' and her 'Welbelovyd husband Cristofer Asseton' to whom she was married when she died. There is a brief mention that she was the 'some tyme wife unto James Strangwis', but there is not a whisper of Perkin Warbeck or Richard of York.

(Find Katherine's will in it's entirety here on pages 24 & 25.)

I am more hesitant to interpret this evidence as sure proof of Cecily's childbearing and Warbeck's true identity as some, but I am also interested in learning more. What do you think? Who was Margarett Keymes?


  1. An intriguing mystery indeed. Often wondered if Katherine Gordon believed Warbeck to be Richard but James IV did. A/c to genealogy & peerage sites, Margaret Keymes, daughter of Cecily & Thomas, married John Wetherby.

    1. Thank you! I did see that some people seem to be accepting it as fact. Having used at one point to track my own family tree, I know how quickly a guess can become part of documented history. I wondered if Margaret couldn't have been a cousin on Katherine's side of the family. Didn't her father have several children with stories that are not well-known?

  2. Excellent article and comments. Isn't it exciting that we have so many tools to esyablish educated guesses about these mysteries. I had forgot about Perkin Warbeck. Been a while since I read about that particular era. Thank you!

  3. I've always wondered if Cecily had those last two children by her last husband or not. It seems to be disputed whether she did or not. Katherine Gordon was one of many children of the Earl I believe so she likely had a ton of nieces and nephews. If this Margaret was the daughter of Cecily though, wouldn't she be the niece by marriage of Katherine? Granted she really believed her husband to be Prince Richard. That being said, they used the term "cousin" really loosely back then and it seemed to indicate any type of affinity or blood relation.

    1. Yes, you are right on all counts. In order to even consider this as evidence, we are accepting that she would refer to her niece as cousin, but that is not a huge stretch of the imagination for that era.