Medieval Metz from the 15th Century Nuremberg Chronicles


Richard de la Pole's scandalous life in Metz

As a condition of the 1514 peace treaty with England, all Yorkist rebels, including Richard de la Pole, had to leave France. Despite the loss of French support for his cause, the White Rose soon found sanctuary in Metz, then a free city of the Holy Roman Empire, but his life was not that of an impoverished refugee.

Having spent many years fighting for the kings of France, Richard was in receipt of a very generous annual pension of 6,000 livres, which continued to be paid despite his exile. De la Pole used this money to introduce horse racing to Metz and build a palace, La Maison Haute Pierre, where he maintained a glittering Yorkist court in exile but around 1519 the last White Rose became embroiled in a notorious scandal.

It seems that Richard became enamoured with a local beauty named Sebille who was the wife of a goldsmith called Master Nicholas. In a ruse worthy of the biblical King David, Richard commissioned an expensive piece of jewellery from the goldsmith but the work required the unsuspecting Nicholas to travel to Paris to buy new materials. Whilst her husband was away, Richard seduced Sebille who quickly moved into the luxurious palace of Haute Pierre to be with her royal lover.

On his return from Paris Master Nicholas was, understandably, incensed by his wife’s shameless behaviour and together with a number of ruffians he went in search of Richard. According to one source, Nicholas was armed with ‘an epee and a halberd’ and he found his rival leaving Metz cathedral. When challenged, Richard drew his own dagger and hurled it at Nicholas who promptly ran away. Shortly afterwards Nicholas was arrested and sentenced to several weeks in prison for ‘failing to control his unruly wife’ but this did not end the affair.

Richard de la Pole offered to return the errant Sebille to her husband, on the condition that Nicholas did not beat her for her adultery, but Nicholas refused and hired German assassins to kill his rival. Richard escaped and, realising Metz was now too dangerous for Sebille, he smuggled her to the nearby city of Toul disguised as a grape picker. In Toul Richard rented a house from the Cardinal of Lorraine, who seemed to be quite broad minded for a prince of the church, and the couple lived openly as man and wife until Sebille’s death three years later. The cuckolded goldsmith was now such a laughing stock he was forced to flee to the town of Thionville and his fate is not recorded.

Though Richard is thought never to have married, it’s highly possible that Sebille was the mother of his known illegitimate daughter, Marguerite de la Pole. Marguerite, who was born around 1520, later married a French nobleman and rose to become the Queen of Navarre’s maid of honour but whatever the truth of his daughter’s parentage Richard’s affair with Sebille shows that the White Rose had the normal lusty appetites of a 16th Century nobleman – something which provided a very useful plot device for The Devil’s Band!

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