A Conversation for Richard III - Malignant or Maligned Monarch?

Richard's Sins

Post 1

Researcher 170889

I have always been a fan of Richard III, since I read Josephine Tey's excellent book, Daughter of Time, which was a fictional account that declared him innocent. However, I have come to believe that Richard was guilty of many of the deeds of which he was accused. The guilt for murdering the insane Henry VI must fall primarily on Edward IV, Richard's brother, but it is probable that Richard had a hand in it. Your contention that Richard may have plotted against his brother Edward IV is news to me - I have never heard a breath of it. I would be interested where you found support for this idea. Even the most anti-Richard books I have read have mentioned that he was always 100% loyal to Edward to the day of Edward's death - he may however have overseen the murder of another brother, George Duke of Clarence. George DID continually plot against Edward, and Edward forgave him way beyond the usual for that age. But George just couldn't stop involving himself in plots and these were so inept, that eventually he was murdered - many say by Richard, which may be true. Few people, however, have so inevitably brought their fate upon themselves, as Prince George.
It was fairly clear before Edward's death that the power struggle between the Queen's family - the Woodvilles or Wydvilles - and the Duke of Gloucester would result in the ruin of one side or the other. The Wydvilles so hated Richard (and vice versa) that he withdrew to his own lands and remained in the North for the last years of Edward's reign - where he was a very popular and effective ruler. But on the death of Edward, Richard as well as Buckingham and one other magnate, whose name I forget now stood to lose everything through the enmity of the Queen's family. There was no reason to think that Edward V felt anything but affection for the Wydvilles. Edward was with Lord Rivers, the Queen's brother immediately after Edward IV's death. Rivers was bringing Edward to London to be crowned. Your article implies that Edward V became king and that Richard attempted to rule from 'behind the throne'. This is not true - Richard seized Rivers and Edward before they ever reached London. Edward became king simply by being the Prince of Wales (like Edward VIII in the 20th century) but was never crowned, and never even appeared to exercise power. First Richard had the planned date of coronation postponed, then dropped the idea of a coronation altogether. Elizabeth Wydville never plotted against her own son; every action she took was to protect him and his brother (also called Richard: imagination in naming wasn't a strong point in that era). She had every reason to support Edward, he had been brought up under Wydville influence, and had a strong affection for his mother and Wydville uncles. He was where her bread was buttered.
Richard forced Elizabeth to release Richard of York - Edward V's brother - from sanctuary into his power, and placed both Edward and Richard in the Tower. At first they were often seen, but later their appearances were fewer and then stopped altogether. The Tower was not a prison per se at that time and was not an unlikely place for the ruling king to live. Richard apparently wished to mary the younger Elizabeth Wydville (the one who later married Henry VII) himself, but had one slight impedimant - he had a wife, Anne - daughter of the Kingmaker. Anne became ill, and the anti-Richard crowd claim that he poisoned her. While this may not be true, it is clear that he was very abusive to her and did everything to isolate her and hasten her death, often insulting her for not bearing a live son. Abusive letters, and contemporary sources for his ill-treatment of Anne exist. The young Elizabeth Wydville was more than anxious to marry her uncle, and there is strong evidence that the two had an affair. Elizabeth seemed besotted with Richard.
After delaying Edward V's coronation for several months, Richard became aware that he himself was unsafe if Edward became king. Edward was probably, by upbringing, totally in the Wydville camp. Richard therefore coerced Parliament to ask him to become King. Parliament did so because they found nasty things happening to members who did not concur. To justify this, Richard created, or revived, a rumor that his brother Edward IV had precontracted to marry or actually even married (either was equally binding in those days) another lady before Elizabeth Wydville, thus making Edward V, Richard of York and all their siblings illegitimate. Given Edward's behavior, this was plausible - maybe even true. Edward's marriage to Elizabeth herself had been secret, since Edward knew that the Wydvilles' comparatively low rank would cause his counsellors to forbid the marriage - and in fact there was a huge outcry when the marriage was discovered. Since Edward himself had usurped the throne from the Lancasters, this was a very risky marriage, made worse by the fact that there were so many Wydvilles (including two sons by Elizabeth's first marriage) and they were so greedy.
At some point Richard must have become convinced that his kingship would remain shaky so long as Edward and Richard of York lived. It is believed that he had the Princes murdered. It was this act - or the belief that this had been done, that caused Richard's erstwhile ally, Buckingham, to turn against him. Had the Princes been adults, Europe would have seen the murder as business as usual, but there was great repugnance for the idea of murdering children. One point in evidence against Richard's guilt was the fact that Elizabeth, the boy's sister, had her affair with Richard after the supposed murders. A major pointer to Richard's guilt, however, was that the horror felt by both England and Europe over the murder could have been ended at any time by Richard simply producing the princes in good health - and this Richard never did. The belief that Richard was guilty was the vehicle for all the plotting against him during his reign. Yet he never did the one thing that would have put it to rest - showed them alive.
Richard's claim to the throne being based on the illegitimacy of his nephews naturally equally tarnished the usefulness of a marriage with Elizabeth Wydville, since she too would be illegitimate if it were true. Thus Richard dropped her. She was so distraught over this treatment, that she willingly lent herself to the various plots by her mother to inveigle Henry Lancaster into marrying her in return for Yorkist support to his claims to the throne (which were as weak as you suggest, although they were stronger than those of any other still-living Lancastrian: Henry was descended from the wife of Henry V who HAD been a royal princess of France). Richard executed any of the male Wydvilles who did not manage to flee the kingdom. He was able to defeat Buckingham's rebellion, but his rule, while beneficial in many ways, in the sense of sensible policy, was very harsh and he relied on terror to keep people in line. The widespread belief that he had killed the princes caused one European monarch after another to refuse to ally himself in marriage to Richard by furnishing a relative to replace the deceased Queen Anne. This is in marked contrast to their usual willingness to fall all over themselves to achieve a marriage with the King of England. This is felt to be another indicator that Richard was indeed guilty of that murder.
I don't think Richard was deformed, and that bit of Tudor overkill (after all - people would still be around who had seen Richard) gave rise, I believe, to the belief that everything the Tudors claimed about Richard was false. Moreover Richard had been an excellent ruler of his lands in the North, and was long remembered with affection. However, in medieval England - as elsewhere - a deposed King, or a rival claimant was always a rallying point for all opposition, and sooner or later all ex-Kings had to be disposed of in order to make the new King feel safe. Richard had lots of opposition - not only the Lancastrians whom his brother had excluded from the throne, but also the Wydvilles and anyone who might profit by their restoration. In addition, Richard distributed many honors among his Northerners whom he trusted, which might have been more diplomatically spread around amongst other people at the time. Thus he simply could not afford to have Edward V alive for all these people to rally around. So it made sense to get rid of the princes, the real problem at the time was simply their age - which made a routine execution impossible.
I think the reall fascination that so many have for Richard III rises not from the pros and cons of his own behavior, but because his fall was the end of the incredible Plantagenet dynasty which had lasted so long and provided such illustrious rulers as Henry II, Richard I (who actually sucked as a King, but was legendary as a knight), Edward I and III - and such villains as John and - maybe - Richard III. John, by the way, is a good example of someone who was perhaps much more maligned than his actual policies as ruler merited.


Richard's Sins

Post 2

Sho - gainfully employed again

Have you read Dickon by Marjorie Bowen? I've no idea how factually accurate any of it is, but if you like that sort of thing I'm sure you'll enjoy it. It actually paints a very sympathetic portrait of him.

Got to go... off looking for Daughter of Time...


Richard's Sins

Post 3

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

'The Sunne in Splendour' by erm err, is also an excellent book based on Richard's Life through his eyes. smiley - erm


Richard's Sins

Post 4

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

'The Sunne in Splendour' by erm err... you know ...whatsername , is also an excellent book based on Richard's Life through his eyes. smiley - erm


Richard's Sins

Post 5

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

oooh, an echo.....smiley - blush


Richard's Sins

Post 6

Sho - gainfully employed again

Either that or it's such a good book you had to post it twice....


Richard's Sins

Post 7

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

and the mystery author was...... Sharon Penman.... knew it would come eventually smiley - biggrin


Richard's Sins

Post 8

Sho - gainfully employed again

Ah, I read "Falls the Shadow" by her, about Simon de Montfort... a bit, well, romantic-slushy in (a few) places.... but a really good read. So now I'm off to try the other.. sheesh, you're costing me a fortune and making Mr. Amazon rich. You're not related by any chance?


Richard's Sins

Post 9

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

Not guilty, just a damn good book, but yes slushy and romantic in places, but worth it, but it's not cheap smiley - sadface


Richard's Sins

Post 10

Sho - gainfully employed again

Well, books aren't cheap. But they're my staple diet, so I have to have them. Which makes Mr. Amazon and my local second-hand English-bookshop very smiley - biggrin


Richard's Sins

Post 11

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

as books go it isn't even low priced, I think it's around the £9 mark, which is steep for a paperback. I bought two copies over the years, and can't bring myself to buy it again.


Richard's Sins

Post 12

Sho - gainfully employed again

Wow! It must be good. I know what you mean though, the big paperbacks always get tatty really quickly, and they're very expensive. I have resorted to buying the American versions because they're usually cheaper, even though the spelling sets my teeth on edge.


Richard's Sins

Post 13

Harlequin {Keeper of Contradictions, Ambiguity and Things You Shouldn't Ask But Do}

Not so much tatty, but borrowed and never returned, and then you lose touch with people, or divorce their daughters smiley - biggrin


Richard's Sins

Post 14

Sho - gainfully employed again

Ah, I always nag people to whom I lend my books (which isn't often, because of bitter experience) until they give in and return them.


Richard's Sins - July 2nd 2007

Post 15

korculablue

I've read all the info about Richard with great interest as his life story has always fascinated me. Among the various fictional books telling of that period in our history, I personally found Sharon Penman's novel to be totally absorbing after a journey beginning with the Josephine Tey one mentioned in the original article. I would recommend anyone who enjoys historical novels to read it.

Another book by the same author is "Here Be Dragons" which is an equally fascinating story about the political intrigue, battles, betrayals, conflicting interests and loyalties between King John of England and Llewelyn, Prince of Wales who married John's illegitimate daughter. A brilliant read. This is a book which I'm sure will have readers neglecting their various duties and also losing sleep, as they will surely find it difficult to put down until it's read.

Incidentally, if like me you have to count your coppers, I rarely buy brand new books from Mr Amazon, but go for the "used and new" offers sold by booksellers that go through Mr Amazon to sell. Only once did I get one that didn't live up to its sale description and very often the books are actually new at a much lower price. Would you believe I have bought lots that have only cost me 1 penny plus of course post and packing. At this moment in time Sharon Penman's book about Richard, "The Sunne in Splendour" can also be bought for 1 penny. Check out all her historical novels on Mr Amazon's site.

korculablue smiley - smiley


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