Richard III has the bad reputation of being a sinister hunchbacked villain, who was simply set out for his own gain, killing anybody who got in the way of his power driven craze. That is the main view of early Tudor propagandists and later by playwrights such as William Shakespeare. Although this view had been accepted for many years there's been much debate concerning whether Richard deserves this evil reputation. The Richard III Society is focused on redeeming Richard III which is keen to point out his high reputation in the North of massive loyalty. The traditional view is that although Richard wasn't as malicious as Tudor propagandists tried to find out, he was probably responsible for removing his two nephews from the royal line.
The context in which surrounded Richard gives insight as to the reputation Richard deserves, by comparing his actions to previous successors. The power struggle between the Lancastrians and York's started in 1399 after Henry II was killed by Henry Bolingbroke and left no heirs to the throne. Although Henry V was a capable king and was successful in holding almost all of France, it was when Henry VI became king when the problems between your families occurred. In 1453 Henry experienced schizophrenia so Richard of York was declared Protector of the Realm, using his position to arrest Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset. 1455 saw the 1st Battle of Albans, arguably the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, leading Richard of York to assert his claims to the throne. The Duke and his eldest son Edmond were both killed leaving Edward, York's second eldest son, to secure a victory at Mortimer's cross and assume the throne as Edward IV. Although at the moment Richard wasn't old enough to have a trustworthiness of his own, this is a vital part of his life which determined his future actions.
At the age of 9, after Edward became King of England, Richard was given the title Duke of Gloucester. Although this label didn't give any capacity to the adolescent Duke, it plays a part in Richard's reputation of being the loyal brother of the King. Proof this reliable status is the fact while growing up George, Duke of Clarence, became increasingly annoyed at Edward IV as the King gave the more powerful land with their youngest brother. Clarence demanded the most influential land to be taken from Richard and to get to him. Clarence's demanding behaviour, compared to that of Richard's quiet acceptance of the King's decisions, shows the beginnings of Richard's growing allegiance towards his older brother. The land was juggled from being under his control to being given to those the King believed would be good for have on side. As a result of his jealousy Clarence gained Richmond. Pembroke was put under the control of William, Lord Herbert, and by 1464 Richard had lost all the De Vere estates once they had been restored to John, the 13th Earl of Oxford. Thus showing how Richard was to be observed as exceptionally loyal and reliable towards his brother, a full contrast 'where Clarence was to prove scheming, ambitious and disloyal'.
Edward IV was forced into exile in 1470 after he quarrelled with his principle supporter, Richard Neville the Earl of Warwick; also know as the powerful 'Kingmaker'. Mostly of the faithful supporters who joined Edward was Richard. Clarence however joined forces with Warwick against his brothers, probably wanting to end up being the King himself. After Warwick restored Henry VI to the throne Clarence rejoined his brothers, contrasting both characteristics of Richard and Clarence, showing that at the moment Richard did deserve his trustworthiness of being a loyal brother. That is proved further as 'in both battles the teenage Richard of Gloucester commanded the vanguard and fought bravely. Edward rewarded Richard's loyalty by making him effectively viceroy of the north. ' Giving Richard the reputation of being truly a brave trustworthy warrior, who was simply willing to the stand by position his fellow brother and king. 'Richard was entrusted with right wing of the royal host at the Battle of Barnet, and within three weeks he again led the vanguard at the Battle of Tewkesbury. In both engagements, Richard acquitted himself well. ' Showing Richard was a skilful warrior and that at the moment Richard deserved the reputation of being a loyal dependable brother.
There is much speculation over how Richard felt after Edward IV heard bout the full extent of Clarence's involvement in the 1470's rising. There is certainly debate concerning whether Richard felt his growing loyalty towards both his brothers and how he felt over George's end. Mancini reports he was so overcome with grief that he could not hide it. Whereas More, while admitting that in public Richard opposed Clarence's killing, is not sure about the original emotion Richard experienced. The original view of Clarence's death is the fact that he was executed by drowning in a barrel of malmsey; this may be true as it is first mentioned by Dominic Mancini in 1483. After Richard's death the Tudor propagandists used Clarence's death as a method to gain support for Henry Tudor. "None of the sources before More doubt that Edward IV was solely responsible for the death of Clarence, even if indeed they were in a few doubt as to the reasons he was executed. More hints that Richard of Gloucester may have encouraged Edward to execute his brother, but [More] goes no further. " This helped to destroy Richard's trustworthiness of loyalty and transform it into one of any evil, spiteful king who opposed anyone who was in the manner, including his own family. As More only hinted to the possible involvement Richard had in his brother's death and sources before this don't state any involvement, Richard doesn't deserve the reputation to the degree the Tudors gave him of being an evil tyrant. There exists clear evidence that Richard III had not killed his brother personally, in fact it isn't possible to know if he agreed with the death sentence.
Richard III was the only Northern king of medieval England; it was rare for the north to be on a single side as the crown. However, it is mainly due to the north that he had enough support to become king in the first place. Richard initialised a 'power-base that his northern retainers represented. ' This trustworthiness of being "Lord of the North" started out when he came of age, the maturity where he was more useful to his elder brother, King Edward IV. To do this high reputation after coming back from exile in 1471, at aged 19, Richard filled the gap which have been created in the north due to Earl Warwick's defeat. Leaving Richard to be appointed his successor, this provides you with Richard Duke of Gloucester the duty of the defence of Carlisle and the Cumbrian borders. In order to do this effectively the king also gave him the earl's northern lands. Effectively starting Richard's assent to presenting a powerful reputation in the north, the build-up of Richards command was rapid, he quickly became keeper of the northern forests, chief steward of the duchy of Lancaster in northern England, constable of Bewcastle, justice of the peace in every northern counties, in 1482 lieutenant of the north and commander-in-chief up against the Scots and in 1483 hereditary warden of the West March. Showing Richard was a capable leader and that he worked hard to get the confidence of these around him. Enabling him to be entrusted with the power of the titles he acquired and the authority he was given. It's clear that at the moment Richard deserved the trustworthiness of a brave warrior, even his enemies needed to concur that he was a skilful and courageous fighter. That is shown where "More readily admits that Richard was brave and that he never lost a battle through lack of courage. "
In 1472 Richard married Anne Neville. Again there is rivalry between Richard of Gloucester and George of Clarence, as they both aimed to gain land both Neville wives were to inherit. The brothers fought, resulting in Richard acquiring all Warwick's vast estates north of Trent. This is a contrast to Richard's earlier loyalty towards Edward IV. During his time in the north and securing England from the risk of the Scottish in 1481-1483, Richard created around himself a closely knit devoted circle of northern knights and gentlemen, this is known as his 'Northern affinity'. Dominic Mancini wrote in 1483: 'He kept himself within his own lands and set out to acquire the loyalty of his people through favours and justice. The good reputation of his private life and public activities powerfully attracted the esteem of strangers. Such was his renown in warfare that whenever a difficult and dangerous policy needed to be undertaken, it might be entrusted to his discretion and his generalship. ' Although this defends Richard's general loyalty towards those surrounding him, Richard was willing to fight along with his brother to attain his goals, showing that Richard wasn't as loyal to his family as he was to the king.
Just before Edward IV's death in 1483, he named Richard of Gloucester Lord Protector and entrusted his sons, Edward and Richard, to his care. This implies that the King himself didn't believe Richard to be a real threat for the young princes. However Richard was one of the most powerful men in England, with the king dead and the princes minors, this provided Richard with the opportunity to become king himself. The mystery of the princes in the tower is one of the primary causes of debate over Richard's real reputation.
Richard of Gloucester and the Queen were openly hostile towards each other about the regency needed because of the young age of Edward V. On 29th April, Richard intercepted the royal party before they attained London, taking Edward and putting him under his own custody. Although this may have been viewed as Richard III looking after his young nephew as his brother had asked, this was later used by Tudor propagandists to damage Richard's reputation of being the loyal brother and uncle. He arrested the Lords Rivers and Grey, who have been both later executed. Richard pressured the queen into letting the young Richard Duke of York visit and stay with his older brother before his crowning. They were both held in the tower of London, a protected devote royal hands, but which later acquired its deathly reputation. Within six weeks Richard had the princes declared illegitimate and had himself named king. Effectively Richard started the downfall of his reputation, after developing a priest preach a sermon at Paul's cross, claiming Edward IV had had an arranged marriage to some other woman before marrying Elizabeth Woodville, making almost all their children illegitimate. Tales at the time have been circulated that Edward's father was an English archer named Blaybourne. 'Medieval historian professor Michael Jones has determined through court records that Edward's legal father, Richard, Duke of York, was over 100 miles from his mother, Lady Cecily, at the time when Edward must have been conceived. ' If this was in fact true then both Edward and his sons had no legal claim to the throne, this would then have passed to another best suitor who at this time could have been Richard of Gloucester.
After both young princes disappeared, rumours commenced to circulate that they had both been murdered. More's belief was that "To make sure his own security, Richard saw to it that the tiny princes in the Tower were smothered to death in their sleep" That is supported by Jeffrey Richards who states that although aware of growing rumours Richard III did nothing to dispel them. In case the princes were alive Richard III could easily have showed everyone this by taking them out of the tower. As he did nothing to counteract these rumours this helped spread the trustworthiness of Richard being the evil uncle. Another factor which increases the growing speculation of Richard's involvement in the princes disappearances is the fact that other rumours which circulated, for example the death of his wife, Richard was quick to have them stopped, however as he didn't show any evidence of the young boys being alive this put into suspicion of Richards involvement.
A set of bones were bought at the Tower of London in 1674, these were buried in Westminster Abbey under orders of King Charles II. The tomb was opened in 1933 and an examination was conducted by Doctor Tanner and Professor Wright, finding they were more likely to have been those of the two young boys. This however doesn't reveal who killed the princes and the reasons behind their deaths. Richard III has long since been the key suspect to be the 'wicked uncle', however almost all of the reports which claim Richard to get been at fault were Tudor writers, thus leading them to create the worst about Richard to promote Henry VII to be a more just and fair king. However Richard had much to lose by killing his nephews as it would turn the general public against him for murdering innocent young children. It could be argued so it wasn't in Richard's character to kill his own nephews as he had shown extreme family loyalty and was viewed as a great knight. Others who may have killed the princes included Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, who have gained more power if his cousin, Henry Tudor was King. However in 1502 James Tyrell had been arrested for treason against Henry Tudor and whilst under torture he confessed to the murders of the young princes, although this is not fact as he didn't speculate as to how or why he killed them, therefore it isn't reliable and cannot be taken as the truth. Richard most likely had a hand in the disappearances of the two princes; even if he didn't kill them personally he'd have stood to gain a lot if both boys were dead.
Discontent of not knowing the princes fate sparked a rebellion, Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, launched a revolt contrary to the King. The commons grew angry as they believed Richard murdered the princes, however they were easily taken care of and the Duke was beheaded. He in the beginning designed to be joined by Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, however he had been exiled to France and wasn't in a position to join the rebellion. Henry Tudor was later joined by Elizabeth Woodville, although she never said that her two sons had been killed, her actions showed that she believed those to be dead, otherwise she wouldn't have joined a potential rival to the crown. Instead of this though the two houses were united through marriage plus they started a propaganda campaign to destroy Richard's reputation.
In 1484 Richard's own son, Edward, was confirmed the heir to the throne, however Edward died not long after. Anne Neville, Richard's Queen, also died for this time, the Richard III foundation states "Richard wept openly at her funeral and shut himself off for three days. " portraying Richard as a more vulnerable character than the harsh, murderous villain of Shakespeare's play. This only lowered his reputation further as Richard was accused of killing her himself so he could marry his own niece, Elizabeth. However we realize this to be a lie as evidence shows that Anne died of natural causes.
By the 17th century hostility towards Richard had died down, mainly because the Tudors reign had finished and was replaced by the Stewarts, who didn't supply the same interest of wanting to portray Richard as an evil leader. William Cornwallis defended Richard's reputation in 1617 in the Essayes of Certain Paradoxes by publishing an anonymous defence thought to have been written in the early sixteenth century as a response to More's history.
Sir Thomas More's picture of Richard was that he was a guy 'little of stature, ill featured of limbs, crook backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard favored of visage. . . he was malicious, wrathful, envious and, from before his birth, ever forward. ' This shows how Richard's reputation have been manipulated by the Tudor's influential propaganda, helping Henry Tudor become more accepted as the king, appearing less tyrannical than Richard III. More had developed as a sworn enemy of Richard III being 7 in 1485, his view of Richard are that which he previously been taught. Even if Richard wasn't as villainous as he has been made out, he would always have been portrayed in the worst possible way. This had happened to numerous previous kings as it helped gain support for the new monarch, especially if that they had fought their way onto the crown. Hall had also described Richard as 'small and little of stature, so was he of body greatly deformed, the main one shoulder higher than the other, his face small, but his countenance was cruel, and in a way that a guy at the first aspect would judge it to savour and smell of malice, fraud and deceit. . . ' this again is just a repeat of More's words. Shakespeare himself had given Richard III the character to be sick and twisted, giving him a more complex and manipulative personality who was simply in a position to feel some form of human remorse for the murders he previously committed throughout the play. However "the sooner portraits, such as that belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, which but not painted in his lifetime derive from originals that might have been done from life, show no sign of deformity", showing more propaganda in the very beginning of the Tudor reign to gain acceptance. Richard, while King, showed himself to be generous and loyal, helping setup a council in the north which stayed in place years still after his death until 1641. He ruled with detailed concern and efficiency.
Richard III doesn't deserve the trustworthiness of being truly a tyrannous, power hungry man to the extent portrayed by Tudor writers. Up until 1583 Richard proved himself to be a loyal, trusted supporter of the king, as shown through his actions, defending the northern border and helping Edward IV reclaim the throne in 1571. However following the death of his brother, Richard's reputation does deserve to be tarnished, not to the extent of More and Hall's views. Many of the murders Richard was accused of committing have evidence to prove he wasn't the reason, like the death of the Prince of Wales and the death of his wife. However following the death of Edward, Richard seized the possibility to take power, spreading claims of Edward's illegitimacy and most likely responsible for the disappearance of both princes.
I started by reading Charles Ross's 'Richard III'. Initially I believed this was a heavy book to learn, with much content therefore at first I came across it difficult to pick out the relevant pieces of information. As I got further in to the book, however, I came across that we became more interested in Richard III and his actions. This is an important and fairly reliable source, it helped to distinguish much debate and shows how it's been exaggerated over time. However by the end of this tome I came across that Charles Ross have been too sympathetic towards Richard's actions, defending his loyal reputation by using excuses of Richard's past and horror filled childhood.
I found this article 'The princes in the tower' by David Ross to be an exceptionally valuable source when analysing the mystery created when both young princes disappeared. It was straightforward and easy to understand. I found it useful when looking at who hold the motive to kill the adolescent boys, ranging from Richard III himself to his enemy Henry Tudor. It helped to analyse the way the people felt about the sudden disappearances and exactly how this resulted in the revolt against Richard. Along with the evidence from Charles Ross' book this information gave evidence of bones which have been found in the tower which added to the mystery and to Richard III's trustworthiness of being the evil uncle for his own gain.
Another article that i found to be useful is 'Richard, Duke of Gloucester and the North' by Michael Hicks. This is a very important source as it is filled with information as to how Richard of Gloucester were able to gain his trustworthiness of being "Lord in the North". In addition, it effectively showed how Richard's loyalty to his brother King Edward IV helped him to gain this reputation of being truly a brave warrior in the north who protected England from invasion from Scotland. This helped me to have the ability to compare Richard's earlier reputation compared to that which he gained nearing the end of his life and after his death.
This respectively brings about the article 'The Riddle of Richard III' by Jeffery Richards. This information helped me to compare the reputations I put learned Richard had gained throughout his lifetime. This article also gave viable source accounts by unrelated people, for example the Italian visitor Dominic Mancini. As he was only a visitor and wasn't privately of Richard III or his enemy Henry Tudor. Mancini's writings are some of the most valuable to check out for the real reputation of Richard III, over his rise to power. This post also tackles the main one sided views of the Tudor writers who tried to denounce Richard's reputation, in order to promote Henry Tudor.
In the end, I have found that the views of the newer historians are definitely more accurate that those of earlier writers. As their views on Richard III are not affected by the period they living in, they are not wanting to depose previous Kings like that of More and Hall.
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