Sunday, 25 November 2012

Richard III and me

An article has appeared in The Washington Post about the debate surrounding the reburial of Richard III's alleged remains. In the very short time since it has gone up online, I have received several e-mails and comments asking me to clarify my views on Richard III, because in the article I am very briefly quoted as calling him out-and-out "a child-killer." I have also received several less-than-pleasant e-mails from die-hard Ricardians, because the article referred to me as "no friend to Richard III." To which I can only say: grow up.

To be quite clear, I bear no animus towards Richard III personally. When set in context, I actually pointed out that he has never been satisfactorily cleared of the charge of participating in his nephews' disappearance. That reburying him with a state funeral, when he could be guilty of such a crime would surely be a risk to the credibility of both the crown and the nation. There is, and there must be, a strong presumption of guilt when it comes to Richard III - as there would be on any responsible adult who was entrusted with the well-being to two teenagers who disappeared while in his care. The garish and often silly romanticisation of Richard III is something I find personally bizarre, but while it is my own opinion that he was complicit in Edward V's murder, I accept that there is room for debate. That room, however, cuts both ways and it should preclude us from either lionising or demonising the last Yorkist king.

In any case, if I could make a point to my unsought-for correspondents: simply because I do not agree with you does not mean that I was planted here by Satan or Margaret Beaufort to spin lies about Richard of Gloucester. I am not a friend of Richard III, no; my friends tend to have been born in the twentieth century, not the fifteenth. I did not, however, approach the question of his remains because I am in the pay of Henry VII; I answered it honestly. From my own studies - and I could be wrong! - I think Richard III did know about, and quite probably ordered, the murder of King Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, in 1483.

However, my point about all this is not to focus on whether or not Richard III actually did it, but to look at what it tells us about our own attempts to subvert and ignore the complexities of history in order to suit our own need for fairy tales, what ifs and conspiracy theories.

My articles on Richard III and the debate surrounding him are here: -






21 comments:

  1. Richard III could not have personally killed the princes, because he was away from London at the time. That puts him on a par with many other monarchs who had enemies conveniently done away with.
    Personally, I think Buckingham did it, because it fits his MO, and his rebellion was conveniently placed just after the alleged time of the murders. I used to be an apologist, but the more you learn about the time, the more you realise that they were all that way inclined. Edward IV probably had his brother killed, and because he was a direct ancestor of the Tudors, he's exonerated. Henry VIII had relatives killed, and many other monarchs took "legal" procedures to get rid of enemies.
    I'm not sure the remains are his, but we will find out.
    But that apart, so many monarchs have ordered the deaths of rivals, that one more isn't too much of a stretch.

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    1. Good point! I agree with the Buckingham version, mostly because he'd benefit the most. I wouldn't put it past Margaret Beaufort either. In any case, Richard III could not defend himself if he'd revealed his suspicions because he was probably framed for these murders. Another possibility is that boys had been kidnapped without his knowledge and something had happened to them on the way. I still do not understand what had prompted him to execute Hastings. Is it possible Buckingham had framed Hastings?

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  2. No, I would never have suggested he personally killed them. What separates Richard, of course, is that they were youths, not adults. That puts him in a much narrower category of monarchs, namely with King John, who was likewise complicit in either ordering or allowing the execution of his nephew, Arthur of Brittany. If it was Buckingham, and it's possible, then Richard of course simply seems incompetent, rather than malicious.

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  3. Whatever happened with those remains of two children found in the wall of the Tower of London in the 17th c.?

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    1. They were moved and interred in Westminster Abbey

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  4. The bodies of the two children, which were allegedly found with scraps of velvet on them, were re-buried in Westminster Abbey on the orders of King Charles II, who was on the throne at the time they were discovered during renovations of the Tower. Examinations were permitted in the 1930s, which seemed to confirm that the bones were the right age, period and gender to be those of Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, Duke of York. However, these findings have been contested more recently because of advances made in the science of pathology and forensics since the 1930s. At the moment, however, there has been no permission to exhume the bones for a third time to submit them to a medical examination.

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    1. There is almost NO chance those bones belong to the princes. They came from a pit TEN FOOT UNDER a very open area on the front of the tower. This depth is extreme and would have required bracing if dug. You can hit Roman levels at five foot; these burials are likely to be at least as old as that if not prehistoric. More recently a child burial was found at the tower (bones are not uncommonly found there), again, right age as the princes...but it was Iron Age. The 'scraps of velvet' thing I would dismiss as purely folkloric, in the same category as 'a bride's skeleton behind a wall still in her wedding dress' or 'a man's skeleton seated at a table that crumbled to dust'
      Some more recent assessments of the bones (though they haven't been properly looked at for analysis) cast doubts upon the gender of the elder and the ages may be closer than that between the princes.The 30's remark that one had a 'red stain' on the skull shows just how we have advanced in the field of bone analysis since then; no injury could make an indelible mark like that on a skull. It is likely to come from a nail or other rusty object close to the burial.

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  5. You were mentioned in the Washington Post! How wonderful! Congratulations!

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  6. Whatever the truth about Richard III and the Princes in the Tower, it is disturbing that people feel it is acceptable to send others, who don't agree with their views, hate mail. It's great to be passionate about history but people need to reassess their "passion" if it leads to such hatred for others.

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  7. Sorry to hear the Brides of Gloucester have been ganging up on you. Most Ricardians are actually perfectly reasonable people. But, there are Ricardians, and then there are the Brides of Gloucester. I run a blog about Henry VII and was compared to a Nazi by the BoGs. Deeply unpleasant little people.

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    1. Are you fond of Henry VII, an accidental King? Don't forget, Margaret Beaufort WAS in London at that time and given her position as Stanley's wife, she could have had a hand in those murders.

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  8. Sorry to hear the Brides of Gloucester have been ganging up on you. Most Ricardians are actually perfectly reasonable people. But, there are Ricardians, and then there are the Brides of Gloucester. I run a blog about Henry VII and was compared to a Nazi by the BoGs. Deeply unpleasant little people.

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  9. I saw that article yesterday. I couldn't help thinking of the blog posts you had written so I knew you've had your say already!

    I agree that the fact two royal princes who disappeared under the King's watch makes him suspect.
    From what I remember from "The Princes in the Tower" by Alison Weir, Buckingham was elsewhere at the time of the Princes' disappearance.

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    1. We do not know the exact time of when princes had vanished. Again, Buckingham did not have ti it personally.

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  10. Thank you, Elena Maria!

    I've never heard of the Brides of Gloucester; what a frightening name!

    Yes, people do seem to be re-fighting the wars of the Roses over this one...

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  11. Richard is actually a deeply interesting man in his own right. But, he has this cult-like faction of followers who take hero-worship to the extreme with him. I get the impression that they're not really interested in him - just whatever it is they project on to him. The only analogy I can think of are those people who fantasise endlessly about certain celebrities. Say one word that attacks their hero and they'll have a knife at your throat in a heart beat. But I stress, most Ricardians are not like that at all. The BoG effect is exacerbated as they, unfortunately, the loudest of the lot. They've been around ever since SKP published "Sunne in Splendour" and Richard was presented as a fifteenth-century emo kid.

    I apologise for the digression (and the accidental double post above). I just dislike the fact that Ricardianism is becoming dominated by these people (and I'm not even a Ricardian).

    Anyway, great blog you have here. I'll be checking out your other posts while I'm around.

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  12. Never come across the Brides of Gloucester before. What a deeply unpleasant crowd!
    I write romance, and we get the vicious partisans there, too.
    I do agree that Richard could have been incompetent, but he did spend 11 years as a highly successful Lord of the North. Maybe it was just time for the Plantagenets to give way, maybe people had just had enough. The rumours, like Internet rumours, seem to have had one source, so maybe the Princes were alive in 1485. It's an endlessly fascinating puzzle.
    I don't think for a minute that Richard would have shirked giving the order if he'd needed to, but at the time he didn't. Later, maybe. Buckingham's case is just very persuasive.

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    1. Did not seem like him at all. Why bother with the story of them being bastards then? If he'd wanted a crown, Warwick was willing to help him in 1471. And he had lost a great deal of land to marry Anne Neville. That was really exceptional.

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  13. "as there would be on any responsible adult who was entrusted with the well-being to two teenagers who disappeared while in his care."

    A pedant writes: The boys were 12 and 9 at the time of their disappearance. Edward V may have lived to see his 13th birthday in November 1483, but by that time rumours of his death and that of Richard of York were rife, and the rebels were casting around for a new candidate for the throne. Only if you subscribe to the Clements Markham notion that that nasty Henry Tudor dunnit can you argue that both boys made it to their teens.

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  14. My heartfelt commiserates to you and Miss Hannah as another recipient of hate mail starting with my temerity to cast doubt on Walpole’s doubts by pointing out that it would be impossible to set up a meeting with two people if one was already and buried for over 5 years.

    As for the Princes in the Tower high time the ‘theorists’ who seemed to have turned it into a vicious pass the blame game thought less about motive and more about means and opportunity because that’s when it starts to get problematic including access. Lack of impartiality is bad enough but lack of logical and joined-up thinking really has me gritting my teeth. Furthermore if Conan Doyle didn’t bother himself a matter bewailed by many that’s because he had better things to do, the furthering of forensics and the establishment of the Court of Criminal Appeal which didn’t happen until 1907.

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  15. On a much lighter note a young (I think) person posted on a forum that people who didn't like "The Mentalist" were crazy. If that were true that would be my sanity gone for a burton. I know someone who is convinced Dan Brown writes fact rather than what is at best a light read. Perhaps they should foster debating societies in school more so that folk can agree to disagree in a civilised manner. I'm another Patricia - not Mrs Wilson - but I have to post as Anonymous.

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