Monday, February 4, 2013

Richard III - not such a bad guy, I swear

This is a thing that happened, and it is awesome. If you miss the part about, you know, being buried underneath a car park. I can't imagine that's a restful place to be - fender benders and road rage churning above you for all those years. It's a wonder he didn't come back and go Casper on their butts.

Richard III gets a lot of flack (thanks Shakespeare), but what evidence exists doesn't depict a picture of a frothing villain. He appeared to be intensely loyal to King Edward IV, his elder brother, and to genuinely care for his wife, Anne of York - in fact they knew each other in childhood and Richard agreed to a pre-nup (seriously) in order to marry her. He also instituted a Court of Requests where poor people unable to afford legal representation could make their grievances heard, created bail in order to stop the imprisonment and seizing of assets of potential felons before their sentencing, did away with restrictions on printing and selling books, and before his kingship headed the Council of the North that improved conditions for the commoners in northern England.

Doesn't sound like so bad a guy, huh?

Of course, he lived in tumultuous times and all of his actions, including that pre-nup with Anne, could have had a number of motivations, good or bad. Richard is still under suspicion for the deaths of the two young princes in the tower. The circumstances of their disappearance has never been proved either way, so I like to think that Richard wasn't culpable. Only history knows.

The truth is that Richard III's legacy was a victim of the Tudor need to set themselves up as rightful kings. Henry VII defeated the Plantagenet Richard at the Battle of Bosworth Field in a successful bid for the throne, but in the era of divine kingship, establishing themselves as the true and destined monarchs was incredibly important. And with scoliosis that resulted in a dramatically curved spine, Richard was an easy target.

But today, I like to think we're a little better than that. A medical condition didn't make Richard III a bad man, or a bad king, in spite of his short reign.

If you're interested in a compelling historical fiction read (with a good dollop of romance), check out The Reluctant Queen by Jean Plaidy, told from the perspective of Anne of York.


  1. "The Daughter of Time" by Josephine Tey is also terrfic.

    Lovely post.

    1. Thank you! I'll definitely have to check out that rec.