If it was possible to interview anyone in history, who would you choose and why? I thought it might be fun to sometimes write posts on who I would choose, what I would ask and what the replies might be! For this post I’ve chosen Richard III.
You can’t be impartial on Richard III. You agree with Shakespeare’s portrayal or you don’t. You are a red rose supporter or a white rose fan. Does it matter now? If a king can continue to be maligned, any of us can be. Reputation matters.
Given my review of Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, it is no secret I like my roses white and I disagree with the Bard.
For these interviews, regardless of how far back in time I go, I will assume Modern English is used, though of course Richard would have spoken medieval or Middle English to give it the proper title. And I will ignore the fact the people I “interview” are highly unlikely to talk to me given our backgrounds are very different and that would matter from their viewpoint!
Brief Biography of Richard III
Richard III was the last King of England to be killed in battle at Bosworth where betrayal by the Stanley family swung the war in favour of Henry Tudor. Richard III almost killed Tudor (he did kill Tudor’s standard bearer).
This battle is one of the most underrated in our history. So much would have changed had the result gone the other way. No Tudors, no Reformation, no Armada, no English Civil War.
Richard III was only 32 when he died. He was born at Fotheringay Castle, served his brother Edward IV valiantly, but it is what happened to his brother’s sons, Edward V and the younger Duke of York, that colours Richard’s life. They disappeared from the Tower of London during Richard’s reign. Yes, Richard had the opportunity to do away with the boys but he had illegitimised them so had no cause to do more. Discredited children were no threat to him.
It should be remembered Parliament begged Richard to take the throne via their act, Titulus Regius, based on the revelation by Bishop Stillington Edward IV was previously contracted in marriage to Eleanor Butler, making all children he had with Elizabeth Woodville bastards. A contract like this was as good as actual marriage in law so would make Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth bigamous.
This is crucial. Henry Tudor’s flimsy claim to the throne had to be strengthened by marrying Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s eldest daughter, though naturally this was shown as uniting the rival houses of York and Lancaster. (Our county shows this unity in its emblem of the Tudor Rose).
However, making Elizabeth of York legitimate, as Henry did by destroying all copies of Titulus Regius unread, made her brothers legitimate too and put Edward V on the throne. For Henry’s plans to work, the boys had to be dead. Henry never accused Richard of their murder. Why? Richard was dead as were most of his followers. Henry had nothing to lose. The answer (and The Daughter of Time investigates this) is the boys were not dead until Henry ascended the throne.
Titulus Regius is only known about because odd copies were found (conveniently not before Elizabeth Tudor died). Why did her grandfather, Henry VII, simply not have Titulus Regius denounced in public? Why be so keen to destroy it unread? Highly suspicious behaviour I’m afraid.
When Richard’s son died, he made his nephew, the Earl of Warwick his successor. Proof if it were needed, Richard did not go in for killing nephews.
In the early years of Tudor’s reign, most of the House of York were killed. He started with the unfortunate young Earl of Warwick and Richard’s illegitimate son, John of Gloucester. The latter had no claim to the throne so why kill him? Because Henry knew bastards had been put on the throne before (William the Conqueror for a start!) and on direct blood line descent, even the wrong side of the blanket born John of Gloucester had a better claim than Henry!
Your Grace, it is a pleasure to be able to put your side of the story. What did happen to your nephews?
The simple truth is I do not know, Madam. The children were alive in my reign. I did not want them subject to public disgrace, hence no appearances. It was not their fault their father, my beloved brother, behaved so badly.
I believe Tudor used his agents, led by his fanatical mother, Margaret Beaufort, to destroy the children later. All that was needed was to gain access to the Tower. Sadly guards can be bribed. I appreciate that is true for me but it is also true for Tudor. He did not have to act directly (the same applies to me). Agents could work for him (and for me). It is widely known his mother was always agitating on his behalf. Seeking to put him on the throne would not be beyond her.
I remain appalled at what happened to Warwick, my son, John and in Henry VIII’s reign the judicial murder of Margaret de la Pole, my niece. The Tudors did kill inconvenient claimants to the throne. The alternative theory is my cousin, the Duke of Buckingham carried out the killings. People forget he had a claim to the throne too and a far better one than Tudor’s. But I did not do it. I had no need to do so and I was close to my elder brother. I knew those children. It would’ve been killing my own and the House of York was renowned for being close.
The act declaring the two boys illegitimate could be overturned surely so they could still be a threat to you?
Strictly speaking yes but the country, being sick of the Wars of the Roses, would never want a child ruler so why choose to take a course of action that would give them one! Our country has always had riots and worse when a child was on the throne. Given the choice, and my excellent record of service for my brother Edward, I cannot envisage anyone who would deliberately choose to put the boys back into the succession? Do you notice Tudor claimed the throne for himself and not the boys? That tells me he knew the boys were dead or were planning they soon would be!
On a happier note, what would you say was the biggest achievement of your reign?
Did you know I was the first monarch to insist on taking my Coronation oath in English or that I also brought in the laws on bail you still use now? Sadly I suspect my biggest achievement was the courage with which I met my death. Even Tudor acknowledged that.
You must have missed Queen Anne dreadfully, having been childhood companions.
I did indeed and all thoughts I poisoned her are malicious. Yes I was planning to remarry but not to Elizabeth, my niece. I was planning for Elizabeth and I to both marry into the royal house of Portugal. I did not want to remarry but would have done so as part of my duty to my Kingdom. Ironically my dear wife, Anne, would have understood and supported that.
People are more aware that things were not necessarily as Shakespeare portrayed them.
Good. That lying Bard has caused me more trouble than any playwright has the right to do. Though I understand why he would not upset his royal patron! That should tell you Shakespeare was not unbiased. I am not a hunchback either as the recent discovery of my earthly remains made clear. I am glad to see there is more understanding for those who have any disability and the Kingdom has moved on from the “you are being punished by God” school of thought. People forget I was a devout Christian (another reason not to kill my nephews. I was a good supporter of Holy Church). I never felt my condition was God punishing me. I never believed He worked like that. I still do not believe that.
We must finish now, Your Grace. Know you still have loyal subjects fighting your corner.
I know. I am grateful my remains were found and for my proper reburial. I found the ceremony very moving. I have noted what people think of Tudor – he has gone down in history as a greedy, grasping miser. I pity my niece. Elizabeth had a lot to cope with in the end and she must have wondered if her husband had her brothers killed. You just would, wouldn’t you?
Nobody will ever know the truth about what happened to the Princes. I would like the bones that are supposed to be of the children, which are in Westminster Abbey, to be DNA tested. I am certain the result would show no connection to Richard. Just because bones were found on the Tower site, it does not follow they were those of the boys. The site was used for Roman burials and nobody knows how old these supposed bones are, only that they were discovered in the reign of Charles II. I would recommend further reading on what is a fascinating topic. Where do you stand on the innocence or otherwise of Richard III? Do you believe the Bard, do you reject Shakespeare’s version or feel there is yet another theory not considered?
The Daughter of Time – Josephine Tey
The Maligned King – Annette Carson
The Search for the King’s Grave – Phillipa Langley and Michael Jones
Kindred Spirits by Jennifer C. Wilson
The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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