Richard III – The Answers

Wodden Roses on the throne at the Richard III Visitor Centre

There is a glut of articles saturating the press at the moment posing some pretty unpleasant questions about Richard III. Maybe it’s time for some answers. We are constantly asked why we are celebrating a child-killing tyrant, or what Richard III ever did for us. Sadly many of the articles cannot answer their own questions because their content demonstrates such a fundamental lack of understanding of the real issues.

Richard III has divided opinion for over 500 years and shows no sign of ceasing to do so as he is laid to rest for the second time in his long and eventful after-life. The Richard III Society exists to promote the re-examination of Richard III and his times. Contrary to the popular impression, most Ricardians are not the ‘loons’ David Starkey sees or any of the other names bandied about, none of which are complementary and all of which are unnecessary and unpleasant.

I’ve been accused of presenting Richard III as a proto-democrat before now. I think it was meant as an insult, but it bears some examination. In the case of Catherine Williamson in 1472, Richard broke the rules of the bastard feudalism under which he lived to hand over men in his service for trial for murder when he would have been expected to protect them. In 1480 he found in favour of John Randson against Sir Robert Claxton, Randson’s social superior who also had a son and son-in-law in Richard’s service. There are a string of examples like these spanning his time in the north. Championing the common man in pursuit of justice unfettered by social rank or wealth? Isn’t that something we could applaud?

What did he ever do for us? More than you might think.

Richard III held only one Parliament during his brief, two year reign. Amongst its statutes were several that we might applaud and which were to have long-lasting impacts. The second statute of the Parliament of 1484 abolished benevolences, a system of forced gifts to the crown used extensively by Edward IV to circumvent Parliamentary taxation. During Henry VIII’s rule Richard’s law was being quoted to Thomas Wolsey when the second Tudor monarch tried to re-impose benevolences. Richard III bolstered Parliament’s power and control over the raising of money at the expense of the Crown’s independence. It was an attitude diametrically opposed to this that led to the fall of Charles I and the Civil War. The fact that you know what tax you will pay and are not at the mercy of HMRC knocking on your door to tell you that the government would like you to give them a large cash gift, which is not optional and will not be repaid, is thanks to Richard III.

Other statutes curbed the corruption rife in the cloth trade and drove out fraud from land transfers. It was not illegal to fail to declare a fault in a title to land when selling it, meaning that buyers could be tricked and defrauded. Richard’s law codified a requirement to be honest and open and is considered a bedrock of English land law even today. If you have ever bought land or property, you have done so in safety and security in part because of Richard III’s legislation.

Anti-alien legislation featured in Richard’s Parliament and was immensely popular. It sought to place restrictions on imports and foreign merchants to protect English trade and jobs and to improve the nation’s finances. Supporting and safeguarding English industry against cheaper imports is still an issue today. Richard III took a positive step to defend jobs. An exception to these constraints was allowed for the printing industry. Books flowed into England from the Continent to the profound benefit of knowledge and learning and the spread of the printed word in England. It is the nature of tyranny and tyrants to control access to information, to prevent its free flow, not to actively encourage it.

The composition requirements of jury membership were re-defined by Richard III’s Parliament so that men had to be worth a specified amount of money to sit on a jury. We may not recognise this as a pillar of our legal system today, but there are still rules defining those disqualified from sitting on juries. In Richard’s time the issue was corrupt juries, often imported and appointed by one of the parties to the case, or easy to bribe because they could not afford not to take the inducement offered. Fair and equitable justice was of concern to Richard III, just as it is of concern to us now. On a different playing field than we enjoy today, the principles applied might be ones we would approve of.

Have you, or anyone you know ever benefitted from legal aid? If so, you can add another item to the list of things Richard III did for us. He established an early form of legal aid that allowed those without the means to employ lawyers to appeal directly to the royal council to have their case heard. Tyrannical repression of the masses hardly fits with improving access to the law, which this Parliament, for the first time in England’s history, published in English. Rates of literacy may not have been high but the emerging merchant classes could read as well as the nobility and clergy – they had to in order to go about their business – and a law in English must have felt like it belonged to an Englishman more than one in prosaic, restrictive and elitist Latin or French.

Then there is that whole bail issue. Richard III certainly did not invent bail. What he did do was to make vital and seismic changes to the law as it existed. The Parliament Rolls record that ‘various people are arrested and imprisoned daily on suspicion of felony, sometimes out of malice and sometimes on vague suspicion, and thus kept in prison without bail or mainprise to their great vexation and trouble’. A suspect could be deprived of their goods and property, even the tools of their trade, before a judge had even weighed the evidence against them. If they were found innocent, there was no requirement to return the confiscated goods and men could be left unable to pursue their profession and make a living. A malicious charge with no base could therefore see a man left destitute. What Richard’s Parliament did was correct this inequity. This is surely a right enjoyed by many today.

From his late teens, as Duke of Gloucester, Richard had displayed an interest in championing the cause of the common man and pursued equity unbounded by social class or wealth. Do these sound like the concerns of a tyrant? It bears more of the hallmarks of my proto-democrat. Those at risk of the greatest loss under Richard’s rule were those with the most to gain from the maintenance of the status quo – the nobility, the minority who ruled the majority. This view offers another explanation for the loss of noble support suffered by Richard III before the Battle of Bosworth. It was not his tyranny that drove them away, but the very opposite. Who knows what the political landscape of England might have looked like if Richard had longer to pursue his programme?

Statue of Richard III outside Leicester Cathedral
Statue of Richard III outside Leicester Cathedral

What of all of those evil crimes?

Usurper? No. It is simply a factually incorrect term for what happened in 1483. Richard was asked to take the throne by the leadership of the City of London and those members of Parliament who were in the capital. It is an important distinction to note that Parliament was not in session at the time, so Parliament didn’t make the request, but a committee of those assembled for the Parliament planned for later that month did. To usurp is to take the power of another illegally or by force. What Richard did was not illegal, nor did he use force. In legal terms, he didn’t steal the power of another either, since Edward V had been declared illegitimate and unable to succeed based on evidence that was presented to that Parliamentary committee and London’s elite. Many will scoff at this lost evidence, but why? Simply because it doesn’t fit with their view of the man and it is too difficult to question that belief.

Murderer? In the cases of Hastings, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan and Haute, probably, by today’s standards. Probably not by those of his own time. All five of those men were found guilty of treason based on evidence that was shared around London. It is true that they had no formal trial, but Richard was Constable of England and was entitled to act as judge and jury in cases of treason based on evidence that he had seen. He publicised this evidence and it was accepted by his contemporaries. Why is it, then, that some find it so hard to accept that evidence now? There doesn’t even appear to be room to discuss it for some.

The death of the seventeen year old Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales and only son of Henry VI is frequently attributed to Richard III whilst he was the eighteen year old Duke of Gloucester. Ignoring the fact that according to most contemporary sources Edward died during the battle and so murder is hardly an applicable label for his death, at least one eye witness account states that Richard’s vanguard were pursuing the Duke of Somerset while King Edward’s centre attacked the Lancastrian centre, where Prince Edward was stationed. It is most likely that Richard was nowhere near Edward when he died. It is also likely that Edward died during the fighting and was not ‘murdered’. It is possible he was executed after the battle, but given that the very point of the battle was to conclude matters between the Houses of Lancaster and York, and given the recent history of the Wars of the Roses, there could have been no other outcome. If Richard was involved, unlikely as it seems, it would have been in his role as Constable of England, dispenser of royal justice.

Shortly after the Battle of Tewkesbury, Henry VI died in the Tower of London. In spite of the story put out, exemplified by The Arrival of King Edward the Fourth’s assertion that Henry died of ‘pure displeasure and melancholy’, it seems certain that he was put to death. Contemporary chronicles, including Warkworth, state that Henry was put to death, ‘being then in the Tower the Duke of Gloucester, brother to King Edward, and many other’. Phillipe de Commyne, a Burgundian writer who never visited England, asserted that he heard that Richard ‘slew this poor King Henry with his own hand, or caused him to be carried into some private place, and stood by while he was killed’. This may well be true. As Constable, it was Richard’s function to see the king’s justice dispensed. Who else might Edward trust to see this unpleasant job done, especially considering that it almost certainly had to be done. If Richard did the deed, or oversaw its completion, it cannot have been done without Edward IV’s instruction.

Then, of course, there are The Princes in the Tower. It is one of history’s greatest and most enduring murder mysteries precisely because it is a mystery. I can freely admit that Richard might have had his nephews killed. He has to be the prime suspect if there was a murder. Could you convict him in a court of law? No. Not even a civil court using a balance of probabilities test. You might think you could, but you really couldn’t. There are other suspects, other outcomes, every bit as likely and fascinating to examine. Yet for some it’s easier just to deny any possibility but Richard’s wilful guilt, however unlikely, unnecessary and out of character it can be argued the murders would be.

Engraving at the Richard III Visitor Centre

All of the fuss about the re-interment of Richard III bemuses some, but Richard himself would have recognised the process his remains are undergoing and indeed might well have expected it sooner. In 1476, whilst Duke of Gloucester, he was chief mourner when the mortal remains of his father Richard, Duke of York and his brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland were transferred from their original burial place near Wakefield, where both had died in the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. Over a period of nine days a funeral procession made its way in pomp and reverence to the family mausoleum at St Mary and All Saints Church, Fotheringhay. In 1484, as king, Richard organised the re-interment of Henry VI’s remains, translating them from their humble resting place at Chertsey Abbey to the royal splendour of St George’s Chapel. He certainly wouldn’t have found anything, with the exception of Protestant ceremony, odd or disconcerting about the treatment he is receiving now.

Why do we care about Richard III? The British love an underdog, a wronged man, and for many Richard has been wronged by history. The myths obscuring his character don’t stand up well to scrutiny and it is this that interests Ricardians. In an age where labels are discouraged and we pride ourselves on tolerance, how is it that a person can be called a ‘Ricardian loon’ on live television simply for believing a man might not be the evil murderer he is accused of being? Ricardian baiting has become a national pastime, but it only works because some Ricardians will always take the bait. There are Ricardians who take their views to an extreme and are as unreasonable and sometimes as unpleasant as those who refuse to re-examine the evidence available about Richard III.

The interesting place is the quiet, reasonable space in the middle where there is a real story to be told and a debate to be had.

The shame is that this space is lost to the sensationalist, noisy extremes with more volume than knowledge.

Matthew Lewis is the author of a brief biography of Richard III, A Glimpse of King Richard III along with a brief overview of the Wars of the Roses, A Glimpse of the Wars of the Roses. 

Matt has two novels available too; Loyalty, the story of King Richard III’s life, and Honour, which follows Francis, Lord Lovell in the aftermath of Bosworth. Both novels are just 99p or 99c each until Sunday 29th March 2015 to celebrate re-interment week.

The Richard III Podcast and the Wars of the Roses Podcast can be subscribed to via iTunes or on YouTube

Matt can also be found on Twitter @mattlewisauthor.


101 thoughts on “Richard III – The Answers

  1. Thanks for this Mr Lewis. I have been a Ricardian loon since 1967 but this past week has been a difficult one for me. A friend recommended your blog, and I’m so glad to have found it. This is good history, and a balanced view. The other thing that has kept me going is the behaviour of the actor Robert Lindsay on C4’s hamfisted commentary yesterday. It was obvious that Lindsay was a convert to the “cause” through reading and thinking. Like the rest of us,, he visibly winced at the jocular way in which terms like “child-killer” were bandied about, as if unassailable fact. Thank you again for this excellent blog and I look forward to reading your novels too.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment. I’m glad you’ve found the blog and hope that you enjoy it. If you do read Loyalty and/or Honour I’d love to hear what you think. Both are on special offer for Kindle until Sunday at 99p each if you use an e-reader.

      Best wishes


      1. Dear Matt

        Thank you for so much information – I did know some of the things King Richard III had done during his short reign but there were others I didn’t. I have admired Richard III since reading ‘The White Boar’ by Marion Palmer over 45 years ago. I don’t understand the melevolence some people have for Richard when we have other English Kings who are looked on with some Romantic notions (Richard I ‘The Lionheart’ and of course Henry VIII) who were quite selfish during their reign as Kings of England – there are many others – perhaps someone could do a ‘head count’ of deaths/beheadings etc attributed to each reign and see who comes out with the most? Why would someone who had been brave, loyal towards his family and very religious suddenly change into a monster – he wasn’t perfect but we are judging him in our modern times not medieval where people changed allegence to suit their material gain. Thank you again – I was lucky enough to be at some of the ceremonies as my niece did the DNA on King Richard’s bones – an absolute dream for me when she was eventually able to tell me.

      2. I agree with Dilys: after a lifetime supporting this maligned king (in my case since the mid 60s) it has been a very difficult week, with Ch4 pretending to honour Richard while taking every opportunity to vilify him and to perpetuate the Tudor lies. What a wasted opportunity.

        The choice of ‘experts’ on their coverage was pathetic: Starkey is a ‘loon’ if anyone, and there were other pompous asses claiming ‘the evidence’ is clear that Richard murdered the princes, when there is none.

        As for the ‘documentary’ ‘The Princes in the Tower’, words fail me. What a ludicrous farrago of nonsense and what a totally misleading depiction of Richard – who was if nothing else a self-confident leader, accustomed to power and command.

        I’ve just bought your discounted books for kindle (I’m on a pension) after reading your excellent piece above, which I shall share widely.

      3. Thank you Sara. I do hope you enjoy the books. Please let me know what you think. I wrote this because it struck me how many articles were quoting ‘facts’ without any evidence to support it.

  2. To quote Starkey I am also a Richardian loon however I think the gentleman needs to read this then he might be more informed,it’s great pity that this was not published in the press instead of the negative blurb we have been subjected to,they then would have learned of Richard’s achievements. His laws such as bail legal aid and requirements for jury duty.They would have learned about his role as Chief Constable of England which entitled him to act as judge and jury.They would have learned that Richard encouraged and promoted the growth of the country’s products as he discouraged imports from other countries apart from books which were translated into English as were all lawsThey would have learned about his favouring the common man which unfortunately lost him support from the nobles.I hope more people will read this sadly I doubt Mr Starkey and others of his ilk will

  3. Reblogged this on Opera is Magic and commented:
    I love historical stuff and it’s all been around Richard III round here lately. I was deeply dissatisfied with the broadcast i saw so i’d much rather read some more on historical facts. This is interesting although some interpretations may still have some bias. But it is better than any of the gossipy stuff i’ve read in papers or seen on telly these days 🙂
    For information on what Richard III achieved in his very short reign this is a great read. It is also good to remember that in those days you had to physically fight to hold on to your throne. In many cases it probably was ”kill or be killed”, even if this was not necessarily an every day threat it was something any king was confronted with during his lifetime.

      1. my pleasure! finally something worthy of reading 🙂 watching people squabble over such an astonishing historical event really left a bad after-taste. This is the kind of stuff i would have preferred hearing about so thank you for putting it across so eloquently. 🙂

  4. Yet again, Matt, you state Richard’s achievements with great clarity and simplicity. He had been a fair administrator in Yorkshire and carried it over into his reign. He always kept watch over the common man. So beautiful to see that love paid back by the thousands of people who turned out to see his re-interment.

  5. re blogged this on – more to come. A very small point – there was nothing Protestant about anything the Cathedral did, as the Church of England is not a Protestant church.

  6. I have just about finished reading Loyalty. To be truthful, my first impression was that Richard was depicted as almost too good to be true. But you make a good case here that he was a man, and a king, ahead of his time. You did give him some flaws: impulsiveness and a hot temper. And a sense of humor.

    Did he really know jiu-jitsu and kickboxing, though? or their medieval equivalents? 🙂

    I will be reviewing this book for the Ricardian Register, and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

    (Forgive me if I tend to be somewhat flip. That’s why we loons are laughing all the time.)

  7. Fantastic blog post Matthew. I was in Leicester for a few days and it was a wonderful experience. I have read some of the vitriolic nonsense that has been said about Richard III and so this is a refreshing change. Calm, well articulated and informative. Thank you for being a voice of reason amongst the chaos!

  8. Thank you very much Matthew for such an interesting and well reasoned account of the good Richard to redress the balance of the recent onslaught against him. I loved your book “Loyalty” and am currently savouring “Honour” as I don’t want it to end. Thank you for your excellent post and for being such a great author!

  9. Yet another great blog, Matt-the voice of sanity and reason. I share your thoughts on Richard, a good man who was forced to do bad things to protect the York throne his family had fought and died for, but he was no worse than any other medieval monarch (in fact a lot better than most) and yet singled out as our most evil king,courtesy of the Tudors and Willie S(never one to let the truth get in the way of a good story)
    We must continue our efforts to get the truth out there to present a more balanced view of this much maligned man
    keep your blogs coming

    A proud “Loon”

    1. Thank you Vera. We can only keep plugging away, but as long as the lies are more sensational than the truth it will remain a tough job. Our sleeves are rolled up though.

  10. I have read both of your Richard III novels with great pleasure. I have been a Richardian since the age of 13, almost 60yrs. I don’t consider myself a loon. I am willing to accept proof of anything Richard did, but I will not accept lies, rumour and the deliberate twisting of facts. He was a man who lived in violent times and had to contend with the results. He was not a saint, but I think he tried to live a good life and deserves the credit for that.
    Thank you for your excellent balanced article. I shall now hunt for your other two books.

  11. Thank you for this insightful and measured article.This week has been very special and unforgettable. At last Richard III has been accorded the honour and dignity denied him at his death. I hope the interest generated by his reinterment will translate into many people researching the truth about this extraordinary man, but some of the vitriolic comments by the media, and others who should know better, demonstrate how much more work needs to be done to educate people about Richard and his times. Of course, I suspect that some prefer the Tudor travesty!

    1. Do you realize that Solomon writing about Republicans sounds exactly like Tudors writing about Richard III?

      (Sorry, I can’t resist yanking his chain.)

  12. I never left him, no matter how difficult things became.

    I brought up the subject of King Richard and scoliosis, which I also have, in a charity shop for the disabled which I support. They didn’t have a clue who or what I was talking about.

    There are still a majority of people in this country who don’t know anything about Richard and they care even less.

    Having been a dissenter about Leicester having eternal custody of him I have to highly commend them, for making his reinterment simple but poignant, straightforward but eminently meaningful, relevant to his beliefs and I truly believe a great tribute to him which he would have appreciated.

    I take it all back. Well done – and thank you, Leicester.

  13. A really fascinating post,Matt. Thank you for your calm, well-reasoned approach to the subject. Truth to tell, there are “loons” on both sides of the argument. As with most things, the truth lies somewhere in between the extremes.

    I’ve been working on a play about Richard for a few years and I’m almost ready to start looking for a producer. I wish I’d discovered your blog sooner; you’d have saved me months of research (though the research was fascinating so I’m not complaining.)

  14. Dear Matt
    This was fascinating. Thank you for so much information – I did know some of the things King Richard III had done during his short reign but there were others you have written about I didn’t. I have admired Richard III since reading ‘The White Boar’ by Marion Palmer over 45 years ago. I don’t understand the melevolence some people have for Richard when we have other English Kings who are looked on with some Romantic notions (Richard I ‘The Lionheart’ and of course Henry VIII) who were quite selfish during their reign as Kings of England – there are many others – perhaps someone could do a ‘head count’ of deaths/beheadings etc attributed to each reign and see who comes out with the most? Why would someone who had been brave, loyal towards his family and very religious suddenly change into a monster – he wasn’t perfect but we are judging him in our modern times not medieval where people changed allegence to suit their material gain. Thank you again – I was lucky enough to be at some of the ceremonies as my niece did the DNA on King Richard’s bones – an absolute dream for me when she was eventually able to tell me.

  15. Matt – it’s so nice to be able to read facts! Calm, sensible facts which explain everything to ordinary mortals like me!! Someone earlier suggested this should be in a newspaper – and I totally agree! Could you possibly PLEASE try to get one of the nationals to print this?

    1. Hi Anne. Thank you for your kind comment. I sent it to a few newspapers but none would take it up. Not very sensational to offer solid facts unfortunately. I will keep trying, though. Thanks again.

  16. With the countless horrific and planet-threatening problems the world faces in 2015, why on EARTH would be interested in forming a “balanced” view of Richard III NOW?
    Yes, the semi-fictional title character in Shakespeare’s rip-roaring play is fascinating, but other than that, why aren’t you doing something USEFUL like helping to drive out the billionaires who are hijacking Congress, advocating equitable health care, making sure the poor VOTE in the next Presidential election instead of staying home in resigned despair, in order to prevent voting in a permanent Republican oligarchy backed by vast amounts of money, advocating for controls on industrial pollution and eradicating the Amazon Rain Forest for short term profit when the Rain Forest produces much of our oxygen…. and on and on and on, which you certainly know about. You are obviously highly intelligent. So you stand guilty of WASTING a precious resource: your OWN intelligence, on a 500-year-old issue which is utterly trivial in the face of the truly critical issues now facing the nation and the world.

    1. Hi Solomon,

      Thank you for your comment. I live in the UK so sadly don’t share your knowledge of the social issues affecting the United States. I am fortunate enough to enjoy the benefits of equitable healthcare, though money is a universal factor in political success. At least democracy allows those who wish to have one a say in which millionaire rules, unlike in many other nations, for better or for worse.

      A part of the reason that I take an active interest in the reputation of a man who died over 500 years ago is precisely because it matters today. The story most people know about Richard III is a lie derived from intentional or lazy misinformation. When we tell lies about our past we lie to our children; we condone and perpetuate the injustices of the world in perpetuity. Past wrongs are no less important than present ones. The two are frequently inextricably linked. What better way to begin the process of fixing today than building on firm foundations of truth? If the world we live in is built upon lies shouldn’t we seek to correct those untruths?

      Sadly your comment demonstrates the very problem that I am writing about. You don’t know the first thing about me beyond my interest in medieval history. If you were to read one of my other blog posts you might begin to understand what I do with my life. Beyond this, I work full time at a Hospice and operate my own small business, keeping people employed throughout the recession. My curiosity about elements of our history are a hobby, not what I do with my life. Failing to take the time to establish any of this before berating my pastime is a modern parallel for the attitude taken to Richard III and so much more of our history. How can we understand today without really knowing yesterday? How can we hope to move into tomorrow on a crooked wave of lies about today?

      I think we are aiming for the same thing through different mediums. I wouldn’t criticise yours and I would have hoped that you might not criticise mine. You and I speak of the same building that requires renovation, we simply start at different places – me with the foundations, you on the ground floor.

      1. Well said, Matt. I would love to have seen his face/read his thoughts as he read your reply! I wonder if he is as well-read on his country’s history, as you are about yours.

      2. Hi Matt,

        Thank you for your very intelligent and justified response. I didn’t realize you live in the U.K. Of course Richard III is your very interesting avocation, just as one of mine is opera.

        In context, I believe I reacted without giving it much thought because the situation in the U.S. is so critical on so many fronts right now that it preoccupies me, and sometimes feels overwhelming. If the obsolete Republicans and the immeasurably arrogant corporations and billionaires are not effectively opposed, I think there is reason to fear that we may lose our democracy in everything but name.

        The sheer intelligence of your writing style should have tipped me off that you are balancing a whole range of commendable actions.

        Unfortunately, the kneejerk triviality and pre-judgment of Anne Rhodes makes my over-reaction almost read like high praise.

        You’re right: Richard III is a fascinating, multi-faceted historical case. By the way, by coincidence last week I saw a DVD of the National Shakespeare Company’s production of Richard II, which was previously telecast to local cinemas around the world.

        I was stunned— I thought this to be literally the most superb production of a Shakespeare play I’ve ever seen/heard. And since Richard II presents the collision of the last medieval king with the first modern monarch (Bolingbroke is a “Realpolitiker” avant la lettre of Metternich and Bismarck!), the play is especially difficult to present believably to today’s audiences because it is all poetry (not a line of prose), and also so drenched in ceremony.

        Keep up the excellent work. Would that more people on Facebook and other social media would focus on something of genuine weight, instead of the endless vacuous social stroking.

      3. Bearing in mind that my “not-a-kneejerk-reaction” was addressed to Matt, and not you Simon, I would be inclined to say that you have now gone to the other extreme in your reply/reaction. In my own way, being a minor historian myself (though not in Matt’s league) – I have to say that I am firmly in Matt’s camp on this subject and would merely state that I wish more people (both in the UK and abroad) would do a little more studying on this incredible portion of history.

      4. @Anne Rhodes: I am not in anybody’s “camp”; I try to be in the camp of reason. When I saw a reason to correct my over-hasty remarks, I did exactly that. You, on the other hand, have demonstrated not reason, merely flag-waving. While you are continuing to learn from Matt, may I suggest that you practice your reading: my name is Solomon, not Simon.

      5. A gracious reply and apology Solomon – kudos to you.

        And for what it’s worth, I agree with you about the stark choices facing your country, the causes of the problems, and the need for urgent action. .

      6. I came here to reply to Solomon, but your eloquence has made that reply superfluous, Matt. I fear I would not have replied with such impeccable manners.

        I shall only remark, that we English care passionately about our history. It is never too late to right an injustice.

    2. I almost did not want to reply to this post, but feel Solomon’s vitriolic attack was unwarranted. As an American, and person studying to be a historian, who is actually writing a thesis on the Historiography of Richard III, I find Solomon’s thesis utterly scary. Studying history is not “useful?” I wonder why he thought it was his place to attack someone for their interests? Because they did not match his goals for the planet? I encourage Solomon to realize that some people do have interests that are not in line with his. Solomon seems to be a liberal. I consider myself as Liberal as anyone. I am as concerned about Climate Change, Big Money in Politics, Voting Rates, Rights for Same-Sex Couples, Women’s Rights, Police Brutality, etc. But why was this the place to bring that up?

      Also, I am not an expert on those things. I did not go to school to be a climate scientist, or a political scientist, or a doctor. I went to school to be a teacher. And teaching history, and art, and music, culture is equally important.

      So, Solomon’s those not working on what you what them to, are not wasting their resources, they are giving the rest of us something to save this Earth for. For without the arts and letters, we cans save this world, but have nothing to aspire to.

      Shame on you for this attack. I understand that you have apologized, and that shows that you are at least not completely without character, but in my opinion, Matt was much more polite than he should have been in responding to you.

      I hope you learn from this experience. I hope you are horrified. How would you feel if shamed you for your interests. Bet yet, what do we know about you? Why are you wasting your time on a History Blog, and not saving the universe?

      1. @seantpainter: I apologized and explained to Matt that I had been very upset about current political and economic issues in the U.S., and Matthew’s dignified response to my original post brought me to realize that my remarks were not appropriate to this blog.

        That finished the matter. So why are you sticking your nose in now, Mr. Johnny-Come-Lately? There was not a single idea in your rant (a poor start for a future historian). And Matthew can obviously defend himself.

        So I think that YOU launched a “vitriolic attack” in my direction simply because you thought you could get away with attacking at long distance for the sheer petty enjoyment of venting your spleen. You are the one who should be ashamed.

        For the rest of your meaningless rant, here is my answer to your balloon full of
        hot air:

        Solomon Epstein


        Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford

        DMA in Music Composition/Orchestration
        Composition Studies with Robert Carl and Ken Steen.

        1982 – 1994
        Private study in Composition/Orchestration with the following professors:
        Leonardo Balada and Nancy Galbraith, Carnegie-Mellon University;
        Andrew Rudin, Philadelphia University of the Arts;
        Robert Stern, University of Massachusetts/Amherst.

        Yale University School of Music
        Master of Music in Voice and Opera.
        Voice Study with Blake Stern.
        Some composition study with Yehudi Wyner.

        Cantors Institute of Jewish Theological Seminary, New York City
        Bachelor of Sacred Music and Cantor’s Diploma
        Honors: Jacobsen Memorial Prize to Outstanding Graduate.
        Composition study with Hugo Weisgall and Miriam Gideon.


        1966 – 2000
        Cantor and Music Director of
        Synagogues in Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts

        Composing Commissions and Music Director:

        1991: University of Pittsburgh/Johnstown: Incidental Music for Shakespeare’s
        The Tempest, presented as part of a Gala Week of Performances for the opening of the University’s new Pasquerilla Center for the Performing Arts.

        1985: Temple University Graduate Department of Theater: Incidental Music for Lorca’s House of Bernarda Alba.

        1982: University of Pittsburgh/Johnstown Department of Theater: Incidental Music for Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle.

        Opera Premiere:

        In May 1999, my opera The Dybbuk: An Opera In Yiddish was given a premiere in Israel at Ben-Gurion University, Beersheba,in honor of the University’s formal announcement of a new Chair of Yiddish Studies in
        the Department of Hebrew Literature.

        I had adapted the libretto from the original Yiddish script of the play by
        S. Ansky (Yiddish playscript courtesy YIVO, New York). I composed the piano-vocal score 1990-91, and orchestrated the opera 1991-94.

        At the personal invitation of the University Chancellor, Professor Avishai Braverman, people from all over Israel attended.

        A second performance at the Susan Dellal Centre for Dance and Theatre, Tel Aviv, attracted a packed audience, which responded to The Dybbuk with an ovation. Tel Aviv press reviews were uniformly excellent, as was a review in the London monthly magazine OPERA, which ended, “This opera deserves to return to the stage in a full-scale production with orchestra”.

        The opera was performed by young professional singers of the Israel Vocal Arts Institute, Joan Dornemann, Founder and Director. The stage director, Rachel Michaeli, studied opera directing at IVAI. The conductor was Ronen Borshevsky, who studied at the Tanglewood Conducting Institute, 1996, under Bernard Haitink and Robert Spano.

        (The Israel performances were given with my piano-vocal score only, not
        orchestra. Budget limits meant that only the scenes of the main characters were
        performed, which was half the opera— 70 minutes; performed complete, the opera is 140 minutes.)

        The production was supported by the Lerner Foundation for Yiddish Language
        and Culture, Tel Aviv. The Lerner Foundation also supported the making of a
        DVD of the Tel Aviv performance. Rachel Michaeli has made the DVD available for purchase at (PAL format only). The DVD is sung in Yiddish, with English subtitles.

        Composing Commissions:

        1991: University of Pittsburgh/Johnstown: Incidental Music for Shakespeare’s
        The Tempest, presented as part of a Gala Week of Performances for the opening of the University’s new Pasquerilla Center for the Performing Arts.

        1985: Temple University Graduate Department of Theater: Incidental Music for Lorca’s House of Bernarda Alba.

        1982: University of Pittsburgh/Johnstown Department of Theater: Incidental Music for Brecht’s Caucasian Chalk Circle.

        Other Full-Length Operas, Orchestrated:

        2007: Moby-Dick: Opera-Oratorio in Three Acts
        I adapted the libretto, keeping Melville’s text.

        1999: Murder In The First: An American Opera in Two Acts
        I adapted the libretto from the novel and stage play by permission of their author,
        Dan Gordon, who was screenwriter for the 1995 Warner Bros. film of the same
        title. This opera served as my dissertation for the DMA at the Hartt School of Music. I revised the opera extensively in 2002.

      2. For crying out loud, Solomon – I thought we’d got this one sorted! Just because Seantpainter has only just responded to your original remarks merely demonstrates that not everyone has the leisure to read blogs the instant they are written. What you have done, with replying the way you have, has merely stirred the hornets nest again. This demonstrates that you have no empathy for anyone’s opinion but your own, and that the vitriol is all yours. Additionally – who on earth puts their whole CV under their signature on a blog!! No-one has the time or desire to read any of it, and it smacks very hard of being used as a security blanket. To quote a famous phrase “calm down, dear!” and accept that the people reading this blog all have (and are entitled to) their own opinions. If it upsets you to see differing views to your own – then don’t read them!

      3. Hi all,

        I think that this particular line of discussion has reached an end now. It has been kept civil and I appreciate that but I don’t feel that any more can be added to this on either side. I will therefore delete any further comments aimed at individuals.

        Thank you.


      4. Hello Matt,

        I certainly agree with you, as I said in response to the previous poster: the matter is closed, why are you bringing it up again?
        Thanks for taking action,

      1. Hi Anne and Solomon. Thank you for resolving this in such a friendly manner. I was getting concerned that it may get out of hand but clearly I was doing you both an injustice. Many thanks. Matt

  17. Very interesting blog here. I’ve only just started to look into the matter of Richard III, prompted by all the publicity of the last few weeks, and already I can see that he was the victim of a Tudor hatchet job. I won’t take a stance on the princes in the tower, as at the moment, there seems to be no hard evidence one way or another to establish what happened. Yet it’s clear that he was a lot less bloodthirsty than other kings of his time. In fact, if any king deserves to be remembered as a monster, it’s Henry VIII, who never stopped executing people! And yet he’s remembered as a romantic figure, “bluff king Hal”. Makes you wonder how history is created.

    As for David Starkey, I sometimes wonder if being a prat is a prerequisite for being a telly academic! Still, I suppose it’s all really about entertainment for the media, and someone who can put on a good show is better than someone who just presents sober research.

  18. Very calm and well thought out as usual from Matthew. Where is the second photograph taken from please? It’s Richard’s prayer isn’t it?

  19. Excellent blog and excellent balanced presentation of the debates and controversial issues with regards to Richard III. Many people just don’t have a clue about his laws and statutes or how much of his influence is around still today. There are unanswered questions about Richard that your blog quite correctly states we cannot know as the sources are either unclear or silent and the answers just evade us. But many rumours we can put to bed; he was not some deranged crooked child killer who stole the throne while killing everyone around him. He was a young man who grew up in the throws of civil war with his own countrymen and that war had tragic consequences on both sides. The victors executed the leading nobles from either side as they saw their actions as treason. Two houses set themselves up as rival rulers. We had two crowned monarchs at the same time, fighting it out for supremacy; both believed they had the righteous claim and before the battles that decided the outcome of the wars of the roses; those who fought agaisnt Edward IV were warned they faced the death penalty if he was victorious as he deemed it high treason. For the same reason Margaret of Anjou had executed Yorkists and had the heads of the bodies of Richard’s own father and brother killed in battle at Wakefield stuck up on the gates at York again as traitors. There is no certainty over the death of Prince Edward of Lancaster, but he was most likely killed in battle and we don’t know if he would have been spared, but Edward IV surely was responsible and not Richard as Duke of Gloucester. The murder of Henry VI was made necessary by the fact that the House of Lancaster was defunct and the wars had to end. He was old and sick and had lost his mind; he was probably harmless, but he had been rescued once, so from the Yorkist point of view you can see why they had to end his life. The order could only have come from Edward IV and it seems to me that all three sons of York consented to his murder. Richard was also accused of the death of Clarence which is nonsense as the texts show that he was tried by his oldest brother for treason, Richard had nothing to do with his fate. As pointed out as Protector there are contentious issues, but the executions of Hastings and the others were political decisions taken by someone who believed he had proof of their treason and attempts to make the regiem unstable and even to plot his own death. He had lawful authority in the decisions that he made. Richard may or may not have given the order to kill his nephews, we have absolutely no proof that he did. We don’t even know if they were killed or if they were kept safely in another part of England, We don’t know if they died of illness or if they lived. If they died then other suspects, Buckingham, Norfolk and Margaret Beaufort emerge as well, so we cannot convict Richard as therre is no evidence. Even the sources are divided. The bones in the urn in Westminster have not been identified beyond a reasonable doubt and their form of deaths is questionable. They need to be re=examined. We will never know who killed them; if they were the Princes.

    Richard as you have stated made the justice system fair and easier to access; Wolsey was not able to force his Amicable Grant in 1524 because of Richard’s law and trade was protected and encouraged. I have benefited from legal aid and I did not know until recently it was down to Richard iii; we have had many kings who have abused Magna Carta for their own ends; Richard respected it and extended its principles. Richard was fair in his legal decisions, he could be harsh at times, he could be ruthless, but only when circumstances demanded it as his life was in danger. He was not a saint; he made some rubbish decisions as we all do; but he tried to be honest and he tried to be just. He was brave in battle and even his enemies could not take that from him. If I am a Ricardian Loon then I am proud to be one. I recently went to the Tomb of Richard III; he now has a place of honour and dignity, denied to him at the time of his death; it is a simple but beautiful tomb and the space it lies in is peaceful. He was honoured the way he was because it was the right thing to do and who are we to judge his soul; that is out of all our hands.

  20. Well done Matt! I would just like to add that Richard, as a teenager, would not have believed he would have the chance to rule but when he did, it must have been so rewarding to be able to rule his beloved country so wisely, and so he would have fought valiantly to continue to do so and not let it fall into the hands of others who would not have done justice or ruled fairly.
    Regarding your blog: keep it up; you have a large following

  21. Clear, logical, researched and without any sensationalism… Pure facts…. Thank you for this great History lesson….

  22. An interesting post which presents some relavant points, but sadly it is responding to Richard’s vilification by lurchng to the oppisite extreme of wide-eyed admiration. It does not allow any room for typical human traits of self-centeredness, greed, dishonesty. In short, it treats him as some superhumman model of virtue, morality, justice goodness, compassion, mercy, decency honour etc. I’m suprised its not lauding him as the Best King in Human History.

    Seriously, are we really supposed to believe he was so sickly sweet that he bled sugar? ….and are we forgetting how Parliament actually works? Not every law or bill passed through Parliament was personally suggested or invented by the King. The members of parliament were perfectly capable of independent action- they could vote and support what they wished independently.

    I suspect further research would demonstrate that many of the innovations attributed to Richard did not originate with him. Some have recently tried to credit him with inventing Presumption of Innocence. He did not. The 13th century Jurist Henry de Bracton referred to it, or something very much like it, in is treatist ‘The Laws and Customs of England’ in 1260. It can even be traced back further than that. In truth, very few great innovations come from a void, they are usually based on things which already existed and came before.

    What is more, the pronouncement of ‘Not guilty’ in the deaths of RIvers, Hastings and Vaughan- for lack of a better word- stinks. ‘Richard was Constable and could therefore try cases on the evidence presented to him’. Yes, but we’re forgetting one small detail. What exactly had they done that constituted ‘treason’? Of course, opposing him when he took ‘control’ of the Princes, and- allegedly- plotting to assasinate him. So their case was tried and examined- by the person they were accused of committing the crime against. By the Plaintiff if you will. The Plaintiff trying the case, and examining the evidence?
    Now my brother is a solicitor, so I credit myself with knowing a little bit about the law- and this does not sound like an objective, even-handed application of justice to me. It sounds like a unlawful travesty.
    Hardly the actions of a man committed to justice for all.

    1. Unfortunately for your argument, kings (and prime ministers, and presidents of countries which have the presidential system in place) are normally judged by the laws, acts and policies that their governmental/legislative bodies actually put in place. Arguing that “well, we should just ignore the laws Richard’s Parliament passed, because who knows, maybe he didn’t come up with them!” seems like a desperate attempt to deny Richard the credit he deserves. Even if these laws didn’t “originate with him”, so what? Nobody expects a medieval king of England or a modern US president to come up with every single bill that will be proposed. That’s not in their job description. But the king had to approve of these laws and policies, at the very least. The buck stopped there. Unless you are going to argue that Richard as King didn’t really have much power in England?! Now that would be a really novel argument. And a really odd one, if you want to simultaneously blame him for bad things that happened during his reign. So wwhich is it? Richard couldn’t be a powerful king and simultaneously have no influence over what his Parliament was doing.
      Not to mention that Richard was actually known to take active interest in legal matters and policies. So, the idea that he was a disinterested king who just let his Parliament do whatever they feel like and didn’t take interest in laws simply contradicts everything we know about him from contemporary sources.

      “So their case was tried and examined- by the person they were accused of committing the crime against.”

      Actually, Rivers, Grey and Vaughn had their case tried and examined in a trial presided by Northumberland. Sure, Richard as Lord Protector was in power at the time, so they were likely to be found guilty. But the same is true of every single treason case in medieval or Renaissance England. Treason usually meant you were accused of plotting against the King, or Regent/Lord Protector, i.e. the person who was in power at the time. If you think that there should have been an international court trying these cases in a more objective manner, or that the defendants should have had the right to complain to a medieval equivalent of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, I’m afraid that medieval/Renaissance justice is just going to be a huge disappointment to you altogether.

      1. Actually Miss Bunny, that’s not what I’m arguing at all, although I could argue the opposite. That Ricardians like you ared so desperate to prove their idol was the wonder of his age, that they will make out that interest in the legal system, and the passing of beneficial laws was some fantastic new innovation unique to Richard.
        I’m saying it was not. He might have passed good laws, but the wide eyed admiration at him being so ‘special’ for doing so is uncalled for. Other English Kings, and European Kings did so long before him, and did so afterwards. Henry II is credited with overseeing the implementation of English Common Law. Alfred was a great legal innovator, but I’m not afraid to admit that he based even his reforms on preexisting ideas and practices, as much as his own intelligence and motivations.

        If Richard and some MPs or more likely the ordinary legal personnel during his reign picked up on something that could be used for he common good in the law then good on them. Bravo.

        Just dont demand thast I gibe Richard alone credit for inventing things that existed Hundreds of years before his birth. Why should I? Just to pander to Ricardians. Not going to happen. If the likes of Bracton knew about something, and considered it important enough to mention in his long treatise started c.1260 , then that’s good enough evidence of its preexistence for me.
        For the record, there’s also evidence legal aid existed before Richard in the church courts. Look up James Brundages article entitled Legal Aid for the Poor and the Professionalization of Law in the Middle Ages.

        Of course, legal theory and practice don’t always align perfectly today. I doubt even the sanctified Richard with his mystical saintly powers could ensure every lawyer, clerk and pleader in every court in the land behaved himself.

        ….and of course we cannot credit the Tudors or Lancastrians with any positive or beneficial laws or legal ideas can we. No. That would be heresy. I’d better not go reading that new book by Malcolm Vale on Henry Vs interest in law and justice. It might lead me astray.

      2. Well, it’s pretty difficult to figure out what exactly you’re arguing, since you seem to be moving goalposts and arguing with Straw Men. First you were saying that Richard should not be credited with things his Parliament did, because maybe they didn’t originate with him (?), then it becomes about some mythical wide eyed Ricardians who supposedly claim that Richard was a saint and that he and he alone passed good laws and nobody else ever did… which no one ever said. It seems like you’re just taking random swipes at Ricardians. Something you generally seem to do in all your posts, from what I’ve seen of your posts on other blogs.

        And then it gets even weirder:
        “….and of course we cannot credit the Tudors or Lancastrians with any positive or beneficial laws or legal ideas can we. No. That would be heresy. I’d better not go reading that new book by Malcolm Vale on Henry Vs interest in law and justice. It might lead me astray.”
        What’s this? Who are you arguing with here? Who’s forbidding you to say positive things about Lancastrians or Tudors? Who’s not letting you read about Henry V? Who even mentioned Henry V here? These aren’t even Straw Men, these seem to be some figments of your imagination that you’re arguing with here.

      3. Oh, and I supposed the accusation ‘You’re a Lancastrian/Tudorite/Richard hater!’ whenever a person consistently questions the fanatical admiration of the House of York, or condoning of all their violent acts is a rational and fair-minded argument?

        I only say what I see Time-Travelling Bunny, and I see a lot of fanaticism, historical innacuracy, lies, misreprestations, distortions, and ignoring of evidence coming from the Ricarardian camp- or just vile excuses like ‘If Henry VI was murdered he deserved it!’- because of course, all the killing the member of the House of York did was totally morally and legally justified (Edward IV was ‘only killing people who were trying to klll him’ as you claim- despite how he allowed his mate Butcher Tiptoft to go to Ireland, execute the loyal Yorkists Earl of Desmond on the accusations of his enemies and seize his lands- this all according to the ODNB article on him ).

        Pardon me for exersizing my capacity for rational thought in the Realm of the York worshippers and their hypocrisy.

      4. “Actually, Rivers, Grey and Vaughn had their case tried and examined in a trial presided by Northumberland. Sure, Richard as Lord Protector was in power at the time, so they were likely to be found guilty. But the same is true of every single treason case in medieval or Renaissance England.”

        Don’t insult my intelligence. I’m looking at legal history and the courts for my PhD. I know that juries and legal representation were meant to be a long-established custom even in the Measly Middle Ages.

        I have eyes. I can read what eminent historians say about the usual and legal practice of the courts. Being tried in one’s absence without being permitted to plead was not the normal procedure even then, and it was not supposed to be in cases of treason. The whole idea of allowing the Constable to try all cases of Treason without an indictment and jury seems to have been just another wondrous ‘innovation’ of the Yorkists- probably so that the usual courts would not acquit those the King and his lackeys wanted dead.

        Here’s a lovely example of Yorkist ‘justice’ courtesy of ODNB.

        “Soon after reaching Ireland he [Tiptoft] summoned a parliament to Drogheda at which he attainted Desmond and his brother-in-law, Thomas Fitzgerald, the seventh earl of Kildare. There he had Desmond executed, and tortured his two young sons, eventually having them put to death. In revenge for these executions the Fitzgeralds of Munster rebelled and ravaged Meath and Kildare. At a second parliament Kildare was pardoned, and he was later installed as deputy governor, Tiptoft having been recalled to England early in 1470.

        Tiptoft remained loyal to the king when Warwick and Clarence rebelled in 1469. Campaigning in the north with Edward, on 14 March 1470 he was reappointed constable of England. On 23 March he received the lieutenancy of Ireland, from which the duke of Clarence had been dismissed, and on 10 July he was reappointed treasurer of England.

        He accompanied the king south to Southampton, where he had twenty of the earl of Warwick’s men who had been captured at sea handed over to him for trial, and condemned them to execution for high treason, adding impalement to the sentence of hanging, drawing, and quartering. This cruelty outraged public opinion and earned him the reputation, reported in a contemporary chronicle, as ‘that fierce executioner and horrible beheader of men’ (Gairdner, 183)”

        Benjamin G. Kohl, ‘Tiptoft , John, first earl of Worcester (1427–1470)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2015 [, accessed 22 Aug 2016]

        “Desmond’s execution both shocked and puzzled contemporaries. The annals of Ulster related that Ireland had never had ‘a foreign youth that was better than he. And he was killed in treachery by an English earl’ (Annals of Ulster, 3.220–21). An English chronicler reported that Desmond’s execution displeased the king; and Richard III later admitted that he had been slain against ‘all manhode, reason and good conscience’ (Gairdner, 69–70)….

        Yet the most likely reason for Desmond’s execution is the charge of imposing coign and livery. This indeed was Sir William Darcy’s view: in a report to the English council in 1515 he observed that Desmond was the first to impose coign and livery on the English pale. Serious disturbances followed his execution, during which Kildare and Portlester fled to Desmond’s brother. Kildare’s attainder had to be reversed and Desmond’s son, James (d. 1487), received livery of his inheritance even though under age. Yet the family remained estranged from the crown; the earl’s brother disputed the succession; and English influence in the south-west was greatly reduced.”

        Steven G. Ellis, ‘Fitzgerald, Thomas, seventh earl of Desmond (1426?–1468)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 22 Aug 2016]

      5. The Court of Chivalry, presided over by the Constable of England, was an incredibly draconian civil court but nevertheless entirely legal. The grant of the position of Constable to Earl Rivers in 1467 purports to repeat the powers granted to Tiptoft in 1462 and Richard’s grant in 1469 explicitly gives him the same powers. The 1467 grant stated that in cases of treason (defined very broadly and as a constantly changing crime) the Constable had ‘authority to hear, examine and duly determine the aforesaid causes and business with all and singular arising, occurring and connected, both summarily and plainly, without noise and customary form of trial, on simple inspection of the truth of the deed … without leave of appeal’. By 1483, Richard had been Constable, and in possession of these powers, for 14 years, virtually all of his adult life. He was entitled to act as judge, jury and executioner in cases of treason, without a ‘customary form of trial’ and ‘without leave of appeal’. I would certainly not like to have stood before a Constable’s court, since it was in essence a death sentence before proceedings even began.
        Rivers, Grey and Vaughn were given a trial in the form of this court, under, I presume, because there is no direct evidence of it, Northumberland as Richard’s temporary deputy. There are several examples of the appointment of such deputies for the convening of a court. It is perhaps reasonable to suspect that Richard Ratcliffe took papers confirming this to the Earl. All three were present for the ‘trial’, since two were brought to Pontefract from some distance away – why gather them if not for a trial? Why not execute them where they were? There executions were hardly summary either, taking place 8 weeks after their arrest. Had Richard wished to execute them at Stony Stratford. he would have been well within his legal authority to convene a court there and then and order them executed.
        Richard was o saint – I have never argued that he was. He was a man of his time – difficult and hard times. He had grown up with extraordinary powers that he was not only entitled but fully expected to exercise. Draconian, yes. Illegal, no.

      6. Really? Constable of England in ’69 was he? How come the ODNB Article says that the sadistic pyschpath Tiptoft held that lovely office in 147o.

        I’m reading a very interesting article on that ‘culured Renaissance man’ at the moment, which shows how his creulty shocked even this contemporaries- yet Edward kept him in his office because he thought him loyal, and believed he could solve his problems.
        “Hated for his cruelty, he was called (by later Tudor propagandists) the Butcher of England.
        For his swift and ruthless justice Tiptoft earned the reputation that he ‘juged by lawe padowe’ (Warkworth, 5), that is, he followed summary legal procedures, learned from his study of Roman law. This same charge is repeated by his Italian biographer, Vespasiano da Bisticci, writing in 1490 (Bisticci, 1.419).” Benjamin G. Kohl, ‘Tiptoft , John, first earl of Worcester (1427–1470)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2015 [, accessed 22 Aug 2016]

        Some fixer-upper. The maniac nearly caused a rebellion in Ireland when he judicially murdered the Earl of Desmond- and according to some accounts- killed two of his children for good measure. Lovely man that the heroic Golden Boy of the House of York had as a best mate.
        If he’s been friends with a Tudor, we’d call him what he was, but because it was the Yorkists, we’re prepared to make exceptions and say he was not so bad.

        Good old double standards still reign supreme under the Sun of York. So you’ll forgive me if I’m skepitical of the depiction of the whole family as champions of justice.

      7. The grant of the office of High Constable to Richard, Duke of Gloucester is dated 17 October 1469. The Earl of Oxford held the office during the readeption and it reverted to Richard in 1471. I’m sorry that such a fact seems to be provoking a bit of aggression. I had hoped that we could continue to discuss these matters in a civil manner. I find it odd that you wish to paint me as a raving apologist for all things Yorkist and despiser of all things Lancastrian and Tudor when I am neither of those things and it is you who keeps resorting to highly emotive language – ‘sadistic psychopath’ etc. I would rather we continued in a civil and constructive manner or not at all. I’m not really interested in trading superlative insults.

      8. Not really, I’m not too bothered about the precise dating, it doesn’t really matter.
        I’ve read 1470, the sources sometimes get the dates out by a year or two.

        Again, I’m sorry if I sound extreme, but this is a very emotive subject, which people get very worked up about- and sadly, that results in a lot of misinformation from people who think they have the abslolute truth.
        I have a desire, perhaps an inordinate one to challenge misinformation.

        As to the other, what else am I to call a person like Tiptoft who was shocked even his hardened Medieval contemporaries with his unashamed cruelty, his penchant for torture and inflicting horrible methods of execution? Others have called him a sadist and a psychopath, and I think its well deserved.

      9. “There executions were hardly summary either, taking place 8 weeks after their arrest. Had Richard wished to execute them at Stony Stratford. he would have been well within his legal authority to convene a court there and then and order them executed”

        On what charge? With what evidence? You’ll forgive my cynicism I hope, but as I see it, 15th century nobles were not much different from modern politicians. Very few will openly do things which are morally and legally questionable, and would ruin their career or reputation.

        Personally, and I do not mean any offense, I think you credit Richard and his family with too much integrity, and too little subtlety.

        It would not have done him any favours to have them executed at Statford straight off. To my recollection, they had not actually done anything the first day, and meeting had been quite cordial. It would have looked like a set up and damaged Richard’s credibility.

        Better to cover your tracks, and dress it all up in a semblance of legality, and leave it until some kind of ‘evidence’ could had been gathered, what what looked like a semblance of a trial. Even if it was presided over by a lackey like Ratcliffe…..

      10. They were arrested on a charge of treason, the charge Richard tried to get the Council to approve and the charge they were eventually executed for. On a charge of treason, Richard was entitled under his powers as Constable, to execute them there and then. I don’t think Richard was unsubtle – I tend to agree with Annette Carson’s assessment that he meant to use them as hostages to aid his negotiations with the queen. Only when that failed did he execute them. Hardly the acts of s nice man (which I’ve claimed he was).

      11. Sorry to be so dense, but I’m a little confused. Who meant to use who has hostages?

        Even if he was entitled to execute them then and there, I still say it would not have looked credible. It would look like he had it in for them, and had them executed on a trumped up charge- and that sort of suspicion did no leader any favours.

        The whole trial by Constable thing does not seem to have been regarded with suspicion and dislike.

      12. It is possible he intended to use Rivers and Grey as bargaining chips to bring Elizabeth and the remaining Woodvilles to the bargaining table, since he had supposedly received word that they planned to exclude Richard from government.

  23. This person whose username is Lady Winchester thought only two days ago that Shakespeare portrayed Richard in the character of the same name.When I answered that not Shakespeare misinterpreted history,but he was misinterpreted to serve power,the posterior establishment,that has its roots in the Tudor age,she_or he_didn’t seem to have taken a look at my stuff to understand what I mean,she rather started this new discussion insulting us,Ricardians,calling us fanatical,hypocritical and similar things,which are all true about the Tudor-admirers,simply because they are by the side of power.All this is about power and its propaganda machinery.Only people wanting to serve power could misinterpret the great playwright,because his oeuvre is anti-Tudor and actual historic conclusions can be drawn from the fact that Queen Elizabeth tolerated this.
    It is natural that some Ricardians-I am one of them-after so much frustration,sleepless nights become also biased.The injustice done to Richard irritates us.This is a sense of justice.Whoever calls it hypocrisy,does not know what the word means.
    I deal with all this on my website, which I changed.I took the animal rights issues to another website,the is exclusively about Richard and people treated as badly as he and his memory was.
    Among these ill-treated people are the ones who recognized the truth about Shakespeare.I mention them in my book,which is also reviewed and corrected.The corrected version will be free on Kindle Direct for a few days,anyone interested,might read it.I don’t claim to be right in every detail,I actually even refer to some aspects of the problem I am not completely sure,but I just want to give some ideas to intelligent people,like Matt as far as the general inferences are concerned.As far as Shakespeare is concerned,I have no doubt. And the fact that he was misinterpreted shows that sinister things were done to Richard s memory.To make people think that the grotesque parody of the calumnies of his enemies was meant to be his realistic portrayal,this was anything but an innocent error.

  24. The Richard iii Foundation advices me to spread the word that they are holding their annual conference.I post it here because his is a blog visited mostly by Ricardians.
    At the same time I called their attention to the fact that my Shakespeare book will be free on Kindle Direct for a few days starting September 1st.If any of you had happened to buy it before I unpublished it because of the multiple errors,now you can have the corrected version free.
    Shakespeare’s misinterpretation shows that whatever wrong Richard himself might have done,his enemies and their propagandists were,and keep on being,worse,much worse.And that’s the point

      1. That’s great,Matt.I think it’s a good idea to post these things here publicly,in case somebody who hasn’t known about it,might be interested.
        Sadly,I had a row with Joe Ann about 2 years ago..We were both to blame,i think.She was a bit rigid,and I thought that she didn’t want to represent the Ricardian cause seriously.Because of my bad situation I am a little hysterical about this subject,which affects me emotionally,so I overreacted.
        Still,I think that they can perfectly well look into the issues in connection with the misinterpreted Shakespeare.

  25. An informed and balanced read. I’ve found throughout my readings of Richard that people are either for or against him, there seems to be a very black or white view of the man. I appreciate the way you wrote about him and I think that is what is missing in most chronicles, portraying not in a saint-like light but presenting facts that show what he was actually like and how his actions were valid you could say? It was indeed a turmoil time and I think people find it easier to categorise him as a dark figure, a tyrant etc. I completely agree that there is some extreme Ricardians who you could say are overly biased in trying to prove that he did no wrong. And I genuinely think that when analysing this man it is crucial to take into consideration his achievements and his faults, to understand he was human. Sadly people tend to make a lot of assumptions before actually taking the time to read through evidence of what he has done throughout time. Keep fighting those myths! A great piece, I’m always happy to read posts like this. Also your books are on my to-read list!

    1. Thank you very much! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I am definitely a Ricardian but also a realist in that these were all real people who had hopes, dreams, fears and losses just like we do today. Few people are entirely good or entirely evil – that’s a bit of a Hollywood construct. I hope you enjoy the books.

  26. Thank you, Matt. I only just came across this post. Very much looking forward to your new book on the princes.

  27. Hi Matt,

    While I certainly believe that Richard had the capacity to be, what we would consider cruel, I do think that his activities fit with the culture, era, and with Edward IV’s instructions. Thus he was not a saint but he was also not a tyrant (although the more I read the more I think Edward may have had a cruel streak). Richard does not appear to have acted aggressively out of a desire to or with pleasure of watching someone suffer. Any execution appears to have been in keeping with tradition and the prescribed method for the crime.

    I am not certain that Richard would have personally carried out the execution of Henry VI, especially in such a gruesome manner as is suggested. To me it seems if he carried it out it would have been as little messy and as efficiently as possible. Bashing someone’s head in is not efficient and it is certainly messy. No doubt he would have carried out Edward’s orders but more likely this may have been retainers who botched it. I also think that since Henry was an anointed king Richard would have questioned Edward, at least in private, about it. At the very least he would have wondered how their actions would impact their afterlife.

    I also wonder if his scoliosis played a large part in his interest towards justice and more of an equity in a time where strict adherence to status was expected by all. Having grown up with a major chronic illness marked me as “different” from other kids, plus I physically looked different (I also have a form of proportionate dwarfism and a congenital spinal condition), and I was very shy. My illness requires multiple injections and blood tests each day thus I was teased about being a “drug addict” and even today suspicion about my illness can cause suspicion since the supplies I carry can also be used by addicts.

    Even with that said, I actually feel more empathy towards people and especially those with disabilities of all types and strive towards treating others with as much respect and dignity as possible. Perhaps Richard starting in his youth when his scoliosis developed could relate to those considered “others” more than the average person? After all we never know what the person next to us may be battling in private.

  28. Great post, I am here in 2022 and will be in 2023. Forget all the irrational posters whingeing about your balanced Ricardian views – the objective Richard biographers/article writers who believe he murdered the princes have mentioned his talent for administration and his reputation as a just administrator.Contemporary reports of Richard Duke of Gloucester paint a picture of a sober, trustworthy, straight arrow of a man.
    A man in fact who should have been on the throne instead of his indulgent brothe Edward IV whose lack of judgement ultimately led to the the ascent of the unpleasant Henry Tudor who showed his true character by pre-dating his reign to before Bosworth in an attempt to seize the land and property of those who were fighting for their lawful king Richard III.
    As for John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester, Edward IV`s previous good relationship with Irish nobles was based on acknowledgement of the support in Ireland for his Yorkist father Richard. Unfortunately the chain of command in relation to the administration of Irish affairs was an example of how individuals fail to exercise wise judgement with the result that Tiptoft was allowed to perpetrate outrages agains the Earl of Desmond and others.
    Negligence from those above and most likely some kind of corruption among those officials stationed in Ireland facilitated those outrages – calling them an example of Yorkist policy under Edward and Richard is simply refusal to view factrs in context.

I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

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