Books

Richard III: a bad man — and even worse king

David Horspool’s biography provides a devastating indictment of the tyrannical murderer who lost his throne, his life and his dynasty

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

5 December 2015

9:00 AM

Richard III: A Ruler and His Reputation David Horspool

Bloomsbury, pp.336, £20, ISBN: 9781472902993

When archaeologists unearthed the battered mortal remains of King Richard III beneath a council car park in Leicester in 2012, they not only made the historical find of the century (so far) but unleashed a veritable frenzy of media attention on a ruler already the most notorious in English history.

A stream of books, articles (both scholarly and popular), documentary films and newspaper opinion pieces poured forth, and Richard’s troubled life and times became front-page news until his bones were once more laid to rest earlier this year.

David Horspool, a qualified medieval historian (he is history editor of the TLS and a contributor to this Spectator space), sensibly waited until the hysteria had abated before contributing this careful analysis of Richard, his reign and his reputation. It was well worth waiting for since, coming from such an impeccably objective source, its conclusions are all the more damning.


Horspool declares at the outset that he is not going to pronounce on the question that everyone wants to know about Richard: was he or was he not responsible for the terminal disappearance of his nephews, the ‘Princes in the Tower’? But this is clearly a matter of humouring his acknowledged helpers in the Richard III Society, since by the end of his book there can be little doubt that Horspool sides with almost all serious historians who have looked into the matter: Richard was not only a child killer, a tyrant, and a mass murderer of his rivals, but a thoroughly bad king into the bargain.

Horspool says specifically that though there is no smoking gun, there is at least a ‘strong likelihood’ that ‘on seizing power he had caused his two young nephews to be killed’. Moreover, he lost his throne after just two years as

his record of failure cannot be overturned… he was a bad king. His actions led not only to his own destruction, but that of his dynasty. Can there be a blacker mark against a medieval king’s name than that?

Horspool adds elsewhere that Richard is also accused of murdering Henry VI in the Tower; that he openly butchered his brother’s friend William Lord Hastings in the same place; that he publicly branded his own brother Edward IV a bigamist; his mother an adulteress; and the nephew he was about to slaughter ‘Edward Bastard’. Nice guy.

In the brouhaha following his exhumation, it was often said that the find would change the way we viewed Richard. Apart from establishing that the king enjoyed a diet rich in fish in the last years of his life, the most significant finding was to prove Shakespeare and the much derided ‘Tudor propagandists’ right when they said the king suffered a deformed spine, and the Ricardian apologists who had always denied it wrong. The usurper’s spine was very clearly twisted by scoliosis.

Though courteous, Horspool is scornful of the Ricardians, and rightly so. When one comes to think of it, who, beyond sentimentalists, addlepates, eccentrics and fanatics, would form a Richard III Society to defend such an obvious villain? It seems as bizarre as subscribing to an Ian Brady appreciation society or a Peter Sutcliffe fan club.

In keeping with his mission to turn the spotlight away from Richard’s lurid crimes (though he cannot conceal his horror at the king’s cold-blooded butchery of Hastings), most of Horspool’s book deals with the dry minutiae of his rise and reign: feudal loyalties, lawsuits, regional affinities and the like. He is curiously uninterested in the Wars of the Roses themselves, which saw Richard’s family virtually wiped out, and go some way to explain — though not excuse — his psychopathic behaviour. It cannot be said, therefore, that this dense text is an easy read. But for serious students of Richard, precisely because of its excessive fairness to the wretched man, it is a devastating indictment.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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Show comments
  • Carol Fellingham

    ‘All serious historians’? Are they the ones who believe Thomas More’s account is ‘history’ – and even cherry-pick what they want from that? Rather than going back to the contemporary sources? Anyone who wants a less sensationalist account of Richard III would do well to try Annette Carson’s ‘The Maligned King’.

    • The_greyhound

      There are, in addition to Carson’s work, a wide variety of other lady historical novelists equally anxious to vindicate the twisted little monster’s reputation.

      • Carol Fellingham

        You do yourself little credit with your misogynistic comments here and below, Greyhound. I think perhaps you should consider doing some research into the subject of Richard III’s reputation before you suggest that only women and novelists have raised concerns. Once the Tudor dynasty had itself petered out owing to lack of direct heirs, questioning of their blackening of Richard III’s reputation began almost immediately with the publications of Sir George Buck and William Winstanley in the seventeenth century, followed later by Horace Walpole and Clements Markham among others. If you can’t bring yourself to consider the meticulous work of a female writer researching contemporary documents, perhaps you would prefer a man’s dissection of the development of Richard III’s reputation in ‘Good King Richard?’ by Jeremy Potter.

        • The_greyhound

          I merely point out that lady novelists are heavy on emotional response, and light on objectivity. You may not like the fact the professional historians have never been persuaded by the romantic fiction that surrounds the usurper, but it remains the case. If it is misogynistic to point out the self-indulgent silliness of a lot of vapid swooning over a serial kller, misogyny it will have to be. The Krays and Raoul Moat attracted similar enthusiasts. Richard was of largely continental ancestry. Perhaps in your desperation you might hazard an accusation of racism too?

          To take one specific : there was no Tudor propaganda about Richard III. He mattered to no one. An ephemeral tyrant at the end of a long period of instability. Richard bequeathed nothing to the country, no positive achievements, no heir, no party. He was supplanted by a ruler among the greatest England had. The Tudors had nothing to be concerned about with Richard : by the time More wrote, Henry VIII was on the throne – Edward IV’s legitimate heir, for all that mattered. Sixteenth century writers, like most fifteenth century writers, simply took an unsympathetic view of a man universally, and correctly execrated.

          The foolish speculations of seventeenth and eighteenth century antiquarians are not historical evidence. Nor are the views of Josephine Tey. It’s all just a silly hobbyhorse, with overtones of conspiracy theory, and a tinfoil hat crushed under that wimple.

          • Lawrence James.

            Exactly.Mediaeval scholars, including the late Bruce Macfarlane and Professor Charles Ross joined forces with others who studied the sources and agreed that the hostile picture of Richard was correct. Ricardian nit-picking and mushy romanticising have added little to our knowledge, although it may for some odd reason satisfy some perverse urge of the King’s latter day champions. I suspect some may believe that Bacon wrote Shakespeare.

        • Lawrence James.

          If your dog is unwell you take it to a vet in the knowledge that he or she has studied his subject for five years and has the professional knowledge to diagnose its sickness and cure it. If you want to understand what happened in history and why you should go to a historian for the same reason. You’ll get short commons and much guesswork from a collection of quirky antiquaries and amateurs with an axe to grind. In terms of academic firepower, the pro Ricardians have the weight of an air pistol, their opponents that of a Biig Bertha.

          • Carol Fellingham

            Lol – I’ve just seen your comment! What a bizarre analogy. A vet’s professional training is based on decades, probably centuries of empiricism. History on the other hand can only ever be interpretation – often of another historian’s own interpretation – of events perhaps recorded by others, maybe long before the historian’s own birth. That recording and those interpretations each has its own agenda, no matter how ‘professional’ or how well ‘trained’ a historian may be. More himself was trained in the classics and rhetoric, and to many, the latter describes his writing about Richard III rather than any claim to its being ‘history’. He certainly had an agenda! Clearly my interpretation will never coincide with yours or ‘Greyhound”s, but I prefer to base mine on an evaluation of the early sources and the agendas they had.

          • Lawrence James.

            Of course history is based upon interpretation, but some is more rational than others and rests on accumulated scholarship. More had contemporary sources, including no doubt hearsay, and was engaging in a literary exercise, but much of what he wrote coincides with contemporary sources such as Dominic Mancini. He had no axe to grind beyond satisfying the curiosity of contemporaries in Italy. Enough was written about Richard in his lifetime to substantiate subsequent accounts.I still find something disturbingly perverse about the efforts to present Richard III as a model king in the face of judgements made in his lifetime and by subsequent mediaevalists. Perhaps the Richard III should establish colonies: ‘The Judge Jeffreys Society’, ‘The Titus Oates Society’, ‘The General Dyer Society’ and so on.

          • Carol Fellingham

            It seems to me disingenuous at best to suggest that Mancini ‘had no axe to grind’ when you consider his employer and the continental politics of the day. Just what ‘contemporary sources’ More had access to beyond hearsay, beyond of course the obviously biassed Morton, must also be open to some question, especially given the apparent wholesale destruction of documents by Vergil that didn’t support his thesis when writing his ‘official history’. And, really, how much credence should one give to ‘sources’ that claim a baby gestated for two years and was born with hair to its shoulders? I find it perverse that contemporary writings in any way favourable to Richard III are dismissed by traditional historians as sycophancy while any questioning of the agendas of those writing against him (at the time or later) is dismissed as irrational. That accumulation of scholarship you mention is a continuously reinforcing cycle of tradition based on very dubious foundations. Sadly there is relatively little evidence on which to base interpretation of the period – personally, I applaud those who return to look at what there is with a fresh eye in order to bring some balance into the debate.

          • Lawrence James.

            You can’t have it two ways: pro-Richard contemporary ( ie alive between 1483 and 1485 ) authors were ‘sycophants’ insofar as they supported a King who dealt violently with dissent and by the same token post-1485 historians were Tudor propagandists. A few unquestionable facts remain, most important of which was the sheer illegality of Richard’s actions in deposing Edward V and seizing his brother’s estates.The late-medieval landed classes were acutely aware of the law of property and a substantial body of them studied at the Inns of Court,.Killer fact one: here was a king who believed he was above the law, as had Richard II. That’s why the Pastons and many like them refused to fight for Richard in August 1485.

            There’s is something to be said for the ‘accumulation of scholarship’: without it we would have nutcases declaring that Napoleon won Waterloo and Dreyfus was guilty. As for the long overdue and hirsute baby Richard, this sort of nonsense was credible at time, Think of all those ‘miracles’ such as the liquifying blood of Christ at Hailes abbey and sudden appearances of the Virgin behind hedgerows or behind altars. People believed in such things and More was a devout and unswerving Catholic.

  • Patricia Rice-Jones

    Shame on The Richard III Society for backing this auther ( I will not refer to this person as an Hisorian, let alone, a serious and unbiased one). The sources used obviously come from the fictitious work of Shakespear and the now discredited ‘history; of Thomas More. If correct research had been ubdertaken, using contemporary sources, the author would have discovered:-

    1. The marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, was declared bigamous under Church Law, and therefore the children of that union were indeed bastards, the chief witness to this was the eminent Robert Stilington, Bishop of Bath and Wells . 2) This led Parliament to dismiss any claim to the throne by thiss issue, as was constitutionally the custom. 3) Curch, State and the Commons (the Three Estates of the Realm) then freely offered the crown to Richard – he was therefor an elected King, not a usurper 4) I will waste no effort in refuting the so-called murders, they have all been fully explored by eminent historians, experts in the medieval period, and experts in the constitutional legalities of the period, and Richard has duly been cleared on all counts. 5) Richard’s only Parliament is famous for his enlightened laws, ensuring justice for the common man, the right of appeal and the right to bail pending legal trial in the courts – so not a bad King, but an enlightened one.

    What a pity neither the author of the book nor the author of this review have attempted to write with professional integrity, due research and unbiased views

    • The_greyhound

      You really should leave the bodice rippers alone, and get on with your housework.

    • Lawrence James.

      Pure balderdash !. No case was brought before the church courts, Stillington’s gossip was not evidence, for it was never presented and examined by chuirch lawyers. Parliament – the House of Lords I assume – never heard the case which was beyond its jurisdiction. Richard filled Londoin with troops, murdered his opponents and asked a crowd of London to offer him the crown. He took – a very English coup. I suggest you read Horsfall’s book

      • Patricia Rice-Jones

        LOl Horspool is the laughing stock of the acadmeic world, his book is the last thing I would read. Suggest you turn your attention to Annette Carson, The Maigned King and Richard III as Protector and Defender of the Realm, which looks at the constitutional legalities involved in dealing with Stillington’s revelation and the role of the church and parliament in the issue

        • Lawrence James.

          Are professors splitting their sides after reading Horsfall’s book ? Does their laughter echo across the campuses ? Some evidence for this would be welcome. Incidentally, what are Ms Carson’s qualifications as a medievalist ? Where did she study, under whom and what level ?

      • Yavver

        Good on yer Mr James! May be you will save some young minds from the idiocy of ‘ricardianism’.

        • Lawrence James.

          Thank you, sir. I hope that I have: I endeavoured to saw when I taught and in what I have written.

  • Dave Smith

    “Horspool declares at the outset that he is not going to pronounce on the question that everyone wants to know about Richard: was he or was he not responsible for the terminal disappearance of his nephews, the ‘Princes in the Tower’ ” Is this because he, like the rest of the English historians, haven’t got a clue ? I’ll help him out here ..no one killed them because they were very much alive in the next century. The evidences are now there to be found if they care to look for them but these supposedly learned people baulk at the thought that Richard III is not the evil monster they have painted him. I have no intention of reading this same Tudor propaganda once again but from the synopsis here it is tosh from beginning to end .

    • The_greyhound

      Please supply references for the sons of Edward IV being alive in the sixteenth century.

    • Lawrence James.

      They do have a clue and the intellectual rigour to dismiss the nonsense propagated by the Richard III Society.

  • Verity Pendelton

    Even if he was as bad as they say, he lost his throne to the tudors and that lead to King Henry VIII, the most notorious and bad king that was ever to sit on the throne. His only good point was the reign of his daughter, and that was brought about by immeasurable violence….

    • The_greyhound

      “immeasurable violence”

      No it wasn’t.

      The reign of Henry VIII was generally peaceful, he died in his bed, and was succeeded by his legitimate heir.

      • Verity Pendelton

        During the reign of Henry VIII , over 70K people lost their lives – many at his command. He bankrupted the country with this wars with France and looted the church for it’s treasures. He mistreated all of his wives and murdered two of them. I don’t know what books you are reading….

        • The_greyhound

          Certainly not the bodice rippers you depend on.

          Early modern Europe was a rough place. Henry VIII ruled with the consent of the nation – he had no standing army. Despite huge changes, there was no
          recurrence of civil war that had dominated the second half of the fifteenth century. The English Church was liberated from foreign control, and the Henrician Government established the foundations of a modern sovereign state. He did not bankrupt the country (where did you get that tosh from?) he merely emptied the royal treasury.

          What he did with his wives is neither here nor there. By sixteenth century
          standards he was scrupulous. He wasn’t, like Francis I, an habitual womaniser. He married his women, and observed legal form in ridding himself of them. One of his key responsibilities as king was to perpetuate the dynasty. He did what he had to. And he had no responsibility to respect petit bourgeois or feminist susceptibilities of the twenty first century.

          • Nan

            Observed legal form in ridding himself of his wives? Right, naming himself head of a newly created church, thereby putting himself in position to decide whether he could annul his marriages, killing those who won’t swear fealty to him in that position, stealing treasures and property from the Catholic Church because he emptied the national coffers, martrying many, including St Thomas More and that’s scrupulous? He was an evil, evil, man whose only thought was who to sleep with.

          • The_greyhound

            According to contemporary political theory, The King’s actions were legal, and of course were sanctioned by Parliament. More himself, though he came to disagree wholly with the King, was extremely reluctant to suggest that the King was out of order.

            Value judgements about his personal life are irrelevant. His motives in his disastrous matrimonial career are straightforward. He fell in love readily, and wished to marry the lady. He also needed a male heir, because the country needed one. If he merely wanted to sleep with someone, he could at any time he wanted : no need for a marriage service. In fact he was relatively restrained in that department – there was nothing of the blatant immorality of contemporary French or Italian courts in his own conduct.

            You cannot understand the past if you cannot stand aside from your own
            prejudices and cultural values. You may chose to dislike the man – but you must recognise that his world was not bound by the petty constraints of twenty first century political correctness.

          • Verity Pendelton

            I know many people like to romanticize Henry VIII, but he was a vicious, crazy mad man. He eliminated everyone with a claim to the throne, including the Countess of Salisbury who was beheaded at 70 years old. Why? Because her son was beyond his reach. I think it is very telling that NONE of his children followed through with the grand tomb he had planned. The tomb eventually was used for the duke of Wellington. Not sure what books you read, but maybe watching the Tudors is where you are getting your history from at this point. His father, very frugal, left him with a huge treasury that he squandered. He had to pillage the church to fill his coffers.

          • Lawrence James.

            Money shortages: same for the tombs of Henry VI and Edward IV.

        • Lawrence James.

          Seventy thousand out of a population of circa 2.3-2.5 million. Strange that no one had noticed this demographic glitch. If this another Ricardian straw, if so its new to me and to history.

          • Verity Pendelton

            It depends on which accounts you read. But even the website for Hampton Court states that the estimates have gone as high as 72K.

          • Lawrence James.

            Tourist attraction websites are not the most reliable of sources. Such a figure might be contrived if one includes plague deaths, which were not, I imagine, the result of decisions taken by Henry VIII ?

    • Lawrence James.

      No: she ascended the throne peacefully: the violence of her resign was the upshot of the Pope’s declaration that all Catholics should dethrone her. Rome’s efforts to create a civil war in England led to rebellion in 1570 and sundry attempts by Catholic fanatics to assassinate her. Mercifully, she survived and their plots were uncovered and the terrorists executed.

      • Callipygian

        I didn’t bother myself with Verity. I couldn’t decided whether she was under 10 or over 90. Either way, the comment did not seem ‘all there’.

      • Verity Pendelton

        No, she didn’t – there were heretics burned under her brother and her sister. Plus, her father was responsible for over 70K people being executed during his reign. In the end, Mary Queen of Scots was right, she was Elizabeth’s rightful heir, as her son, James, ascended the throne when Elizabeth died.

  • john cooks

    I wonder what Richard’s legacy would be if he had triumphed at Bosworth. Whatever else you can say for him, he was the last British monarch brave enough to lead his troops into battle

    • Sean Lang

      No he wasn’t. Henry VIII; James IV (since you said British); James V; Charles I; James II; William III; George II.

      • J Larner

        Henry VIII? He didn’t die in Battle

        • Sean Lang

          The original point was about leading men into battle.

          • J Larner

            The comment has been deleted, but it had moved on by then!

    • 9sqn

      No, he was the last British monarch to die in battle.

      • J Larner

        He was the last ENGLISH monarch to die in battle! Incidentally he was the most ‘English’ king we have had since Harold died at Hastings (the previous English king to die in battle), because he is the only one to be born in England and whose parents and all his grandparents were also born in England. George will be the next one, I believe (if his mum’s parents were born here, as I assume)

      • Lawrence James.

        A battle in which the aristocracy ( which the exception of his henchmen the Howards ) and the gentry were either malevolent neutrals or adversaries; the common levies were not enthusiastic. A judgement of the nation ?

  • Morgan

    FINALLY someone says the same things I’ve been saying for years. Richard was truly one of the worst men to ever sit the English throne IMO.

    • J Larner

      What is your evidence for your opinion, or is it just from reading Shakespeare?

  • Michael Reid

    What a waste of 17 pound’s , another pathetic “wanna be ” historian trying to make a name for himself by using Shakespeare and More as sources.

    • Lawrence James.

      I added my approval mistakenly.Dealing with Ricardian fantasists can fuddle the mind.

      • The_greyhound

        If you click again, your approval disappears.

  • İmmanuel

    Evil and worse king,David Horspool you never deserve this beautiful name.Prince William’s real dad is Prince Edward,Prince Henry’s real dad is James Hewitt and they kill Diana.House of Windsor (if you look Mona lisa carefully) has jewish root.They don’t belong England.Who evil who worse.LİAR SLAVE,now tell us…

    • DavidL

      Nurse! The screens……

  • Mary Ann

    Henry VII won the war and the Tudors wrote the history.

    • Terri Rahner

      This article is bollox….Tried in an English court…. found to be innocent. https://youtu.be/6-kQoKt2Kf4

      • 9sqn

        Would these be the same judges who last week granted the wife and two adult sons of ‘Hanny Mustaphawhatever’ , the ‘British’ Islamist and follower of Al-Qaeda, British citizenship, perchance.

    • The_greyhound

      And Henry VII reigned successfully and constructively. He ended the civil conflicts that had plagued the country, founded a dynasty, and left England a safer and more prosperous place. Undoubtedly one of our greatest kings.

      • J Larner

        Founded a tyrannous dynasty and left himself more prosperous (and safer because he was so paranoid he introduced the Beefeaters as bodyguards), you mean! And he didn’t actually end the civil conflicts – there were several after he became king. Who knows whether Richard would have left England peaceful if he had defeated the usurper? Shame he didn’t get the chance

        • Lawrence James.

          Thank heavens he was killed. Had he reigned, his previous actions suggest a drift towards absolutism.

    • Lawrence James.

      A gross simplification: Henry won the battle which contemporaries would have seen as indication of Divine providence.Henry was de facto and de jure king and his title was confirmed by the Lords and Commons. His rights was unquestonable and there was no need to denigrate his predecessor: read some Tudor propaganda and you’ll see that its emphasis was on the legitimacy of the Lancastrian line and its union with the Yorkists. Unity of dynasty and nation was the theme which was displayed in state pageantry and heraldry.

  • Vicki Troupe

    I do believe that Richard contributed to the death of the York princes however he had nothing to gain by their death and I will never be convinced of it. He was never tried nor convicted when Henry the VII took over as king. Richard lost his son and would of rather had a son of York on the throne the a Tudor. the The Tudors had everything to gain by the death of the princes

    • Dominic Stockford

      It may well be that others did it ‘in his name’, a matter which would not have pleased him. There is an interesting moment when he left a meeting in high spirits, then came back somewhat later in a foul mood, and arrested and executed several at the meeting. No adequate explanation is given for this. Maybe they were those responsible?

      • J Larner

        Yes, this is the council meeting where Hastings was swiftly executed, but the princes were definitely still alive at that point. Richard was not yet king and they were seen alive well after he was crowned.

    • Tom M

      I’ve always thought that what wasn’t said about the Princes at the time as being most illuminating. They were in the care of Richard so you would have thought if something had happened to them by others he would have been jumping up and down to prove his innocence. But as far as I am aware there is nothing written of any tantrums by Richard turning the place upside down looking for miscreants.

      • J Larner

        Everyone is assuming the princes were killed but there is no evidence that this was so. There were rumours, but there were also rumours that they were still alive. If, for example, he had had them moved (to the North or to Burgundy, say), it would have been against his interest to reveal they were still alive by producing them. He may have not even heard the rumurs, or thought they were insignificant. He may have thought it best to ignore them if he knew they were wrong. He may have planned to bring them back after Henry was defeated and the realm was secure, but he never got the chance. Of course, this is all conjecture, but so is any idea of him murdering them. There is no proof either way.

        • Lawrence James.

          Richard was quick to deny rumours thatb he intended to marry his niece: oddly he did not deny those that he had killed his nephews, He could not for he would have had to produce them alive

          • Vicki Troupe

            Would anyone dare to accuse the king of England of murder while he was alive, I think not. Also one of the reasons he squashed the rumors of marriage to his niece was because he ruled the North which was Neville territory and he would of not dared to loose their support during those time

    • Lawrence James.

      He had everything to gain, for as long as they lived they were the rightful King and heir apparent since Richard’s stratagems had not invalidated their parents’ marriage.

      • Vicki Troupe

        Richard had already gained everything by disinheriting his nephews then making himself King. Plus when his own son died he most likely would of made Edward his heir. The Tudors had way more to gain by their death then Richard hands down.

        • Lawrence James.

          Not so: so long as he lived, Edward V was an alternative king, for the process of his ‘deposition’ had been illegal and based on nothing but Richard’s ‘terror’ in June 1483. Within months, some of the Kentish rebels – ex-Yorklsts – claimed that the lad was alive. They quickly changed their minds, aware that Richard had killed them. The insurgents turned to Henry Tudor.

  • J Larner

    “the most significant finding was to prove Shakespeare and the much
    ‘derided ‘Tudor propagandists’ right when they said the king suffered a
    deformed spine, and the Ricardian apologists who had always denied it
    wrong. The usurper’s spine was very clearly twisted by scoliosis.”

    This statement is actually completely incorrect. The Tudors/Shakespeare said he was a hunchback, meaning an abnormally forward bent spine (kyphosis is the proper term). Yes, he had a scoliosis, but this is NOT the same as a hunchback, the significant difference being that no one who met him would have known of it – he would have had one shoulder slightly higher than the other, that’s all. I am tired of people who know nothing about the spine saying “Oh, the Tudors were right, he did have a hunchback!” – No, he didn’t! As an osteopath I am an expert in this so please accept the point. The scoliosis would only have become known of after his death when he was stripped and placed bent forwards over the back of a horse. In this position and unclothed, the scoliosis is exaggerated and one shoulder blade would stick out more, giving this FALSE impression. The Tudors used this to help blacken his name, exaggerating the deformity and equating it to mental deformity and evil (today we should know better than to do this, so even if he HAD had a hunchback it doesn’t mean he was evil!)

    Secondly, I would like to point out that he showed NO ‘psychopathic behaviour,’ as shown by a psychological analysis by independent psychiatric experts. Henry VIII by contrast showed many psychopathic tendencies and murdered thousands of people, yet he is known best for his six wives – ‘Oh, he was a bit of a lad, wasn’t he?!’ Well, I know which king’s rule I would rather have lived under (and it ain’t Henry!)

    ALL the controversial aspects of Richard’s reign can be explained in tow polar opposite ways. He wasn’t perfect, but he definitely wasn’t the worst of the mediaeval kings.

    • Dominic Stockford

      I think your summation is right. In many things he did he was relatively enlightened, bringing in reforms which benefited the ‘common man’. He was also brutal and decisive in the way he claimed and then clung on to power.

      • J Larner

        He was certainly no worse than many others as regards brutality – better imo!

    • Tom M

      Well for the correct definition I wouldn’t argue with an osteopath. I would point out though that not many commentators of the day would be able to make the fine distinction between scoliosis and a hunchback. That it was evident when he was put over a horse I accept but that doesn’t mean that people who knew him intimately weren’t aware of some deformity or other and word would get round. And if it did get round it would be reasonable I think to refer to him having a hunchback.
      For your second point I agree. To measure his avtivities against what we consider civilised behaviour instead of placing them in comparison with his peers is unfair. I imagine he didn’t do much more than the others of the epoch.

      • J Larner

        Thank you Tom. Your premise is logical, however there were NO examples of him having been called a hunchback during his lifetime as far as I know, only after his death.
        As regards your second point, he actually did a lot more good than his peers (especially as regards justice, trade, the common weal and education – everyone forgets the good things he did) in only two years! And many of us feel he was actually not ruthless enough – he should have silenced Stanley and Margaret Beaufort as well as Bishop Morton and he would have been king for longer, to England’s greater good. But he (and none of the Plantagenets AFAIK, certainly the more recent ones) never executed women or clerics (as opposed to that well-loved king Henry VIII). I don’t understand why Richard is vilified so much. Even if he did have the princes done away with, he wouldn’t have been the only king to kill a child, but having researched him deeply, the more I read the less I think he did it. Also, Henry VII imprisoned Richard’s other nephew, Edward of Warwick (George’s son), when he was only ten until he was twenty four and then executed him on trumped-up charges. Is that better? Richard had honoured and knighted Warwick and cared for him. Warwick also had a claim to the throne. Although his father had been attainted, this could have been reversed, so he was even more of a threat than the princes (who had been legally debarred from the throne as bastards). By the way, Richard was actually not a usurper – to usurp is to take the throne illegally or by force and he was petitioned to take the throne by the Three Estates and this confirmed by Parliament. Henry was the true usurper.

        • Mary Ann

          Henry’s problem was he wanted to marry Elizabeth of York and he needed to have her declared legitimate. To do so would also legitimise Edward V and Richard, there wasn’t any reason to kill the Princes in the tower before Henry decided to marry Elizabeth, with her legitimised and her brothers dead his children would at least have a valid claim.

          • J Larner

            Agreed, Mary Ann!

          • The_greyhound

            Elizabeth of York was legitimate. She didn’t need legitimizing. The fevered imaginings of Richard III’s diseased mind no longer mattered after Richard was dead, and Henry VII did not rule jure uxoris.

          • Carol Fellingham

            Elizabeth of York was declared illegitimate by Parliament in 1484’s Titulus regius – the only English statute that was repealed (by Henry VII) without being re-read publicly. He also attempted to destroy every copy – failing in the case of only one – which is how we know today that Parliament legally declared Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville bigamous and their children illegitimate – i.e. it wasn’t ‘Richard III’s diseased mind’ as you suggest. So clearly she did need ‘legitimizing’.

          • The_greyhound

            The “Parliament” summoned by a usurper, was, ipso facto, unable to enact any statute.

            Elizabeth of York was legitimate, from birth until the day she died.

          • Lawrence James.

            Only the church courts could nullify Edward IV’s marriage and, by so doing, bastardise his offspring. There is a copy of the Titulus in the National Archives. Another Ricardian conspiracy theory bites the dust.

          • Lawrence James.

            Obviously you know nothing whatsoever about the canon law on incest as it was in 1483 is probably today.

        • Lawrence James.

          The three estates ? A crowd of Londoners corralled by Richard’s henchmen, whipped up by tame clerics – that is a long way from the proceedings of Parliament which unseated Richard II and Edward II – precedents mattered in the Middle Ages

    • The_greyhound

      Actually Richard III was a thorough rotter, and useless with it.

      You chose to overlook his chaotic inability to lead. By 1485 almost the entire Yorkist “party” that had sustained Edward IV had gone over to the Earl of Richmond. The usurper lost at Bosworth Field by his gift for alienating his own side, as much as by being outfought. Even Edward II and Richard II weren’t as useless. As mediaeval kings went, Richard III ticked none of the boxes.

      There was no Tudor or Shakespearean attempt to denigrate Richard. Why would there be? He was a usurper, who left no heir, no party, and apart from Margaret of Burgundy, no one to care that he was gone. Henry VIII, as the grandson of Edward IV, was the legitimate Yorkist king as much as Lancastrian. In the sixteenth century King Crookback was accurately remembered as a tyrant and murderer, if he was remembered at all.

      The sentimentalization of this unpleasant thug, like his “northern-ness”, is the product of the overheated imaginations of some lady novelists – the same phenomenon that causes women of a certain age to write lewd letters to men serving life sentences for brutal crimes.

      • Patricia Rice-Jones

        Your humanity shines, what a wonderful role model you must be – ” so what he was deformed” speaks volumes, my goodness what planet are you on, for that comment alone you should be ashamed, my advice steer clear of history and try to study humanity instead

      • J Larner

        ‘You chose to overlook his chaotic inability to lead’. Well he was courageous enough to lead his army against the Tudor, and where was he? I haven’t ever heard of his prowess as a battle leader – skulking at the back wasn’t he? Unfortunately it wasn’t the ‘usurper’ who lost at Bosworth Field but the rightful king, betrayed by self-interested cowards.
        And as for there being no Tudor or Shakespearean attempt to denigrate him – there is evidence in the doctored portraits of him.

        You show your ignorance by resorting to sexist, ageist name-calling.

      • prioress

        His disability was not enough to prevent him being put in command of a wing by Edward IV at Barnet and Tewkesbury – though still a teenager – and put in charge of the 1482 Scottish campaign which recaptured Berwick. He also managed to sire two, possibly three, natural offspring. Henry Tudor relied on Oxford, Rhys ap Thomas, and William Stanley to do his fighting for him ; and even though he owed so much to the latter, Henry later beheaded him because he refused to fight against Perkin Warbeck in case he was really Edward IV’s son – which meant William Stanley certainly wasn’t sure the princes were dead . .

    • Lawrence James.

      Henry VIII did not murder thousands: his victims were tried for treason ( of which many such as the northern rebels of 1536 were certainly guilty ). Contemporary legal procedures may be shocking to us, but Henry stuck by them. Unlike Richard who just went ahead and killed anyone who stood in his way such as his nephews. An odious brute and a bad king.

      • Morrigan

        If you wanted to say, Henry VIII. was better because he committed judicial murders, not just plain murders…that I have to tell, they both committed judicial murders. If I don’t count these two kids. But, let’s face it. To murder two kids is very tame if you pay a closer look to history in general. Besides, both of them were well within their rights. What they have done wasn’t seen as horrible crime in these times…well, as long as you were king, of course. These discussions are quite pointless if you looked at them from medieval point of view, not modern one. Historians should never, ever judge history from modern point of view.

        Well, you know…most of these tried for treason really commited it, in general. Or were about commiting it. To be politician is dangerous, a lot of rivals and competition. It’s natural.

        • Lawrence James.

          Indeed one cannot judge the past by our standards. Nonetheless, Richard’s crimes were vilified by comtemporaries: he had stepped far beyond the moral boundaries of his time.

  • Callipygian

    already the most notorious in English history
    My first thought was: ‘only because we know more about him than some of the other bad kings’. My second thought was: William the Conqueror is remembered fondly? Henry the Eighth was a dear and a model of self-restraint? When it comes to bad kingship and murderous instincts, Team England is hard to beat.

    • Mary Ann

      Today’s royals are not descended from him, You have to go back to Edward III for a common ancestor.

      • Callipygian

        I meant that they didn’t want any part of his ceremonial re-burial. They treated it as an event that was not their concern.

        • Mary Ann

          I must admit I was a bit surprised.

          • Callipygian

            You mean you thought they’d show an interest?

          • prioress

            Even we republicans noticed that Sophie of Wessex represented the Queen at the reinterment . .

          • Callipygian

            Did she indeed? But I would have known about it if it had been the Duchess : )

        • Lawrence James.

          Quite right. The ceremony was stage-managed in a tasteless and undignified manner by Ricardians: pseudo knights in armour on horseback ae no substitute for the Household Cavalry.

          • Callipygian

            Indeed. The Ricardians are ridiculous, and that’s my last offer : )

          • Carol Fellingham

            Would that the ceremony had been ‘stage-managed’ by Ricardians! In fact it was almost entirely organized by the diocese of Leicester, which was resistant to most of the suggestions made by Ricardians. You may be interested to know that the Looking for Richard team, who commissioned the dig, in their contract with the Uni of Leicester Archaeology Service specified a private ceremony – which would no doubt have suited the Richard-haters better by ensuring no ‘fuss’ was made at all about the man they see as a child-murdering usurping tyrant! But it wouldn’t have suited the economic/touristic ambitions of the Leicester authorities…

      • The_greyhound

        No. Richard III and Elizabeth II share more recent common ancestors, namely Richard III’s parents, Richard of York and Cicely Neville.

        • John_Twiss

          Also Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville, whose daughter Elizabeth married Henry VII …..

          • The_greyhound

            Yes, but Richard III was Edward IV’s brother, not his son. So surely the latest common ancestor of Richard III and the present queen would be the parents of Edward and Richard?

          • John_Twiss

            My response was not to deny the shared ancestry, but in fact to demonstrate why the current Royal dynasty, descended from Edward IV as they are might have good reason to distance themselves from Richard III

    • The_greyhound

      Bad kingship is more about weakness than bad character. Mediaeval England was governed by a strong central authority, one of the most centralised in Europe. If the monarch was forceful and ruled with the consent of the political nation, there was peace; if not, unrest and eventually civil war. A king had to be both feared, and willingly supported – by those tests Henry VIII was a success, even though the feminists may not altogether approve of his private life. Contrast the line of effective autocrats that England boasted with the short-lived evanescent kings of Scotland : the place was bloody (literally) chaos until union with England rescued it.

  • englishwhisky

    He is regarded rather fondly in the Channel Islands since he struck a bargain with the Islanders, after he had lost his French possessions in 1204, that they could keep their traditions and privileges in return for staying loyal to the British Crown instead of pledging allegiance to the French Crown.

    • AtMyDeskToday

      “after he had lost his French possessions in 1204”

      Err, Richard lived in the late 1400’s.

      • englishwhisky

        Silly me, I was thinking King John, who us also often labelled the worst ever. Excuse the mindslip.

        • Callipygian

          I think I would have preferred King John, by a hair. What a dismal lot the early kings were!

          • englishwhisky

            Unfortunately the modern Labour Party leadership looks set for similar internecine warfare!

          • Callipygian

            Great: I can’t stand Labour and will be happy to see them fall on each other’s swords!

          • John_Twiss

            Why is that unfortunate? They held sway for 15 years and impoverished the nation both financially and culturally, if they can be replaced with a party that can offer a real loyal opposition without the ridiculous whole sale destruction of the nation that Labour was responsible for one can only applaud their demise.

          • englishwhisky

            I agree with your sentiment absolutely, and am a supporter of the formation of social democrat opposition unhindered by trade union ties, but fear that the faultline lies in the ‘if’. If the ‘if’ cannot be overcome and the new SNP is still born, where will the opposition lie? SNP? UKIP? BNP? All are essentially one issue parties that will not provide effective opposition.

          • John_Twiss

            I have to admit that you are correct that the current raft seem to be one horse parties, but I have a perhaps forlorn hope that the ae more sensible members of the Labour party will again split as they have done previously and join forces with a reborn Liberal party, since there really does not seem to be anything else on the horizon.

          • englishwhisky

            The problem will be financing the split and winning votes under a new label, especially if the Unions back the other horse. And in many areas two rival ‘labour’ candidates would probably split the left vote and put UKIP in. Corbin has created many imponderables.

          • Lawrence James.

            Henry II a great lawmaker and dynamic ruler.

          • Callipygian

            Yes. Those were the days.

      • The_greyhound

        A bit surprising that a wee nat would miss the other howler – “British crown” in the thirteenth century!

        • AtMyDeskToday

          I’m certainly not surprised at your pathetic response. Some of us don’t dwell on these minor indiscretions. Time you got out more.

          • The_greyhound

            If you’re going to be peevish, I shan’t ask you if Phil Boswell is the next SNP MP to be thrown under a train by the ever-supportive sturgeon. Is it The 53 now?

          • AtMyDeskToday

            It’s difficult to take you seriously but here goes. You labour under a deluded self-belief that you contribute something useful to these blogs. Rather you are the worst kind of vulgar, coarse troll that laces every discussion with the same old invective. Greyhound? More like a mongrel when it comes to intellect. If you’re representative of the opposition it’s no great surprise that the SNP enjoy the commanding position in Scottish politics. Now take that right hand and get back to doing what you do best.

          • John_Twiss

            Insulting him, regardless of whether you feel justified exposes you to the same accusations you have hurled at him. You would do far better to ignore some one if you cannot respond without rancour.

          • The_greyhound

            You have a shrieking fit every time anyone pokes a little fun at your corrupt, dreary little party, or its obnoxious fanatics. You yourself never contribute anything, anywhere, not even your fair share of the taxes the bungling SNP so ineptly squanders.

            You are a coarse, vulgar, witless cybernat troll. You will recall that sturgeon said your sort had no place in her glorious nationalist socialist movement. Didn’t you get the memo?

            Now remove your right hand from your own, take your head, and boil it.

          • AtMyDeskToday

            LOL! Thanks for your kind words, sweetness. Not very original, but appreciated nevertheless. BTW… I must have a word with HMRC as I am clearly paying far too much tax. May I refer them to you for guidance?

          • The_greyhound

            I’m sorry, insensitive of me, when you’re having such a lousy time. MPs falling like ninepins, while the public ask why the yeSNP stopped maintaining key economic infrastructure like the Forth Road Bridge in order to paint the road signs up in Gaelic. No wonder Dreghorn Doris was so upset about the “Bridge Closed” notice – it was only in English.

            I will by all means approach HMRC on your behalf. No need for address and NI number. You will be practically the only nat paying any tax, so it won’t take them long to look you up.

          • AtMyDeskToday

            If nothing else you’ve reaffirmed everyone’s perception of you.

          • Lawrence James.

            Oh dear ! A Scotsman with a grievance . . . PG Wodehouse recognised the type.

          • AtMyDeskToday

            Ah yes, dear old PGW, who also said… “He had just about enough intelligence to open his mouth when he wanted to eat, but certainly no more.” I guess you’ve heard it said many times.

    • Patricia Rice-Jones

      I think you mean Richard I

  • The_greyhound

    Perhaps Richard III’s most unexpected achievement, albeit posthumous, was to become the fantasy object of a generation of menopausal women. Similar fixations on objects, equally implausible though for other reasons, are well known – Liberace for instance. The mere mention of this obscure and unsuccessful usurper’s name is bound to provoke a flash mob of overwrought ladies shrieking excitedly about fifteenth century canon law and sixteenth century historiography. As a phenomenon it’s far more interesting, unexpected, and entertaining than anything that could possibly be said about the man himself, a mere bloody footnote to the end of the most dismal period of English history.

    It’s the story of unrequited love between a modern middle-aged housewife and a (not very) deformed but alluringly virile aristocratic thug, possibly played by Aidan Turner, at least in the lady’s imagination. Only ladies of a certain age can possibly understand their enigmatic hero : no mere mediaevalist reading only the sources could possibly guess at the man’s heroic good looks, sexual prowess and romantic tenderness as displayed at 14, Acacia Avenue on most afternoons.

    It is of course all quite bonkers. The real man has nothing to do with the fantasy figure. The historical figure is remarkably unimportant. Apart from completing the cull of the Royal family and the upper echelons of the aristocracy that marked the fifteenth century, he had no lasting influence. He left no family, no party and no supporters. There was no Tudor propaganda about him, because he didn’t matter. If he was remembered at all, it was for his bloodthirstiness, considered monstrous, even in a very violent age. His rather ridiculous burial in a municipal car park (Leicester was, even then, a go ahead sort of place) was quite fitting. It seems a shame to have moved him at all.

    • kingkevin3

      Sums up most of the medieval kings and queens of England which was up until the 18th century a backwater.Some even claim it still is.

      • John_Twiss

        That backwater you have described managed to wage a war of 138 years against France on French territory, survived and directly or indirectly was the cause of Spain’s fatal bankruptcy, and began the accumulation of lands and territories that became the world’s most extensive empire….. you have an odd idea of what a backwater is.

    • Patricia Rice-Jones

      You sound like your are an expert on menopausel women, however you overlook the fact that Ricardian’s come in many guises and ages. I was 13 when I began seriously studying this king, nothing menopausel in it, just a desire to know more and improve my knowledge, can I suggest you try it? It’s amazing what you can learn when you read the original sources rather than the lazy repetitions of fiction

      • The_greyhound

        Thank you for the kind suggestion. Can I in turn suggest you engage brain, instead of indulging in absurd conspiracy theories and mooning over romantic fiction?

        The mere notion of a “Ricardian” is ridiculous. No one makes a hobby of Henry IV or Edward VI, much more important figures. But we seem to have our intelligence insulted with endless “vindications” of this vicious little thug, a man of no notable attainment, and no lasting influence. That, and not the man himself, requires explanation.

        An understanding of history depends on a strongly maintained objectivity; emotional, and certainly not hysterical, partisanship can have no part. Richard of Gloucester was feared, loathed and mistrusted by his contemporaries, murdered his way to the throne, and after a brief and unstable reign was overthrown. Little more need be said. His failure as a man, and as a ruler, was comprehensive, and stands in stark contrast to the remarkable achievement of his successor.

        Since there is nothing in the actual history of the fifteenth century to justify the Richard industry, inevitably one must suspect that explanation lies in the today. Perhaps there is something in the intelligence, patience, wit, humanity, and constructive energy of Henry VII that repels the sort of person who is attracted by random brutality, and Richard of Gloucester just happened to be their poster boy. On another day, the cranks might have been swooning over King John or James II, two more cruel, catastrophe-prone losers.

        By all means enjoy your daft hobby. But don’t expect anyone else to take you seriously.

        • alfred5

          Phillipa Langley is a ”Richard lll groupie” and just typical of a certain type of female mind at work ; she is in love with a romanticised view of History , like a silly teenager …..quite frankly , I can well understand why certain types of women were not allowed to vote until the 20th C …these types of female should never be allowed to serve on a jury or be in positions of gravitas because they lack judgement due to the fact that there is part of their minds that will never be older than 15

        • prioress

          *Coughs* Apart from his financial rapaciousness, would it be his humanity that induced Henry VII to lock up young Edward of Warwick – who had lived unmolested at court, then Sheriff Hutton, under Richard III – from the age of ten, then engineer to judicially murder him to smooth the way to a Spanish marriage for Arthur Prince of Wales ?

        • Morrigan

          That’s first time I have ever heared term conspiracy theory in regards to Richard III.:D I conect it rather with flat-out BS like Iluminati and aliens manipulating USA governmant.

          You all are acting like people making fandom-war. Basicly, you are arguing who have better imaginary friend.(and are giving history geeks bad name in the process)

          Frankly to say, Richard III was absolutly normal medieval politician. If you compare him with other European historical figures. These who tend to present him like villain or like a saint are falling for a myth which holds no watter. Both versions can be easyly prowen as unsubstantiated, if you do as much as compare various sources and keep time-line in mind. Besides, his successor has more blood on his hands than him. That’s a fact, no conspiracy theory or accusation. He had to, considering situation he was in. In fact, high number of corpses doesn’t make a bad king/politician. History shows us it’s rather the other way, very frequently. You know, all politicians commited and are commiting crimes. It’s not an option. It’s necessity.
          Besides, it’s ridiculous to say, someone was a failure of a king if they reigned just 2 years. They didn’t have an opportunity to show whether they are good kings or not. Losing battle or war is also hardly any indication of being good or bad king. Many great politicians died in battle and they were much greater and more influential than Henry or Richard.

          This is the simple truth of history: Kill one man, and you are a murderer. Kill millions of men, and you are a conqueror. Kill them all, and you are a god.

          I have to say, you people, aren’t acting as someones who know or like history, or like historians. You are all acting like fan girls and fan boys interested in fandom war. I would advice you to make LARP battle. And invite couple of lawers – in cause someone would smuggle real weapon in. No involved party would be above doing so.

      • Lawrence James.

        Wilful ignorance has many causes and faces.

  • RWJ

    Ollie Cromwell looks better and better.

  • Daidragon

    It was a glorious moment when Richard’s skeleton proved Shakespeare to have been closer to the truth than the Richard III society.

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