Why the Interest in King Richard III?

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Statue of King Richard III at Leicester during the week of his reinternment
I am about to write a post on King Richard’s re-internment in Leicester which occurred a year ago this week, but first I wanted to write a bit about my interest in the medieval monarch.

It was the discovery of King Richard’s remains in 2012 that truly began my interest in the last Plantagenet King.

I had always known of King Richard, that he was defeated by Henry VII at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485, launching the dawn of the Tudors. I never imagined the Plantagenet’s could be really as fascinating as the Tudors, but I was to be proven wrong!

It also helped that Aneurin Barnard’s portrayal of Richard in The White Queen (2013) was a sympathetic one, a version of Richard’s character not seen in film to date.

But is it history, or is it history written by the victor?

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Middleham Castle, Wensleydale. Richard spent much of his time as Duke of Gloucester based here
The stories that come down to us through the ages tell us that Richard plotted his way to become King, murdered some nobles, a King, his brother and nephews along the way.

He polished all of this off with a poisoning of his wife and a desire to marry his niece……..

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Richard’s family as depicted at the King Richard III Visitor Centre
and this sounded too outlandish and outrageous for me NOT to learn more about him, what if any of these accusations were true?

I know to most it seems completely bizarre to form a passionate interest in, and in some cases join a society dedicated to promoting research into the life and times of a King who reigned for just over 2 years and who died over 500 years ago, and I even struggle to explain it (my poor long suffering fiancé doesn’t get it 🙂

Here is is my best attempt to explain:

1) He lived an unbelievable life. A lot of the happenings of the late 15th century seem more unlikely than any tale in a book of fiction.

The times he lived in were fraught with war and political games, with Kings being overthrown and nobles rebelling. He was born into The Wars of the Roses, a brutal, dynastic battle for the throne for which his father was a large contributor, pursuing his own claim.

From a 7 year old whose town was invaded by a marauding army, to a 8 year old being sent overseas in exile with his 10 year old brother, Richard knew little stability. He saw his brother Edward (relatively) unexpectedly become King Edward IV which changed his life, he became a Duke and had played a lead role in two battles for the throne by the time he was 19. He managed the North on behalf of his brother, and brought Berwick back into English hands where it has remained ever since.

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White Roses of York and Richard’s symbol of the Boar
2) 1483. His brother Edward died unexpectedly, and left the Kingdom to his eldest son. Parliament declared both sons of Edward IV illegitimate and Richard was crowned as the next heir to the throne. The boys were never seen again. How this came about and what is the truth behind the boys disappearance?

3) He seemed to be a good Lord and King. There are examples of him championing the common man, and in his only parliament, he made positive changes to the bail system and legal aid. He also did away with benevolences, a forced donation system in place during the reign of Edward IV.

4) He had a tragic end. He dealt with rebellion, lost his son and wife, and placed faith in some who betrayed him, ending with his brutal death on Bosworth Field. He lost his crown to an usurper, a man with no blood right to the throne. All the odds were in Richard’s favour, and yet he was defeated. Regardless of people’s opinion of him, all agree he was incredibly stoic and brave, fighting like a true Knight right to the end. I also feel that the way he overcame his scoliosis, in a time when even most mild afflictions were untreatable is to be admired.

It is important to confirm that Richard was no saint. He had good and bad qualities like us DSC_0127all I am sure. He made some decisions that I question, and we will never know the full story behind many of them. He was a man of a brutal time, who lived with violence being a part of every day life.

So many twists of fate and so many events had to happen the way they did to lead to Bosworth. I think the many what if’s are part of what I find about Richard so fascinating.

I was lucky enough to spend a day in Leicester during the re-internment week in March 2015, and will endevour to post about the occasion in the coming days

If you would like to see more photo’s of Leicester during re-internment week, please visit my flickr

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References
Matt’s History Blog: Richard III – The Answers
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2 thoughts on “Why the Interest in King Richard III?

  1. You — and myself–and all of us will never understand what happened to Richard if we don’t take into consideration the things I mention on my website. This is scary,but sadly true.No other explanation. Even the writers who defied Tudor lies,were misinterpreted. I always knew this about Shakespeare,but only recently have I discovered that the misinterpretation was partly deliberate. The thing becomes really exciting here,but very difficult for those who are by the side of truth and justice.You cannot be sure that Richard wasn’t a saint.Maybe.He wasn’t a practical politician, if he had been one,he wouldn’t have sacrificed his life the way he did.

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