History : Oct-Nov 2015
6 OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2015 PROFILES Richard III: Unearthed, Reburied, Reconsidered For 500 years Richard III has been reviled as a usurper, murderer, and tyrant. Now renewed interest in this English monarch is casting doubt on the accusations that have tarnished him for centuries. THE GREAT SEAL OF RICHARD III, PORTRAYING THE KING AS A FIGHTING KNIGHT BRIDGEMAN/ACI Richard ruled for two troubled years before being betrayed and defeated at the Battle of Bosworth. A parking lot in the English city of Leicester was the scene for a historic event in late 2012: the discovery of the long-lost body of King Richard III. For me the find was the result of ten years of research into the location of his grave. And it has sparked a renewed in- terest in a man who lived and ruled through a turbulent period of English history. From 1455 to 1485 England was wracked by a series of wars as the country’s two dominant families fought for the throne— the incumbent House of Lancaster and the rival House of York. Known as the Wars of the Roses, they began with Rich- ard’s father, the Duke of York, and were continued by his eldest brother who be- came King Edward IV. Richard was a strong supporter of Edward and fought for him during a split in the Yorkist house that saw another brother, George, temporarily take control of the country. Once restored to power, Edward handsomely rewarded Richard, who remained loyal to the king until the monarch’s unexpected death in 1483. Richard’s loyalty was widely assumed, and he was appointed Lord Protector of the Realm, with responsibility for the new king, his 12-year-old nephew, Edward V. Instead, Richard himself became king, under controversial circumstances. Rich- ard ruled for just two difficult years before a rebellion ousted him and he was defeat- ed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by Hen- ry Tudor, whose coronation, as Henry VII, established the Tudor dynasty and effec- tively ended the Wars of the Roses. Richard is an enigmatic figure, long reviled but recently restored to grace, as highlighted by the reburial of his remains with honor and dignity in Leicester Cathedral in March 2015. It is part of an ongoing reevaluation of his kingship that is bringing balance to 500 years of Tudor propaganda and misinformation. A Despised Monarch The image of Richard III as a grotesque, twisted, and malevolent man who plotted, murdered, and usurped his way to the English throne comes largely from Shake- speare’s eponymous play. But Shakespeare was not interested in accurate history: his play was a propaganda-driven thriller for the Elizabethan theater—Tudor audi- ences. Writing more than a century after Richard’s death, Shakespeare drew on the few available and already tainted historical sources, and then applied poetic license to them, playing to and reinforcing the polit- ical prejudices of the time. From Minor Noble to King of England 1452 Richard is born to the powerful noble Richard, Duke of York, and his well-connected wife, Cecily Neville. 1461 Edward IV’s accession makes Richard a prince. His ardent loyalty earns him Edward’s gratitude and a strong power base. 1485 Richard III is defeated at the Battle of Bosworth. His body is buried by Franciscan friars, but its exact location becomes lost over time. 2012 Years of research lead to the discovery of a battle- injured skeleton in a parking lot in Leicester. DNA tests confirm it is Richard III. 1483 Richard is crowned King of England and begins a troubled two-year reign threatened by enemies both at home and abroad.
Dec 2015-Jan 2016