"In defence of Richard III" from the Catholic Herald

Ed West’s recent article on Richard III for this website stated that “Richard almost certainly murdered his nephews”. It also claimed that Richard had the boys declared bastards; described Elizabeth Woodville as Edward IV’s widow, and said that the arrest of her brother, Lord Rivers, was “shocking”. All of these points reveal a lack of knowledge of the situation in England in 1483.

Following the death of Edward IV, Richard, as the senior living prince of the blood, was the rightful Protector of the Realm (regent). But Elizabeth Woodville and her family tried, illegally, to seize power. Women – even queens – had no rights to claim regency powers in England at that time. Lord Rivers was arrested – and subsequently executed by the Earl of Northumberland – because of his connection with his sister’s attempted coup. Punishment of someone who is involved in an attempted coup which fails is not usually classified as “shocking”.

Richard was then offered the crown of England by the Three Estates of the Realm. Their decision was based on evidence presented to them by the Bishop of Bath and Wells, a high ranking clergyman and a well-known expert in canon law.

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6 myths about Richard III by John Ashdown-Hill

Myth 1: Richard was a murderer

Shakespeare’s famous play, Richard III, summarises Richard’s alleged murder victims in the list of ghosts who prevent his sleep on the last night of his life. These comprise Edward of Westminster (putative son of King Henry VI); Henry VI himself; George, Duke of Clarence; Earl Rivers; Richard Grey and Thomas Vaughan; Lord Hastings; the ‘princes in the Tower’; the Duke of Buckingham and Queen Anne Neville.

But Clarence, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan and Buckingham were all executed (a legal process), not murdered: Clarence was executed by Edward IV (probably on the incentive of Elizabeth Woodville). Rivers, Grey and Vaughan were executed by the Earl of Northumberland, and Hastings and Buckingham were executed by Richard III because they had conspired against him. Intriguingly, similar subsequent actions by Henry VII are viewed as a sign of ‘strong kingship’!

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