Article on Richard III by Dr. John Ashdown-Hill

The last member of the house of York to sit upon the throne of England, in his lifetime Richard III seems to have been chiefly famous for his loyalty and good service to his elder brother, King Edward IV. However, after his own government was overthrown by a usurper with French support, but no valid claim to the English crown, Richard became famous chiefly for his heavily blackened reputation. This was by no means a unique event. Rewriting of history has occurred on other occasions in the wake of a violent change of regime.

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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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