Tuesday, 18 September 2012

A state funeral for Richard III? Don't make me laugh.


Richard III died in battle on 22nd August 1485. He had been King of England and Lord of Ireland for just over two years, having seized the throne from his teenage nephew, Edward V, back in 1483. Richard's death put his opponent, Henry Tudor, on the throne as Henry VII and it brought to an end the Plantagenet kings who had ruled England since the accession of Henry II in 1154. Richard's wife, Anne Neville, and his only legitimate son, the late Prince of Wales, had both predeceased him. His corpse was publicly displayed in the most humiliating fashion by the victorious Tudors, before it was hastily buried. A generation later, it vanished from the historical record and it was presumed lost to history. That was until a few weeks ago, when a group of archaeologists came across the biggest find since the identification of the Romanovs and unearthed what is quite possibly Richard III's skeleton - buried beneath a car park in Leicester.

The skeleton bares all the marks of someone who died in battle and, interestingly, it has a curvature of the spine. (For years, Richard's modern-day supporters insisted that he had no such deformity and that the whole thing had been invented by malicious Tudor propagandists.) In the hope that this is indeed the body of the last Plantagenet monarch, the historian and politician Chris Skidmore, has submitted a proposal to the House of Commons that calls for the remains to be given a full state funeral. To quote: -

"... this House notes the discovery of a skeleton beneath a car park in Leicester believed to be that of Richard III; [it] praises the work of the archaeologists and historians responsible for the find; hopes that DNA evidence will prove the remains to be those of the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty; and calls upon the government to arrange a full state funeral for the deceased monarch, and for his remains to be interred appropriately."

On the surface, it's a fair enough request. If the remains are identified as Richard III's, it's inconceivable that they wouldn't be accorded some kind of Christian burial and, if so, why not a state one? The remains of the Romanovs were solemnly re-interred in Saint Petersburg in 1998, once science had ascertained that the skeletons were authentic. Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette and Louis's younger sister, Elisabeth, were exhumed from their mass grave and buried with incredible pomp once the French monarchy was restored in 1815. Two hundred years later, when the stolen heart of Louis and Marie-Antoinette's youngest son was identified, it too went into the Bourbon vault, near his parents. Why shouldn't Richard III be granted the same honours? Particularly since he was a king and the country he ruled over is still a monarchy. Furthermore, the request is coming from an elected politician (Chris Skidmore is the Conservative MP for Kingswood) and a respected historian (his books include a biography of Edward VI, a groundbreaking look at a scandal surrounding Elizabeth I and a very well-received account of the battle that took Richard III's life back in 1485.)

But there are several reasons why I, personally, feel the very notion of "a full state funeral" for Richard III is silly, frivolous and border-line obscene. 

To give a brief synopsis of Richard's historical reputation: from the moment the Tudors took power, Richard's name was worth less than mud. He was described as a child-murdering hunchback, who had stolen the throne from his young nephew, slaughtered his way through the aristocracy of England and generally participated in every political crime in England from the fall of Henry VI until the Battle of Bosworth twenty-four years later. Richard's reputation as one of the great villains of history was further cemented when he was shredded by the pens of Saint Thomas More and then by William Shakespeare. Then, in the seventeenth century, people began to question if Richard really had been as bad as the Tudors made him out to be. This gave rise to a view of Richard as being one of the most wronged leaders in history - a king more sinned against than sinning. In the twentieth century, this birthed the Richard III Society, a group of talented history enthusiasts, who seek to rehabilitate Richard III's reputation and whose passion for their cause has, unfortunately, often discouraged historians from pointing out that it's ridiculous to lavishly praise a monarch who ruled for only two years and who, in those two years, did nothing of note except to hold onto power until it was ripped from him by Henry Tudor, Margaret Beaufort and the Stanley family. There is also the fact that Richard has been the prime suspect in the murder of his two nephews - 12 year-old Edward V and 10 year-old Richard of Shrewsbury - ever since the two boys disappeared in the summer of 1483. For Ricardians, Richard was the real victim and various intriguing theories have been suggested to point the finger at other culprits. Not one of whom had the opportunity or motive to get rid of them like Richard did, but I digress.

On a purely pragmatic note, reburying Richard III with full state honours poses several problems in 2012. The first is that it would divide the country, not unite it; no matter what Richard's enthusiasts say, there is still a large cloud hanging over his involvement with his nephews and many - myself included - believe he was responsible for their deaths. Secondly, reburying a five hundred year old skeleton with the honours we would give to a recently-deceased royal, is wasteful and extravagant, particularly in the middle of a recession. Thirdly, Richard III died a practising medieval Catholic; he was killed thirty-two years before the Protestant religion even began. The official state religion of the United Kingdom today is Anglican Protestantism and the current Sovereign, who would need to grant permission for Richard to be buried on royal ground, is the head of that Church. Should we re-bury Richard III with the religious services of a church that he would quite probably have viewed as schismatic and heretical? Or should we compromise the spirit of the 1701 Act of Settlement and have a Catholic British state funeral? I don't think it's right that Catholicism is still being legislatively punished when it comes to the monarchy, but it's the law of the land. One way or the other, a state funeral would compromise the integrity of a monarch - if it's Protestant, Richard III; if it's Catholic, Elizabeth II. 

To round-off the pragmatic reasons why Richard III should not be given a state funeral, we can also turn to the issue of time. Whilst it is true that one of monarchism's great benefit is its tying together of past, present and future, Richard III died over half-a-millennium ago. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were reburied in 1815 - when most of the people who could remember them were still alive. The Romanovs were buried eighty years after their deaths, when Russia was still struggling to come to terms with the legacy of lawless depravity which had taken the royal family's life back in 1918. No-one alive today can remember Richard III and the country is not coming to terms with the aftermath of the Battle of Bosworth.

On a moral note, giving a state funeral to Richard III would be offensive to many people in this country. Again, myself included. It would re-focus attention on the fact that Richard has never been cleared of complicity in his nephews' murder. He was accused of it, on multiple occasions, during his lifetime - not just when the Tudors came to power and the accusation has to be taken seriously. (For what it's worth, I have not once read an argument that clears him that doesn't also read like a hard-working wishful fantasy.) If he didn't kill them, then where did they go? Richard's rule was incomparably damaged by the allegations that he had killed the two children; at any point, he could have salvaged his reputation by parading them through the streets to prove that they were still alive. He didn't. Which suggests to me that they were dead by the end of 1483, at the very latest. He swore to uphold their birthright; he then dispossessed them and they subsequently disappeared.  Richard has therefore never been satisfactorily cleared of one of the most grotesque crimes in the royal family's history. To bury him with full honours would incite the ire of people who, in perfectly good conscience, would object to their taxes paying for the ceremonial re-internment of a possible child-murderer. 

On the other hand, maybe Richard III didn't kill Edward V and his little brother. Maybe he simply robbed them of their birthright, isolated them from their friends and family, and then somehow magically misplaced them. It's just about possible that an overzealous Ricardian suffocated the two boys and dumped their bodies under a staircase in the chaos that followed Richard's seizure of power. They killed them for love of their king, but without his permission. But that still leaves us with the stark choice that Richard either killed them or lost them. Depending on which one you believe, it means that Richard III was either a merciless tyrant or the single most astonishingly incompetent leader in English history. As an absolute monarch and as the boys' legal guardian, the buck stopped with him. He is responsible for what happened to them; the question of his guilt is therefore only a question of degrees. To quote Shakespeare, "Say I slew them not?" "Then say there are not slain." With absolute power comes corresponding responsibility and, in that arena, Richard is to be found sorely lacking. 

Finally, there are sound philosophical reasons why Richard III should be interred quietly in a small Catholic service, like the heart of Louis XVII was in 2004, rather than in a state-funded parade.

For all his faults, Richard III was a practising Christian and it would be wrong to deny his remains access to the funerary rites of his faith. No matter how much time has passed. However, I am very uneasy with things like historical apologies, historical compensation and grand gestures of historical rehabilitation. I think it cheapens History and feeds the arrogance of Modernity. For instance - a few years ago, there was a very well-meaning campaign, led by a decorated veteran from the Battle of Britain, to have Anne Boleyn posthumously pardoned and then removed from her grave in the Tower of London so that she could be reburied in Westminster Abbey. The campaign even attracted the attention of the Home Secretary and the Archbishop of Canterbury. But, ultimately, it failed. And it should have. Anne Boleyn still lies in the cold stone of the Tower of London's chapel and she is still, officially at least, a convicted traitor to her country and an adulteress.

There is far more reason to believe that Anne Boleyn was the victim of a truly horrifying miscarriage of justice than there is to suppose that Richard III wasn't guilty of at least some of the crimes he was accused of, but that doesn't mean that pardoning her and re-burying her would be right. If we stand up in 2012 and say "Oh, that was awful, let's make it better," then we are guilty of breathtaking arrogance in assuming that our actions can ameliorate past horrors. History should be left alone, so that it can stand and remind us of the horrors of the past - and of man's inhumanity to man. We must never assume that a couple of glib words and a few pretty ceremonies can erase that. Anne Boleyn should be left where she is, because reburying her in Westminster Abbey would only serve our emotions - not hers or anyone who knew her. It is far more poignant to stand in Saint Peter-ad-Vincula's today and to see the tiny little spot of earth where she was dumped back in 1536 and to reflect on a terrible time in our history, when women (no matter how gifted or exalted) were the property of their menfolk and could be disposed of as such. If we moved her into Westminster Abbey, we could stand there and comfort ourselves by thinking - "Isn't it nice, though, that in the end she ended up here?" And we should never, ever, try to give the past a happy ending to suit our own sentimentality. We should remember what really happened and understand that, in History, there is no retraction. There can be no mea culpa big enough to take back what has been done. If you believe Richard III was framed by the Tudors, this state funeral will amount to nothing more than an attempt to put a Disney-like gloss on his story. It would give him a happily ever after that detracts from the truth of his actual story.

My friend Ellen Buddle put it well, when we were discussing this, and I hope she won't mind my quoting her in this post. Unlike me, Ellen has no real interest in the case of Richard III in the specifics, but rather in what the proposed state funeral would amount to in principle: -

"When we try and make these judgements on events that happened hundreds of years ago, we're actually not commenting on those events anyway. We're making contemporary political statements and dragging people into it that lived in a moral and political landscape completely different to our own. Trying to identify official, government-approved 'goodies' and 'baddies' in these scenarios is all about propaganda, and little to do with truth and justice. And therefore is a bit unsavoury. 
You also can't whitewash and erase the things British institutions once allowed and approved by saying, 'Oops, takeback!' in a more enlightened time. History has to stand as an example of the worst excesses of states. Undoing those decisions hundreds of years later is a way of saying 'We're nothing like that. We're so much better.' But there's no reason to take that as a given, and symbolic gestures that don't affect the living aren't evidence of it."

44 comments:

  1. Delightful! Brilliant points! I am sure that when the friars originally buried Richard they buried him with the appropriate Catholic prayers. Perhaps he should be buried in some place worthy of his rank, perhaps somewhere in Gloucester where, by all accounts, he was loved. I think a state funeral is a bit much. Elizabeth I never even gave a state funeral for her own mother.

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    1. The mother of Elizabeth I was not queen regnant, she was queen consort....or dowager Princess of Wales if you will. Richard was crowned and annointed King of England.

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    2. I think you're confused. The Princess Dowager was a title legally accorded to Katherine of Aragon, the mother of Mary I. Not to Anne Boleyn, who was never a widow, hence never a dowager.

      Furthermore, medieval queens consort were crowned and anointed in their own coronations. It was later queens consort who were not. Anne Boleyn was the last to undergo the medieval queenly rite of consecration, anointing and coronation.

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  2. There won't be a state funeral because it's not in the interests of the current government - unless they want to do a sleight of hand thing, and distract us.
    The Duke of Buckingham is the most likely contender for the murder of the boys. He has prior, for murder followed by blaming someone else.
    The second most likely murderer is, of course, Henry VII himself. After the act that illegitimised the boys, they were no threat to Richard, but they were to Henry, who re-legitimised them in order to marry their sister.
    The skeletons found under the staircase seem to be boys of the wrong age to the age they would have been if they'd been killed in 1483. In any other place, that might be laughable, but this is the Tower of London.
    There is no contemporary evidence to show that Richard had a back problem of any kind. Actually, there is a painting that was altered after his death to make it seem as if he had a crooked back. I think the jury's still out on that one, but nobody, not even his enemies, commented on his back.
    He may have only ruled England for two years, but he ruled the North of the country for 11. As Lord of the North, he had jurisdiction subject only to the king his brother. He was generally considered just and fair.
    One of the acts that did last was his reform of the legal system. He was deeply interested in the law and had begun to overhaul the whole system.
    The tales by More and Shakespeare can be traced directly back to a small book by Bishop Moreton, he of "Moreton's Fork." He was responsible for burning all the records of Richard's reign that he could find after Henry came to power. It's a bit like those rumours on the Internet that can be traced to one email, or one person, like those "historical fact" emails that were circulating a few years ago. None of which were true.
    I just read around the subject and kept an open mind, and I think there is a lot of doubt.

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    1. Since the DNA and contemporary evidence has now confirmed the remains as Richard III beyond a reasonable doubt he deserves a dignified modest royal funeral in Westminster Abbey with his wife.

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    2. In relation to the funeral, I'm afraid the royal household does not agree and Richard will not be buried in the Abbey, since it does not seem to accord with the wishes of either the current Sovereign or the Abbey.

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  3. Lynne, for me the argument that the boys weren't a threat because Richard had declared them illegitimate is the least convincing attempt to exonerate him of them all. That's like saying Isabella had no need to kill Edward II, Henry IV had no need to kill Richard II or Edward IV had no need to kill Henry VI, simply because they had declared they weren't the king anymore. If Edward V had been liberated by his mother's supporters, they could have declared him as legitimate with the same legislative ease as Richard had declared them illegitimate. Just look at the gymnastics parliament had performed to make Edward IV king, then Henry VI again, then Edward IV again, then Richard III. Might equaled right in medieval England. As long as they lived, his usurpation was pointless. The pragmatic law of the last century was that they would die, and die quickly, after they fell from power. What was different in this case was that they were children, not adults like the three previous kings who had died violently.

    If it was the Duke of Buckingham (not an impossible idea), the blame still falls on Richard. As Buckingham's superior and ally, he must either have known what the duke was planning or been so weak that the Duke thought it was permissible to kill a member of the royal family without the king's permission.

    The arguments about Henry VII are, I think, unconvincing. Not because I think he was incapable of it - who knows? But because there is no documentary or financial evidence to suggest that they were alive after September 1483, when they just vanish from the records. If they'd been alive before 1485, Richard would have paraded them through the streets to halt the rumours - like Henry VII did with Warwick.

    It's possible it was someone other than Richard III who was directly responsible for their deaths - but it happened on his watch.

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    1. But Richard was a shrewd man, he knew that if anything happened to the boys he would be called a child murderer and considered no less than a monster. Why execute them then knowing that? And why not keep them in the tower until they come of age and send them to the block, legally, if they took part in any rebellions?

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    2. And to point out how callous of a man Henry VII was, when he won the battle he dated his reign as having begun the day before. Therefore all those who fought for Richard were considered rebels and dutifully attained.

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    3. Remember, please that this was the tail end of the Wars of the Roses. Henry VII's marriage to Elizabeth of York merged the remaining branches. There were arguements about whether this marriage or that was canonically legal and whose offspring should be heirs.

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  4. He was only monarch for a few years, but he founded a college and outlawed benevolences (which was basically royal strong arming) and of the few nobles he executed, Buckingham, Hastings, he left his widow and their children their estates despite them being worth quite a lot. And he had absolutely no reason to kill his nephews. If he wanted to take away their figurehead status, he would have had them die from a fever or something and would bury them with due pimp. Richard was not an ignorant man, I'd wager from the start he knew how the public would view him if harm befell them. And when Robert Stillington went before the world announcing them as bastards, most excepted Richard. He was a grown man of known capabilities. In fact, before the first uprising by the Woodvilles and Buckingham he had gone on a royal progress and was welcomed wholeheartedly in each city. But Henry Tudor had the must cause to kill them. He wanted to marry Elizabeth Plantagenet but in order to do so he'd have to deny she was truly a bastard. If he did that Edward and Richard would both once again be in line for the throne. He didn't wasn't to marry her for love, he knew it was a shrewd political move and that the populace would more readily accept him, whose claim was shaky and tainted by bastard status on both sides, if he could align himself with the Plantagenets. At the time he was involved in a rebellion with the Duke of Buckingham, whose claim to the throne was better than Tudor's, who had stayed behind in London during the time of the prince's disappearance, and who had conveniently appointed all those who served them. So of who had the most reason to kill them, I think Tudor and Buckingham are almost neck and neck. But Richard was far behind.

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  5. Richard III had no cause to them killed. He had claimed them as bastards and had, for the most part, been accepted by the people. He was a grown man of proven ability at a time where a minor aged king often meant civil war from the adults in charge. And Richard was not an ignorant man, he had to have known that if anything happened to them he would be blamed by the populace. Henry Tudor, who was aligned with the Duke of Buckingham in a rebellion at the time, had the most cause. He knew if he took the crowd he was unlikely to be popular. His claim was dubious, and tainted by his ancestors bastard status. But he also knew that Edward IV's daughters, including Elizabeth, had always been loved and accepted by the people. He realized that he could make use of her popularity by his marrying her. But first he would have to claim that Richard lied, and she wasn't in fact abastard. But that posed a problem, because in doing so Edward and Richard (the prince's in the tower) would now both have a better claim than his own. Keep and mind that Buckingham's claim was even better than Tudor's. Buckingham who had stayed behind in London while Richard went on a royal progress (where he welcomed wholeheartedly by each city), which happens to be the time the prince's disappeared. Buckingham also appointed all those surrounding the princes. And like I said, he was involved in a rebellion with Henry Tudor at the time. I imagine Buckingham realized how unknown, and therefore unwelcome, Tudor would probably be. So I imagine that once Richard was killed Buckingham would make a go at the crown himself. Tudor and Buckingham both saw the princes as an impediment to their crowning. Richard had already been anointed with no more than a few grumblings. Both rebellions after his reign began were caused by those with a claim to the crown. As far as the princes' death goes, Tudor and Buckingham are almost neck in neck for cause, whilst Richard lags far behind.

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  6. Gareth, you made a number of salient arguments against a state funeral in your post, the most important of which, I believe, is the fact that Richard III is still the chief suspect in the disappearance and murder of his nephews.
    Ricardians can cite the bogus illegitimacy argument all they want, but the inconvenient truth is that as long as Edward V and the DoY remained alive, they were the focal point for rebellion against his regime.
    The fact that most of the English people accepted their sister Elizabeth of York as Henry VII's queen shows that they saw through Richard's assertions simply as a contrivance to usurp the throne. As you very well know, Parliament had the power to declare someone legitimate-if Henry VII was able to repeal and destroy all copies of Titulus Regis after Bosworth, then what was to stop Edward V from returning at the head of a disgruntled Yorkist/mercenary army and doing the same? If Edward V was truly his father's son, then Richard had a great deal fear from him-he would have certainly fought ferociously to regain his crown the way Edward IV fought after he was dispossessed in 1470.
    While I believe that he should be given the benefit of the doubt and buried with Catholic rites, because he may have confessed and taken the Sacrament of Pennace, his re-internment should be a quiet, private affair-I'm sure the many dedicated Ricardians around the world will be able to raise funds for a nice tomb.

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  7. Thoroughly agree with you, Gareth. Lynne, who else did Buckingham murder?

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  8. Landan - every single one of your arguments relies on supposition about Richard's personality or Henry VII's. That is nothing but an assumption based on your impression of someone's personality, from the distance of 500 years. You could easily say that Henry VII was a lovely man because he didn't execute the Earl of Surrey, but allowed him to work his way back into royal favour in the years after Bosworth. It doesn't prove anything. What has to be engaged with is the clear, incontrovertible fact that after 1483 there is NO documentary evidence of the boys' survival. And even the lowliest of prisoners in the Tower appears on the account books. If Richard did keep them alive, they would have appeared on the accounts. After all, why wouldn't they? And they don't.

    Another point you made was that Henry VII exploited Elizabeth of York's popularity. Which means you're claiming that Elizabeth was popular because she was Edward IV's daughter, but Edward V wasn't, despite being his son? If Elizabeth's popularity was enough to aid Henry VII's regime, wasn't Edward V's enough to harm Richard III's?

    As for the argument that he had "no reason" to harm them, I think we both know that's patent nonsense. Richard had declared them bastards on the flimsiest of pretexts; the moment they were liberated, Parliament would have obeyed whoever was on the throne and made them legitimate again. Even the shallowest glance at the politics of the Middle Ages shows that's true.

    Henry VII may have been an unpleasant man, but it's the hard evidence that points at Richard - not assessments of his personality.

    And Caroline, yes, a private funeral would certainly work best and allow Richard to be buried without involving the government in the discussion of his guilt or innocence.

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    1. Gareth,
      I'm sorry but there are NO Tower records for this early period, and there is in any case no reason to suppose Richard would have left them in the Tower even if he had left them alive.
      The disappearance of the Princes is a mystery, but oddly enough assuming Richard guilty of their murders simply poses more problems. What could have been the point of killing them and then not telling anybody they were dead? Why did their mother do a deal with Richard whereby she let her daughters out of sanctuary into Richard's care, and then wrote to her son by her first marriage, Dorset, telling him to leave Tudor and return to England, which he attempted to do?
      Incidentally, all Ricardians have not always been roundly denying that Richard had any kind of "deformity". Many, including myself, argued that Rous was probably telling the truth when he wrote that Richard's right shoulder was higher than his left (for the benefit of your readers you really should have pointed out that the scoliosis the Greyfriars man suffered from would have given him a raised shoulder, not a hunchback).
      And not all Ricardians are clamouring for a state funeral. But I suppose this is journalism.
      Marie

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  9. I don't see why Richard's alleged involvement in the death of his nephews should have any bearing on the issue. IIRC, John's responsibility for the death of his nephew Arthur didn't affect his funeral. Also, if Richard is held responsible for the death of the princes because it happened on his watch, why shouldn't he get credit for the bills passed by Parliament outlawing benevolences and protecting jurors, which also happened on his watch?

    Second, why should a murder that did not require corrupting the judicial system be so much more heinous than murder committed by corrupting the system? Henry VIII got a state funeral, despite his murders (by corrupting the system) of Anne Boleyn and Margaret Pole ... and there is a lot more certainty about his involvement in those deaths than there is about Richard's.

    Third, one of the main argument for Buckingham's innocence is Richard's failure to make political capital out of the crime. According to Ann Wroe's book on Perkin Warbeck, it took Henry VII years to make political capital out of Richard's alleged guilt, so I don't think Richard had the time. Ross cites the involvement of both Isabella and Mortimer in the "murder" of Edward II to show that Richard's official approval would have been sought; recently, I have read at least two current historians stating that Mortimer acted without Isabella's knowledge ... so independently of Edward's alleged escape, there would be precedent for a murder without official knowledge.

    Esther

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  10. John was buried in 1216 and Henry VIII in 1547. Richard would be buried in 2012 and I, for one, would have a problem paying for it. If the taxpayers of 1216 and 1547 didn't have a problem, that was their right.

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  11. I don't think the taxpayers of 1216 or 1547 had much to say about the king's funeral. However, I do think that the argument of taxpayer's interest differs from the religious problem (you made a good point about that one), which in turn differs from the problem created by the murder mystery. I would have no problem hearing that a state funeral is denied for financial issues. IMO, it is also appropriate that Richard be re-interred with Catholic ceremony -- (perhaps, in York) ... even though this precludes a state funeral. I do have a problem with saying that Richard should be denied a state funeral because of his alleged guilt, for the reasons already stated.

    Esther

    Esther

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  12. Thanks, Esther. I feel the question of his guilt does, in the modern context. However, it's fair that you don't. My major argument was that there are several reasons which make me think it shouldn't (and won't) happen - with the religious/constitutional one being a major factor. Thanks for your comment!

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  13. Fascinating discussion! Thank you, Gareth! This post has made me do some brushing up on Richard III. I fell in love with Richard when I was 14 and read Rosemary Hawley Jarman's novel WE SPEAK NO TREASON. Decades later, I try to be more objective than I was then. I enjoy, and respect, your arguments, Gareth and those of Susan H., whom I regard as an authority on the last Plantagenets. You all have made me rethink my original opinions.

    I still wonder, however, why Richard, who was known for his political shrewdness and his ability to work the system, would have done something so stupid as to have his nephews killed. Murders of that kind are hard to cover up, even in the Tower. It would have been a clumsy move for someone who had shown himself to be pretty astute.

    The boys, even after being declared illegitimate, were still a possible rallying point for Richard's enemies, particularly the remaining Woodville faction, which is why he would never have shown them to the public. I think it is more likely that he hid them somewhere, probably in the Tower by keeping them from view. Or else he had them sent away for their own safety, and his. I think it more likely they were killed in the upheavals which followed Bosworth.

    And yes, the size of the skeletons which were found under the staircase do show the boys to have been around 11 and 14, which means they could have lived well into 1485 (unless they were just big for their ages).

    In Richard's life, other than the alleged murder of his nephews, is there any solid evidence of his committing atrocities, such as there would be in the lives of Edward I, the Black Prince, and other Plantagenet rulers? Did Richard ever preside over the wholesale slaughter of civilians? I know he was accused of murdering most of the main players on the Wars of the Roses, but is there proof that he actually did any of it? If not, I see the murder of his nephews uncharacteristic of someone who knew how to play the game both militarily and politically without resorting to massacre and mayhem.

    The skeleton at Leicester shows that Richard (if it is truly he) was struck from behind. It also shows that he had scoliosis, which made one shoulder higher than the other, not that he was hunchback. A hunchback would not have been physically able to have participated in the strenuous military campaigns which Richard took part in from his early teens until the moment of his death. He died struck from behind, knowing he had been betrayed, after leading a courageous charge into the heart of the enemy's ranks. He at least deserves a military funeral.

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    1. The boys could very well have been big for their age: their father was 6'2"

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  14. If Richard ever did preside over the wholesale slaughter of civilians, Ross and Hislop(two of Richard's modern "traditionalist" biographers) never mentioned it. Of the "murders" traditionally attributed to Richard, the real problem is the execution of Lord Hastings, without even a form of a trial. According to Ross, Rivers and Co. had some sort of "hearing" before they were executed, but the proper forms of trial were not observed, and there is no evidence to support the other accusations (personally stabbing both Henry VI and his son, and poisoning his wife). Also, I don't know what Richard could sgained by killing the boys and keeping it secret ... I agree with you that it would have been a stupid move.

    Esther

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  15. Thank you, Esther, for your helpful input which clarifies things for me. I know that the fact that Richard was a judicious ruler, as far as his record of his time in the North attests, a does his record as king, does not in itself mean that he was innocent of the murder of his nephews. There have been mass murderers such as Ivan the Terrible and Vlad the Impaler who were responsible for many just laws which benefited the common people, and yet they were still monsters in every sense of the word. I don't yet see a pattern of behavior for Richard to suddenly out of the blue commit the unthinkable crime of child murder. Usually, with such people, such as Ivan the Terrible, there are lurid and substantiated stories about how they liked to torture small animals as children, which was how they began their career in crime. The only stories I have heard from Richard's youth are how, other than begetting some illegitimate children (whom he provided for) he was given military and political responsibilities while still in his teens, responsibilities which he proved capable of bearing. Considering he was the youngest son, he does not appear to have been coddled. The two short years he reigned were actually pretty constructive ones, not what you think of when you think of tyrants.

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  16. The Landon doth protest too much methinks

    It all comes down to whether Richard had a legitimtate claim My legal assessment of the Titulus Regius suggests he didn't. It's so full of legal flaws it would never survive a judicial reveiw

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  17. Thank goodness I am not alone in thinking this whitewashing of Richard III is utterly nauseating. Ricardians keep pounding this idea of "Tudor Propaganda" without addressing the fundamental issue of all those who were accusing Richard of the murders long before Henry VII rolled back onto the scene. Dominic Mancini is just one contemporary source that reports the word of the streets of London in 1483. This idea that Richard's culpability is nothing more than a "Tudor" invention is a downright lie.

    Also, forget the Princes for a minute (as it is true that we just don't have the proof of who killed them). Look at the things Richard did BEFORE he deprived his nephews of their birthright and locked them up in the Tower. He had William Hastings executed without trial (ie murdered), he then rode on to Stony Stratford, intercepted the King (Edward V)and had three of his travelling companions (Anthony Wydeville, Thomas Vaughn and Richard Grey) executed (again, without trial). We know this as it is all documented in Crowland Chronicle, and we know of the Queen Dowager's flight into sanctuary (Anthony Wydeville was her brother, after all. So she certainly knew Richard was up to something).

    Even if Richard didn't kill his nephews, he it still no hero, and certainly not a saint.

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    1. Thank you! I agree wholeheartedly.

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  18. Thank goodness I am not alone in thinking this whitewashing of Richard III is utterly nauseating. Ricardians keep pounding this idea of "Tudor Propaganda" without addressing the fundamental issue of all those who were accusing Richard of the murders long before Henry VII rolled back onto the scene. Dominic Mancini is just one contemporary source that reports the word of the streets of London in 1483. This idea that Richard's culpability is nothing more than a "Tudor" invention is a downright lie.

    Also, forget the Princes for a minute (as it is true that we just don't have the proof of who killed them). Look at the things Richard did BEFORE he deprived his nephews of their birthright and locked them up in the Tower. He had William Hastings executed without trial (ie murdered), he then rode on to Stony Stratford, intercepted the King (Edward V)and had three of his travelling companions (Anthony Wydeville, Thomas Vaughn and Richard Grey) executed (again, without trial). We know this as it is all documented in Crowland Chronicle, and we know of the Queen Dowager's flight into sanctuary (Anthony Wydeville was her brother, after all. So she certainly knew Richard was up to something).

    Even if Richard didn't kill his nephews, he it still no hero, and certainly not a saint.

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    1. Not all Ricardians are trying to whitewash him and make him a saint. They actually do their research unlike most historians who look at sources from Tudor times. Richard was certainly not a saint but he wasn't a straight up villian that the Tudors made him out to be, which would be considered Tudor Propaganda and lies.

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  19. A good article, if a slightly hysterical title which undermines its reasoned thoughtfulness. Thank you for pointing out where Anne B is buried, I must visit that place and reflect as you say.

    I think one of the main things I take from this is that regal/noble life was 'kill before you were killed' and you had to be ruthless to survive. We can't attribute our values to their actions, they have to be seen in context. My guess that the whole nobility were devious and would sell their grannies if they hadn't probably consigned them to nunneries.

    Am guessing that children weren't viewed in the same way as we view them too. If you were poor you were probably out toiling the land as soon as you could toddle. If you were rich, you were being married off at 5 and if you were a boy given a sword and taught to kill.

    Whole story fascinates me for so many reasons!

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    1. I'd be interested to hear your view of the legal flaws in Titulus Regius.
      In fact, all the accusations, no matter however off the wall they many sound to us, servied (assuming they were accepted as true) to negate Edward IV's marriage to Elizabeth Woodville according to the rules of canon law. The precontract (ie former marriage) to Eleanor Butler is a fairly obvious charge of bigamy, but also:
      a) Elizabeth Woodville's own compliance with a secrect marriage to the King deprived her of the protection otherwiee accorded to the injured party in a bigamy case - ie Elizabeth's marriage would remain invalid and her children illegitimate.
      b) The fact that she had slept with Edward IV whilst he was legally married to another meant that she and Edward were barred from ever contracting a valid marriage after Eleanor's death.
      c) If the Woodvilles had used witchcraft to lure Edward into marriage with Elizabeth this would have invalidated his consent: therefore, again, the marriage would have been invalid.
      Marie

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    2. Edward V was removed from Stony Stratford a full six weeks BEFORE Hastings' execution. Whether Hastings had a trial we don't know. Certainly there was no trial under common law, but he was condemned by Richard in council: the King's Council had powers to sit as a court, and Richard as Lord Constable was empowered to excecute summary justice under the Law of Arms.

      Anthony Woodville, Vaughan and Grey were executed at Pontefract nearly two months after their arrest. Rous tells us they were tried before the Earl of Northumberland, and we know from other sources that Northumberland was definitely present. They had been held at separate castles in Yorkshire and if there was no trial it is hard to understand why they had not been simply executed where they were held.
      No chroniclers shold be taken as gospel - we have better sources, surely (although not so easily accessible) than the 15th century equivalent of the daily newspaper.
      Also, whoever said Richard III was a saint?
      Marie

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    3. Just a quickie. Dominic Mancini was in London until just after Richard's coronation (which took place 6th July), then returned to Paris where he wrote his account. He does not report rumours that Richard had had the Princes murdered, only that Edward V's physician, Dr Argentine (who had been replaced and had also gone to France where, apparently, he spoke to Mancini), claimed that when he last saw Edward V the boy IMAGINED death was awaiting him.

      What is fairly clear is that Edward V and his brother were still alive when Mancini left England, as there was an attempt to spring them from the Tower LATE in July which involved Tower staff who would certainly have known whether or not they were still springable.
      So, affecting though Mancini's account is, it provides us no evidence at all as to what actually became of the Princes.
      Marie

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    4. Marie there is no evidence whatsoever to substantiate this tale of a pre-contract./ It remains an allegation until evidence can be found to prove or disprove.

      As for the suggestion that the E4-EW marriage would have been invalid anyway you relly think Warwick and his Archbishop-Elect brother wouldn't have done something to annul the marriage if they had the slightest suspicion that the marriage had not be carried out according to canon law of the time?

      By that time marriage licences that obviate the needs for banns and all the rest of the carry on were already available..

      The attempts to legitimize Richard's claim to the throne grow more and more tedious and more more risible. And please don't mention John Ashdown-Hill or Michael K. Jones - they've already been rumbled.

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  20. A good article, if a slightly hysterical title which undermines its reasoned thoughtfulness. Thank you for pointing out where Anne B is buried, I must visit that place and reflect as you say.

    I think one of the main things I take from this is that regal/noble life was 'kill before you were killed' and you had to be ruthless to survive. We can't attribute our values to their actions, they have to be seen in context. My guess that the whole nobility were devious and would sell their grannies if they hadn't probably consigned them to nunneries.

    Am guessing that children weren't viewed in the same way as we view them too. If you were poor you were probably out toiling the land as soon as you could toddle. If you were rich, you were being married off at 5 and if you were a boy given a sword and taught to kill.

    Whole story fascinates me for so many reasons!

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  21. A good article, if a slightly hysterical title which undermines its reasoned thoughtfulness. Thank you for pointing out where Anne B is buried, I must visit that place and reflect as you say.

    I think one of the main things I take from this is that regal/noble life was 'kill before you were killed' and you had to be ruthless to survive. We can't attribute our values to their actions, they have to be seen in context. My guess that the whole nobility were devious and would sell their grannies if they hadn't probably consigned them to nunneries.

    Am guessing that children weren't viewed in the same way as we view them too. If you were poor you were probably out toiling the land as soon as you could toddle. If you were rich, you were being married off at 5 and if you were a boy given a sword and taught to kill.

    Whole story fascinates me for so many reasons!

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  23. Hi Gareth

    Sorry if it’s taken me so long to respond to Marie Barnfied’s comment but for the last six months I’ve been engrossed in studying medieval canon law particularly in the matter of what’s known as the Prohibition of Consanguinity and Affinity based on the sin of incest which was something of an ecclesiastical knock-out at the time and what’s known as the diriment impediment which automatically nullified any pre-contact or any other form of putative marriage

    As regards the legal I may not be a professional lawyer but I have studied Law and have consulted with professionals since. The first thing that struck me when I read the Titulus Regius was that it read like some shyster lawyer trying to sway a jury and secondly that if this was all Richard III had to back his case he didn’t have one.. At the end of the day it’s nothing but a series of malicious allegations with not one shred of evidence to back any of them not even in the matter of the pre-contract – no mention of date or place. Just let’s say that if I were to try and pull this stunt in Court tomorrow I’d probably be told in no uncertain judicial terms what I could do with myself and my client’s claim as well as running the risk of being reported for unethical and unprofessional conduct.

    Somebody has raised the question why Richard III didn’t refer the matter of his brother’s alleged bigamy to a Consistory Court. Like with so much to gain he was going to take a chance with judges whose response might well have been ‘We’ve heard that one before’.

    So why don ‘t you check out the article by Shannon McSheffrey of Concordia University Montreal entitled ‘ Detective Fiction in the Archives ’ easily accessible by way of Google. And what is this article about? It’s about a series of cases brought before the Consistory Court of the Diocese of London during the period 1469-74 all with the same claim, bigamy based on a long ago and only just remembered pre-contract. Sounds familiar?

    Regards

    Trish

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  24. Shouldn't History be looked at with objectivity? If you doubt about the pre-contact between Edward IV and Eleonor Butler because of lack of proof or consequent legal actions, why don't you doubt about the murder of the two young princes as no-one not even the Tudor propagandist who insisted on this long after proved anything? If you base your opinion regading an anointed King of England on the fact that he was a (non-proved) murderer, a bloody and villainous usurper, you should then remove Heny VIII from his glorious sepulture in Westminster for being one of the bloodiest kings ever, framing for example with the worst false accusations obtained through torture his innocent wife (and of that we have proof), executing an elderly woman because she had a better claim to the throne than him (proved as well), you should not pay respect to the grave of Henry VII who kept a young man (son of the Duke of Clarence) imprisoned for years and waited for him to be old enough to execute him, you should not have any respect for Heny IV who usurped the throne of Richard II starving hinìm to death then, and did not respect the line of succession that saw Edmund Mortimer Earl heir pesumptive to King Richard.... shall we go on with examples of treachery and betrayal? Still no-one comes up with the idea of not respecting these kings and more than often, we are told in ou history lessons about the good deeds they nonetheless did for their country. Richard III had maybe a rightful claim to the throne due to the probability of a pre-contract or even the illegitimity of Edward. If no contrary proof has been given, can we change now History just because subjectively we think that etc..? As Lord of the North, Richard of Gloucester was respected and appreciated (of that we have proffs through the times chronicles) and worked and achieved things for his people. As a brother he was loyal to the King whereas upon Edward IV's death Elizabeth Woodville herself did not respect the wish of her husband and tried to bypass Richard who had been named Lord Protector by the dying king. The Rivers ambition could be seen as the declic of the whole event of Richard's accession. Who knows what could have happened if his role as Lord Protector had been respected? Why not sharing such a view as well? As king, Richard III brought some reforms towards the poor and justice. He was a warrior that fought loyally amongst his men and was appreciated and respected for that. The term "whitewashing" of his reputation used by misshannah1980 is appalling and denotes a biased subjectivity instead of looking at History as it should be looked at. Richard III was a king of England and deserves respect and study on objective basis, no more no less that all the other monarchs.

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  25. I think a glass coffin in York would serve Richard 111. Visitors could visit the church or where ever it is kept and ponder on what this man did or didn't do. It would be a great tourist attraction. Maybe a glass coffin at the University with all the details of where he was found and how he was identified. But no state funeral.

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    1. A glass coffin at the University? A annointed King of England? Please...

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  26. I've read your article with great interest, especially considering the current fight regarding where it is that Richard III should be laid to rest. And although I fully agree that more likely than not he is responsible for his nephews' disappearance, I do not believe that he shouldn't be granted a state funeral. I don't think it's appropriate to judge a man who lived in the Middle Ages by modern standards.

    Charlemagne was a great visionary, a powerful king who built an empire that encompassed most of what is today the European Union; for all intents and purposes he is considered it's godfather and is celebrated as such. The fact that Charlemagne began to build his empire by doing away with his brother Carloman's sons does not diminish his accomplishments: such were the times.

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    1. Charlemagne did not kill his nephews. The sources are very clear, they were sent to a monastery and he was offered Carlomans half of the Empire after his death. It was normal practice and more acceptable to offer the crown to an adult brother over a young son. This was Frankish law and practice. Thankfully the nobles chose Charlemagne. He went on to many great achievements.

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  27. Thankfully we buried our King Richard iii with the dignity and grace that he was denied by the Tudor usurper. Richard did not kill his nephews and the evidence provided no evidence for any murder in the first place. We have given King Richard iii a dignified and beautiful resting place with a group of services and public honours that he would have recognized and approved of. He would have recognized the evening matins, the repose of his soul, the readings, the vestments used were Medieval, as were the prayers and vessels. Mass was said, he was blessed by the Catholic and Anglican communion, he had family and friends, members of the public watched his coffin pass, he had heralds and he went to the villages he had been the day before he was killed. Leicester Cathedral is lovely, Richard is at peace. Richard was granted prayers and mass by the priests at the friary and his grave was marked by Henry Tudor at some point. I am glad he was not hijacked by Westminster Abbey, not that he could have been anyhow given it is full for the last two hundred years. I am also glad York did not have him, but did have a service and a celebration for him. I have been to King Richard's tomb, also his original site, it was moving. It was overwhelming. Richard honoured with dignity at last.

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