I recently returned from England and the “theme” of our trip this time seemed to be about Richard III (thanks to my nephew Mitchell’s shared interest in him).
Portrait of Richard III
We visited sites such as, York, Richard's headquarters when he was the Duke of Gloucester and leader of Northern England. This was during his brother, Edward IV's, reign as king. In York we went to Micklegate Bar, the eastern gate to the city of York where Richard’s father and brothers’ heads were up on pikes when he first came into the city, triumphant after winning a battle against Henry VI.
"The White Boar", crest of Richard IIIWe went through the tacky (he deserves better)Richard III Museum in Monk Bar (the Western gate to York), Barnard Castle, where he lived, Middleham Castle, his favorite castle and where he grew up, and Carlisle Castle, where he was Governor for a short time. My sister took some of our group to Warwick Castle, (I had been there a few times already so didn’t go this time), where Richard visited often and his brother was groomed to become the King (Edward IV).
My nephew, Tyler, at "The Kingmaker" exhibit at Warwick Castle
Lastly, we went through the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London where Richard's nephews were last seen alive and where their bones were found buried under a staircase a few hundred years later. I have studied Richard's lifeover a long period of time, and my thoughts about him have gone from one extreme to the other. I will explain what I mean.
Bloody Tower, Tower of London
I grew up on Shakespeare. I remember the first time I learned about Richard III was from Shakespeare’s play. So the hunchbacked, conniving, murdering Richard was the first version of the story that I learned, because WS wouldn’t lie. In that version, Richard killed his brother, George, the Duke of Clarence, then, when the King died, Richard did away with the his nephew’s so he could become King.Carlisle Castle
Then as an adult I began to learn an entirely different version of the story. First I read “The Daughter of Time", by Josephine Tey. That was the first time I had ever considered that he wasn’t guilty of the murders. I was intrigued. Next I read “The Sunne In Splendor” by Sharon Kay Penman. That book convinced me of his innocence in the murders.
Middleham Castle and Richard III statue
Another book that I read was “Royal Blood”, by Bertram Fields. In this book the author outlines and evaluates the arguments on both side, for and against Richards guilt. He applys courtroom technics to the available evidence and then in the end he finds Richard III not-guilty of the murder of his nephews.
Three years ago I took a class at Oxford and in meeting my classmates at a reception, one woman, a distinguished lawyer from Washington DC found out that I had taken a class previously on the "Wars of the Roses" (the 32 year war between the York’s and the Lancaster’s for the crown). She immediately asked me on which side of the Richard III question I stood.
When I told her I believed him innocent of the murders, she invited me to join the “Ricardian Society of America”, which is a group of history buffs that try to convince the public opinion of Richard's innocence based on the facts that are available. I had never even heard that there was such a group, but apparently there are branches all over the world! One group even meets monthly in a Medieval Hall in York close by Micklegate Bar.
It is an interesting subject to study if you are a history buff like I am. As much as I hate to cast any aspersions on William Shakespeare, I have to remember that he was also a practical business man, and wrote the play to please Queen Elizabeth I, whose grandfather was the one that killed Richard at the battle of Bosworth Field.
Ty on the wall of Warwick Castle
WS knew on which side his bread was buttered and so I don’t fault him too much. I leave the question to each of you to see the both sides of the story and make your own judgement after learning the facts.