Thursday, 30 April 2015

fascinated by Richard III

Have I mentioned before that I find Richard III really interesting? Oh, yes, I have, five times. The links are at the bottom of this piece.

Why am I so fascinated?

Well, first off, Richard was the last of the Yorkist Kings, and Yorkshire is where I'm from so Huzzah for Yorkshire.

Secondly, Richard was the youngest of three brothers, and triads are really interesting when it comes to creating characters. Richard and his brothers were of course, real people, so they weren't two dimensional, but they did fit broad brush strokes of character types.

First off there was the oldest brother. Edward was handsome, a hero (he took the throne from Henry VI, who was incapable due to insanity, after his own father and his older brother had been killed for plotting to do the same thing), with a beautiful wife (or two, which was problematic later) and family. He was the golden boy of the Yorkist Plantagenets and his little brother Richard was fiercely loyal to him. 

So loyal, that Richard probably helped Edward, along with their brother George, to murder King Henry VI, rather than risk another plot to put him back on the throne.

George, a power hungry hedonist, was not great at loyalty. He made at least two attempts to wrest the throne from his older brother, and as a consequence was drowned in a vat of Malmsey wine (his favourite).

George had been worried about Edward's beautiful queen, Elizabeth, and her massive family, and he had good cause. Unfortunately for Elizabeth, rumours that Edward had already been married would just not go away, and after Edward's death (hunting accident), despite Elizabeth and her family's attempts to hang on to power, evidence was provided which gave acting regent Richard little choice but to declare her marriage to his brother invalid, therefore rendering all her children by Edward, illegitimate, and not in line to the throne.

Richard III was crowned, and the now illegitimate sons of Elizabeth mysteriously vanished, providing us with the mystery of the Princes in the tower. They might have been killed by somebody. They might have been removed to safety. We do not know. Richard III was accused of their murder, by Thomas More, and by Shakespeare, but not at the time (which is hardly surprising, given that he was King at the time).

So Richard was loyal, dutiful (and also pious), and he believed in following the law (unless your brother asks you not to). He married Anne, and the evidence suggests he loved her deeply, and was in bits when their only child died, followed a while later by Anne. Richard ruled for six years, but brought in laws we still have - like being allowed out on bail, and all sorts of rules to ensure arrested people got fair treatment. He was definitely just, but it may have been this very desire to do the right thing that got him branded as a traitor to his brother's sons when he declared them illegitimate, and took the crown for himself.

Richard was not King for long. If he had reigned longer, he could have remarried (he seems to have been considering marrying his niece, Elizabeth, which is awfy creepy), and had another child to carry on the Plantaganet line. Unfortunately, he was challenged by Henry Tudor, who defeated him at Bosworth, killing him and taking the crown for himself, becoming Henry VII. Henry married the young Elizabeth, daughter of Edward and Elizabeth, and started the Tudor dynasty.

The York brothers have clearly inspired George RR Martin's Baratheon brothers - Robert the dashing hero with a beautiful wife and illegitimate children, who dies in a hunting 'accident'; Renly who enjoys the good things in life (although he is probably modelled more on Edward II than on George of Clarence), and the dutiful but stern Stannis.

I've got three brothers in the book I'm writing too, and my favourite is the one that's inspired by Richard.

The third thing that I like about Richard III was Aneurin Barnard's brilliant portrayal of him in The White Queen.

And the last thing is that we are still talking about what he was like, and still wondering what happened to the princes 530 years after Richard's death.

Are you a fan? If you just can't get enough of Richard III then there's a smashing song from Horrible Histories alongside some clips from The White Queen below, or check out this super edition of Great Lives on the man himself. Enjoy!

Here are the links to the other times I've mentioned Richard III: