Richard III ’caused Black Death’…

Well, no, he didn’t, but at times you might think he did. Along with the Rape of the Sabine Women, the Peasants’ Revolt, Jack Cade’s Rising, etc., etc.

It’s quite understandable that many people think Richard was involved in dark deeds – name a medieval (or Tudor) sovereign who was not. However, there is a constituency, and it seems to include at least one ‘big name’ historian, which seems determined to pin everything that went wrong in England between 1452 and 1485 on the (possibly uneven) shoulders of Richard III. One might almost be excused for thinking that all a coroner’s inquest had to do in those days was write down ‘the Duke of Gloucester did it’ and then go home for tea.

Consider Tewkesbury, when Richard was a callow lad of eighteen summers. Some people seem to want to believe that Edward IV – that gentle soul – was minded to let the Lancastrian leadership off with a warning, or maybe a few hours of Community Service clearing up after the local oxcarts. Ah, but alas!, that wicked Gloucester took it into his hands to have the fellows executed for the trifling offence of high treason.

Such a view of affairs suggests that Edward was a mild-mannered sort of fellow who would not willingly have hurt a fly. A slightly more saintly version of Henry VI. Sadly (for this interpretation of events) Edward was not like that at all. Take a look at what he did to the defeated of Mortimers’ Cross and Towton, where Richard was nowhere to be seen. It beggars belief that what happened after Tewkesbury was done without Edward’s consent and approval, and probably outright instruction.

Similarly, Richard (and to a lesser extent George) are blamed for the rather unkind treatment of the Countess of Warwick, when she was declared legally dead and deprived of her lands. We are asked to believe that that splendid fellow Edward would never have thought of such a thing but for his brothers. But Edward stole lands by statute on a regular basis. For example, he took the Holland lands from the right heirs to benefit his sister’s daughter by St. Leger. To say nothing of depriving the right heirs of the Mowbray dukedom of their inheritance to benefit his younger son. Did Richard make his brother do that as well? Or was Edward actually a king who thought and acted for himself, and not just his little brother’s pathetic puppet?




  1. Towton? I suspect the 9 year old Richard was hiding somewhere on the battlefield dispatching anyone he found with his wooden sword…(tongue firmly in my cheek.) I find it interesting how the traditionalists, while making Richard seem the devil incarnate, at the same time make Edward a weak, ineffectual and seemingly stupid man.


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