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The mysterious Human Shredder

So was it Robert Morton, Richard III’s Master of the Rolls and nephew of the future Cardinal, or Polydore Vergil, Henry VII’s pet “historian”? Either way, quite a few documents from Richard’s reign have gone missing. We will adopt a cautious approach to this list:

There remain no letters between Richard and Anne although they were married for about a decade. The record of the 13 June council meeting, including Lord Hastings’ trial, is lost although we know that the Constable and Lord Protector would have the implicit authority to preside over one and we know who occupied those roles. Similarly, the quasi-Parliamentary petition to Richard to become King is missing, as is Stillington’s testimony to the fact of the pre-contract and Edward IV’s codicil confirming Richard’s authority in these positions. Even the Pastons seem to have uncharacteristically silent. All of these missing documents would be favourable to Richard, which completely explains why they are missing.

The human shredder was not wholly successful, however. Richard’s “Titulus Regius” was ordered to be destroyed unread, unprecedentedly, but a copy was preserved in the Crowland Chronicle for Buck to publish. “Tudor” power did not extend to Portugal where the true remnants of the House of Lancaster lived, thus Richard’s negotiations to marry the Lusophone King’s sister whilst his own illegitimate niece married Joao II’s cousin survived. His (late June) letter to Lord Mountjoy in Calais may have had a copy of the great petition attached.

Of course, the denialists would have us believe that Richard had nothing to do in his twenty-five and a half months as King but destroy documents that would portray him in a favourable light, whilst the “Tudor” monarchs that followed were all far too busy throughout their 118 years for anything like that.

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7 thoughts on “The mysterious Human Shredder

  1. Alan White on said:

    Do letters between other Edwardian lords, e.g. George, Duke of Clarence, or the Earl of Warwick, and their respective wives still exist? How many records of royal council meetings, or treason trials, have survived from other reigns?

    How much has the apparent shortage of documentation to do with the shortness of Richard III’s reign – just over 2 years, compared to about 22 years for Edward IV (1461-1483) and 24 years for Henry VII (1485-1509)?

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  2. Alan White on said:

    The “quasi-Parliamentary petition to Richard to become King” in the name of the Three Estates is available, because it is rehearsed in the Titulus Regius.

    It is perhaps wrong to call it “quasi-Parliamentary”, since, as the introduction to the TR admits: “neither the said three Estates, neither the said persons, which in their name presented and delivered, as is above said, the said Roll unto our said Sovereign Lord the King, were assembled in form of Parliament”.

    As the introduction also admits, this led to “diverse doubts, questions and ambiguities, being moved and engendered in the minds of diverse persons”. Hence the need to give it validity after the fact by incorporating it in an actual Act of Parliament, the Titulus Regius.

    TR modern translation: http://partyparcel.co.uk/information/returns.html
    TR transcript of original (1): http://partyparcel.co.uk/
    (2) [via Richard III Foundation website] : http://www.richard111.com/titulus_regius.htm

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  5. McArthur, Richard P. on said:

    The Pastons may simply have been cautious.

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