A book to avoid if you uphold the truth about Richard III….

from the Rous Roll

When we buy a non-fiction book (in our case usually something to do with Richard III and the medieval period) we anticipate its arrival with some relish. This is how I felt when, after reading many praises for Peter Ackroyd’s History of England, I decided to buy Volume I online.

It arrived this morning, and I leafed eagerly through the pages, to get a feel of it before reading it properly…but when I came to Illustration 49 (of 51) it was an image of Richard III from the Rous Roll – just him, taken from the image above. Then I read the caption: “Richard III standing on a white boar; the white boar was his personal badge or ‘livery badge’. It may derive from the Latin name of York, Eboracum, since he was known as Richard of York.”

Um…oh no he wasn’t, Mr Ackroyd. His father was Richard of York, and so was his nephew, Richard of Shrewsbury, who was created Duke of York and became one of the boys in the Tower. Richard was always Richard of Gloucester, and then Richard III.

As you can imagine, my heart sank and my hackles began to rise as I sensed that I’d purchased a real turkey. I have indeed, because Peter Ackroyd goes on to relate in full the version of events according to the Sainted More, strawberries, withered arm and all. The murder of the boys in the Tower is taken for granted, but the possibility of Henry VII being responsible is “essentially a fancy”. Oh, right. Why, may I ask? Because his tricky, grasping, dishonest hands were suddenly lily-white? No, according to Ackroyd: “There can be little doubt that the two boys were murdered on the express or implicit order of Richard III.” Clearly this author has inside information that has been hidden from everyone else.

And there’s more: “There had been usurpers before, wading through gore, but Richard III was the first usurper who had not taken the precaution of winning a military victory; he claimed the crown through the clandestine killing of two boys rather than through might on the battlefield.” Really? Methinks Mr Ackroyd is too accustomed to composing eyecatching blurbs!

And Richard “set up a ‘council in the north’ to consolidate his power in that region. Excuse me? Richard was consolidating his own power? Um, where was Edward IV while all this was going on? Or was Richard now ‘king of the north’, and a law unto himself?

And Richard contemplated marrying Elizabeth of York…at least, he would have done if he’d been able to get away with it. No mention at all of the important Portuguese negotiation for both his own marriage and that of his niece. Indeed no, the only reason Richard didn’t rush her to the marriage bed was because he would not have been “able to marry the girl whose brothers he had destroyed”.

Polydore Vergil “states that Richard III was now ’vexed, wrested and tormented in mind with fear almost perpetually’.” In fact, Ackroyd is prepared to judge Richard solely on the traditional stories, which were (sorry to repeat it again) the work of the victor at Bosworth, in whose interest it was to blacken Richard’s name and memory as much as he possibly could. Henry VII was surely the best spreader of fake news in history!

Oh, and Richard was “buried without ceremony in a stone coffin. The coffin was later used as a horse trough and the bones scattered”. Really? No wonder Ackroyd thinks Henry VII was the best thing for England, they share a liking for telling stories!

The copyright for this abominable work of fiction is 2011. Oh, dear, a year later and Richard himself was able to refute claims of hideous deformity and being chucked in the Soar (Ackroyd missed that one, by the way.)

There are many other points in this book with which anyone of common sense will disagree. Those who have really studied Richard III, will know that he has indeed been cruelly maligned by history. He did not do all those things of which he was accused…and if he had Hastings executed without delay, you can bet your bottom dollar it was for a damned good reason. Richard didn’t execute people left, right and centre…there are quite a few he should have topped, but he was lenient! Which makes him a black-hearted, villainous monster, of course.

Anyway, I regret being swayed into buying this book. It is nothing but traditionalist garbage! I hardly dare turn its pages to my other favourite king, Richard II. No doubt Henry Bolingbroke gets the laurels and is patted on the head for having that other Richard murdered. Ah, but that’s different. It was OK to kill Richard II. So, in 1399 there was a Richard usurped by a Lancastrian Henry, and then another such thieving Lancastrian Henry happened along in 1485. Neither of the Richards (both married to Annes, by the way) usurped anything, but they both get the blame for everything.


  1. Aggghhhh! I found myself getting hotter and hotter while reading this 😦 My heart is thumping and I have a tight feeling in my throat….. I hope we all fire off a few emails to this Shakespeare/More loving ‘author’ who is obviously too lazy to do any independent research and relies on the out of date waffle of previous Tudoroite authors…. grrrrrrr.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Dear Viscountess,
    Had I known you were contemplating adding Ackroyd to your library I would have dashed to your cyber side and cried HALT!!! as he is incorrigible in regard to political history and suspect with soicio/cultural histography as well – like most writers of his age he is a devoted mouthpiece of the Tudors.

    This has long confused me, I can understand the first generations of writers being in the thrall of the Tudors (they DID have the rack, the gallows, the flames to consign divergent voices to such IF anyone would be lunatic enough to speak or write something other than adoring phrases – just having the wrong DNA was enough to get you exiled, tortured, beheaded etc etc etc)

    … BUT modern writers, academics, scholars, elites (and Ackroyd does consider himself an elite) are in no danger from the Tudors, they do not need to drag out the same tired, exhausted, misused, mis-stated, abused tropes that H7 splashed out there to his envoys, spies and favored state biographers! NO ONE can drag Ackroyd or Michael Hicks or a Desmond Seward or an Alison Weir off to the Tower for ‘examination’ because they dared to think for themselves, cross-examine the motives, the intentions of the ‘evidence’ and maybe even question how can we have records of the rents on London Bridge for hundreds of years before and after Richard BUT every blessed document that we know existed to corroborate what Richard did (concerning Hastings, or Rivers, or the Princes, because read of their existence alluded to in other fragments) are missing??? really? that doesn’t concern them, that doesn’t strike them as peculiar? The little boy that Perkin Warbeck had with his wife, (Lady Katherine Gordon), when Warbeck and his wife handed themselves over to H7′ mercy, that little boy was never heard from again – anyone? I’ve never found any trace of the baby, did he end up with (God forbid) H7’s mother?

    And what of Margaret of Warwick’s (Countess Salisbury) eldest son, Henry Pole who was executed with his cousin (another Henry, 1st Marquess of Exeter, both in December 1538; for no crime, according to no less than Cromwell himself) – one of his younger sons, Henry, went into the Tower with him but did not come out – even Weir speculates H8 just starved the little boy rather than bother with a judicial execution. Not that it bothers Tudor apologists.

    This just amazes me, modern scholars, wake up, the Tudors can not touch you, they cannot do to you what they did to the entire Yorkist side of their own family – you’re safe! For crying out loud, you can call them for what they were – genocidal despots!

    And then, I was reading Liza Picard (she’s a lovely author, a barrister I believe, devoted to all things London history); her Chaucer’s People is delightful. And there, on p.152 I think I stumbled onto the answer. Trials in a medieval court were, especially before Richard III’s redress for legal aid kicked in during his reign, not a pleasant experience for the accused!

    IF you could find 12 ‘good men and true’ the author goes on to tell us that “hearsay evidence by the prosecution witnesses was freely admitted, and since the defendant had no right to challenge it his chances of aquittal were slim.”

    Well, there it is …in one little sentence it explained to me why the Tudor/ H7 myths, rumours, hearsay claptrap of every sort were so readily accepted year after year and added to, embellished and apparently still able to resonate today with at least the traditional historian/writer – virtually anyone who knew Richard well either died with him or just before him, or went into exile (like Brampton, Lovell), or were at a safe distance (Tyrell in Calais) – but all around H7 were still an enormous number of people who could have told H7 what had happened in the summer of 1483, where the two boys are, the nature of Hasting’s plot(s), and more; that H7 chose to spin out the “hearsay evidence” that his mother, that arch strategist herself, and her spies (and imagine this, we HAVE THEIR names, we know their movements, we actually have records for how they got funds and aid to Henry in exile) invented for obvious reasons (who was going to gainsay them?) is it really any wonder that ‘hearsay’ became doctrinal evidence? It’s as if mere gossip and outright lies (hello Thomas More) will be the order of the day, both to destroy someone, and in reverse, to create a ‘dynasty’ that was in fact riddled with cultural devastation and the destruction of human life on a level never seen before (or after!)in the English monarchy.

    (sorry about the rant, forget Ackroyd, read Picard’s Chaucer’s People, I think she had been sourcing Sylvia Thrupps’ work – for one – but that’s okay, her writing style is lovely, and a great sense of humour!)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you amma19542019. Feel free to rant – unless you disagree with me, of course. Ha! Thank you for the tip about Chaucer’s People – I’ll add it to my list of Books 2 Buy! Rather a long list, as you’ll no doubt have guessed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear V, (I am getting chummy, aren’t I!) Picard is a ‘quick read’ in the best sense of the phrase, you don’t even realize that you’ve flown through half the book in one sitting because she is so endearing a companion! (Every so often I came across an explanation that FOR once cleared up a ‘term’ that has befuddled me, ‘mortmain’ for example, I know its technical meaning, but her description, real world example did what no academic definition could do … I think you’re love her 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I feel obliged to apologize to you, my lady, and anyone else who has been afflicted in this way. I was asked to read this book before publication all those years ago – not simply as a copyeditor or proofreader as is normally the case (in my day job), but because I listed ‘medieval history’ on my CV as a subject I worked on, and they needed people to read for errors. Unfortunately I was busy (or about to go on holiday – I can’t quite remember which), so was unable to take the job. I like to think I would have at least done my best to counter all this nonsense. (Not that authors always take notice, but I have on at least a couple of occasions persuaded one to amend their work in regards to something written about King Richard…)

    Liked by 3 people

  5. I was sent this book as a present from a great friend who enjoys Ackroyd’s books and admires him as a writer, and I felt just the same. A real let down, and infuriating to anyone who knows even the basics of Richard’s life. I thought he must have ‘lifted’ it from some traditional history book, having done no research himself and of course, as I then mistrusted all his historical ‘facts’, I didn’t bother to read any further. I had to be honest with my friend about it and I think she was quite hurt, but that’s just too bad as I was amazed that such sloppy work could still be applauded and accepted as his apparently is.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. It sounds perfectly awful. One has to wonder about the accuracy of the book as a whole. “Falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus,” as they say. The author seems to have been untroubled by the research process.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Dear Nell, having never had any Latin, I have to run to get every phrase ‘translated’ but I had a suspicion what this one was and I LOVE IT, good grief, it could easily be the motto stamped on every copy of Thomas More’s fantasy ‘history’ of R3 (and a attending list too long to cite here but I’m sure you could provide it yourself!)

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi friends – If you see any book using this manky Victorian-era coloured-in drawing (supposedly from the Rous Roll) don’t go anywhere near it! Caroline Halsted had a good excuse for commissioning a black-and-white line drawing – no photography in her day – but this dreadful colourised abomination should be banned! If the management will allow me, I will be happy to post a PROPER image from the Latin Rous Roll.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear AjC,

      And here I thought that color illustration was the result of our Disneyfied/Pixar’d/ Dreamworked concept of the world (Shrek, anyone?) … the Victorians – if you have ever seen the work of Edwin Austin Abbey (d.1911) he created my favorite painting to despise, Richard as the duke of Gloucester hunched over as he trails behind a glazed and diaphanous Anne Neville, swathed in veils, as if a cloud hoping to scuttle away from this dire apparition she cannot shake! Allegedly the Shakespeare seduction scene of a mourning (and young!) widow, devastated at the loss of her (murdered!) husband – it’s everything I loathe, ahhh, but it is masterful in technique, gorgeous in every way. Seduction here of lies. The Rous colorized illustration by contrast is rather tacky, unusual for the Victorians, I think.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Dear AJC,

    Every so often I pop over to your site, unsure when you have time to post; I will check out the bonafide Rous version. BTW, I have the ‘new’ (is anything by Hicks really ‘new’) bio on Richard, first thing I always do is flip to the bibliography, and yes, he cites your work on the retrieval of Richard, but not the (I say seminal) work Maligned King, right there, he loses points. Not to be snarky but Hicks has been circling the other side of less than zero with me for awhile – the whole mangled Countess Oxford business – but this was an unnecessary slight, in my annoyed opinion! Sorry for the rant, but I’ve been in house quarantine for over three weeks now, and about the only good thing that has come of it is I’ve discovered quite a bit is digitized online ! (I’ve been trolling through the Early Chancery Proceedings lately, fascinating material, actually…)


    1. It’s kind of you to look for my work to be cited, but the fact is I’ve never been regarded as a respectable source by any established Ricardian circles apart from my Looking For Richard association. Geoff Wheeler is the exception, because he has worked with me and knows I will accept nothing that doesn’t have thoroughly researched authenticity. You won’t find me in the bibliographies of Chris Skidmore or Peter Hammond either … but I don’t do things for public recognition, indeed I refused all TV appearances except Newsnight after the discovery in Leicester. It’s enough to have made a contribution. As for Michael Hicks, he has lost all credibility with me since he has maintained (and repeated) his disproved theories about two brothers marrying two sisters. Shame on him!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dear AJC,

        No, YOU are too kind, as per Messire Hicks! He’s something of my bete noire, I’m from academia myself (branded a “formalist” – which in the era of deconstruction etc is about as bad as you can be), I know exactly why Hicks is the way he is, it’s simply ‘his turn’ – academics after an appropriate number of decades of plodding lectures, and cycling through the writing of articles/papers (often the same labored, tired ‘research’ slightly altered to appear ‘revisited’) they get the ‘plum’ – their well deserved right to publish the ‘definitive’ history of so-and-so or something or other when they haven’t actually researched or QUESTIONED anything in eons.

        On the other hand I am addicted to research, I find it impossible to stop, and I love cross-referencing material and sources against each other, each new detail provides so much new information, why stop? DO NOT ever once think that you are not in a superior league of genuine and intellectually stimulating, legitimate, historically sound work! You knock the socks off Hicks! And that is coming from a research afficianado!

        Actually, what drew me to your work is your tenaciousness to question, and I mean question everything. I believe you share that with Matthew Lewis, another non-academic, if I am right; you may be a bit more strident, yes! Prof. Hicks would never want me for a student, or associate! (Haha, or your either??)

        In my mountain of go-to reference books YOU and Rosemary Horrox rule (well, she has Richard’s whole northern affinity in there – yes, I know, her biases against Richard are rather alarming), and of course Maligned – though I’ve ruined it with notes and yellow highlighter, I have another good copy, nicely updated, thank you – I haven’t been able to get your other titles as you do not ship to the US, however, with any luck the RIII GMM 2020 is here in Philadelphia and I am hoping all sorts of items to be available to me that aren’t otherwise).

        So … never ever ever ever think that serious students of history do not recognize the REAL spirit of the pursuit of truth, we do! Ricardians or otherwise, you are the first I recommend, especially BBC level White Queen or Tudor fans, I’m shocked how little they know about anything!

        here’s one of my favorite quotes, I should make a t-shirt of it –
        “it is terrifying to think of how much research is needed to determine the truth of even the most unimportant fact” (Stendhal, Marie-Henri Beyle)

        – well, terrifying to our friend, but I adore the challenge!

        Stay well, and best regards – to the people who actually know something about academia and Richard never doubt that you stand miles over what Hicks could have done, and never did – and, you and the Looking for Richard project did indeed find Richard.

        Beth Williams


      2. Beth, we obviously have a lot in common! I am constantly picking up ‘unconsidered trifles’ and filing them away for future exploration. An example is my investigation of the offices of Protector and Constable, which took several years, likewise my series of articles on ‘dodgy dates’ which took a LOT of accumulated bits and pieces to track down when Anne Neville probably DID marry her two husbands, and what were the probable dates of Edward of Middleham’s birth and death.

        I’m sorry if you’ve been unable to find my other Ricardian books (I’ve also written several books on other subjects), but you won’t really need my ‘Small Guide’ because it is merely a distillation of ‘Maligned King’ intended for popular consumption, with a few extra notes on the facts/myths surrounding Edward IV’s sons. This is available online as an ebook, as are ‘Finding Richard III: The Official Account’ (of the discovery of Richard’s grave) and ‘Richard … as Protector and Constable’. I do ship to the US and issue PayPal invoices in normal circumstances, i.e. when I’m not self-isolating 😉 but these titles are also available by mail order from the Richard III Society if you happen to be a member. I’d be happy to correspond with you by email via annettecarson@btinternet.com.

        Right now I am labouring my way through Mancini page by page identifying submissions to make to Livia Visser-Fuchs for the Society’s proposed new edition or version or translation or whatever it is.
        Very best wishes

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Dear AJC,

    You made my day, as per a new ‘take’ ( ahem, let’s just scrap what we ‘think’ we know about Mancini) and start all over again! I will write to you with more details,

    Beth Williams



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