Richard III owned religious books, but slept around….?

Richard III – Saint and Wicked by Cecilia Latella

Yes, we’ve all seen the above illustration before, but for my purposes today it’s ideal. Was Richard a saint? Or a sinner?

I’ve happened upon a very interesting paper about Richard, by Carole Cusack, in which she discusses his reputation and why he still has the power to influence us today. Just what is it about this particular man that stirs so many of us to clamour in his support? I don’t know, but if they could bottle it, etc. etc…..

The 2010 paper, presented to the Society in Australia shortly before Richard was found, is generally worth reading, although at least one of the subheadings is worthy of a challenge: “….Dominic Mancini’s De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tertium (The Usurpation of the Realm of England by Richard III).….” Does occupatione really mean usurpation, when “usurpatione” could have been used? It seems to be that it’s more subtle than that. 

Toward the end, in generally summing up Richard, the author states:

“….Even if one believes him innocent of the deaths of the princes, he was capable of great ruthlessness and was an effective military commander. He owned religious books and endowed church institutions, but fathered illegitimate children….”

I’m sorry, but just how many medieval princes/magnates were not ruthless? Well, there was Henry VI, of course, but the least said about him the better. And being an effective military leader was a desirable, much admired attribute. Who wants a leader who squeaks and runs at the first brandished fist? But come on, clumping religion together with sleeping around (the implication) is just not on. Even today, how many young, unmarried men haven’t had sex? At least Richard acknowledged his illegitimate children and did all he could for them. There’s no evidence that he “put it about”, as the saying goes.

As to the religion bit, well there were some Popes who fathered baseborn children. Indeed, the Church said one thing, but many of its representatives went their own sweet way. If the expectation of celibacy can’t hold back even the Holy Father, then why should we expect it of Richard of Gloucester? At least he wasn’t in holy orders!

As far as I’m concerned, Richard’s morals were to be admired, and until someone proves to me that he was a vile murdering monster, I won’t change my mind.

But the paper is definitely worth a read.



  1. Oh Viscountessw! You do make it hard to get anything done! I hear Mancini and it’s like Pavlov’s dog for me, which is not good. I actually have low BP, except when certain names echo in the cyber ether… Mancini, I’ll be kind, was a mediocre but hopeful poet/clerical/hack sent to London by Angelo Cato (and probably not the only ‘boots on the ground’ type of intel Cato and LXI had on hand – there would have been highly accomplished spies long in place – especially among the merchant, diplomatic agents, and likely a few privately disaffected Englishmen – one could possibly call Mancini a bottom feeder, there to ensure, to Cato, that the right implanted gossip and rumours were well developed and disseminated throughout London long before the Treaty of Arras – LXI preferred what amounted to a cold war of propaganda and masterful deceit to open warfare, which was costly and had limited seasonal application) …

    No, the damage that was caused by Mancini is not his garbled lack of English, or grasp of its politics and culture, no it was the scholar who (perhaps inadvertently – I’m biting my tongue here) decided that when translating Mancini’s manuscript, that “occupation” meant “usurpation.” C.A.J. Armstrong (1909-1994) ‘s translation and notes were published in 1936. While at Oxford Armstrong was Michael Hicks’s doctoral advisor (DPhil) … I’m done.

    Ok, maybe one more thing! (BP rising as we speak) WHO didn’t have illegitimate, natural children? Edward the Black Prince had a couple (and like Richard was open about them, maybe not to the degree of brother Gaunt, but then…) and Warwick had a natural daughter; to my utter surprise Duke Charles of Burgundy had two sons – I’m agog at that one. One of Charles’ many many many many many half-brothers, some bishop, when he died, the man had some 36 of HIS illegitimate children attend his funeral! Ye gods, he was the bishop from whom Duchess Margaret of York bought her home, Mechelin.

    Since we are on the subject, and it is one I have had to straddle for a project, the idea that Richard had a few natural children doesn’t surprise me, but I have come to the conclusion that they had to be prior to 1471-2 reason being the dates do not work if you look at what we know about Katherine and John in 1483-84.

    Between being sprung from Warwick’s household in 1468 (we think) and 1471 Richard’s financial future was anything but settled and if Edward had needed to arrange for him some foreign marriage he would have (wasn’t Bona of Savoy also touted as a possible bride for R? Somewhere I read this, Viscountessw will surely know. She ended up with the ghastly Galeazzo Maria Sforza in 1468 instead).

    I also see Richard following his father and George’s pattern – marry a Neville and you had best stay chaste. He not only married his mother’s family but a good portion of what he could claim as his came from her inheritance, that’s a touchy circumstance if you then disrespect the woman on her own turf, where the Neville anme still held claim to a legitimate popularity – so, no mistresses, or if you do so, keep them so well hidden that not even ravaging anti-ricardians like Hicks will ever get a whiff that they existed!


  2. I had actually /not/ seen this illustration before….but then, I am relatively quite new to active study of this particular topic. To borrow a phrase from myself (as connoting ambivalently-mingled irritation, amusement, fascination, etc.), it really hardens my cider. A well-executed dichotomy, though of course I will tend to quibble over the hair.


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