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.