If you support Richard III and believe history has “done him wrong”, for heaven’s sake do not read The Last Knight Errant: Sir Edward Woodville and the Age of Chivalry by Christopher Wilkins.
I made the mistake, and it soon struck me that the author had learned by rote every single myth about Richard, and then served them up as fact. Although, to be fair, he does dispense with the “two years in the womb, long hair and full set of teeth at birth” yarn. We don’t have the withered arm either. I suppose even Wilkins sensed these things would be going too far. After all, he’s aiming at a modern audience, not the Tudors. I will assume that the murder of Edward of Lancaster at Tewkesbury was a crime of Richard’s that Wilkins somehow overlooked.
So, let me see. Here are some of Richard’s crimes:-
- He murdered Henry VI.
- He poisoned Anne in order to marry his niece.
- Joanna of Portugal declined to marry Richard and preferred her nunnery.
- Richard intended from the outset to be rid of his nephews.
- His marriage was “between brother and sister-in-law” and therefore invalid. There was no dispensation applied for anyway. Thus Edward of Middleham was illegitimate.
- Elizabeth Woodville wasn’t plotting against Richard, she was merely afraid of him.
- Elizabeth Woodville had a nervous breakdown, which explains her agreement to let her daughters go into Richard’s care.
- Richard bullied the old Duchess of Oxford into giving him her estates.
- There is no evidence that Edward IV ever wanted Richard to be Protector.
- Stillington only revealed the untrue yarn of the pre-contract because Richard promised him his bastard son could marry Elizabeth of York.
- History has “demonstrated” Richard’s ruthlessness.
That’s enough! Too much even. A load of old tosh, I fear, and so untrue in these important areas that I doubt the author’s portrayal of that thieving traitor Sir Edward Woodville is much better, except that it will be the other swing of the pendulum, halo and all. Can’t be bothered to finish the book to find out.
By the way, the back cover blurb even refers to Richard as ‘that genius of propaganda’! Richard? Has Wilkins never noticed the suffocating blanket coverage by the Tudors? Bah! I don’t mind honest debate, and accept that not everyone believes Richard was a good man, but I do object to this tommyrot. Trotting out the Tudor fairy tales of Thomas More, Shakespeare and the like is not good scholarship!