Re: “Time to restore Richard III's reputation,” Letter, Feb. 8.
How ironic that the members of the Society for the Restoration of the Reputation of Richard III met in Crosby Hall, home of Sir Thomas More. It was largely because of More that the picture came down to us of the “evil king.” Although he was only seven years old in 1485, when the Battle of Bosworth Field was fought, More wrote The History of Richard III, ( of which I have a copy) and this was almost certainly the inspiration for Shakespeare’s portrait.
In another letter, Jean Bullard is absolutely correct in saying that both More and Shakespeare were reflecting the Tudor propaganda that denigrated other claimants to the throne. The fascinating question is whether or not More did this knowingly.
Although Richard’s current apologists are bent on blackening Henry Tudor’s reputation, he was popular because he ended the Wars of the Roses, which, like all civil wars, was ruining the economy. By marrying Elizabeth of York, Henry VII also united the Houses of York and Lancaster. This is symbolised by the Tudor rose which incorporates the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. Although many of us have been influenced by Charles Laughton’s portrayal of Henry VIII and the fact that he had six wives, he was half-Lancastrian and half-Yorkist, a very popular king.
One final interesting footnote. Richard III was born in 1452 in Fotheringhay Castle, near Oundle, the site, in 1587, of the trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots. When the Stuart James I and VI came to the throne, he moved his mother’s remains from Peterborough Cathedral to Westminster Abbey and allowed the Castle to fall into ruin. There are, however, several mementos of the House of York in the Fotheringhay Parish Church.
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