Richard III – Murderer? Loyal brother? England’s greatest king?
by Max Keen
Thursday 27th March 2014
A full suit of amour and bearing both a battle-axe and sword clattering through the room, was the start of an entertaining evening for the VEHS at their March meeting. Max Keen, teacher, archaeologist, musician and biker was showing how King Richard III and his knights would have waged war, on foot, at the time of Richard’s fight to the death at the battle of Bosworth in 1483.
Max explained the convoluted family connections leading up to Richard’s succession and demise, not without some difficulty, as so many of the people involved were named Edward, Richard and Henry and were the off-spring both legitimate and illegitimate connections. All this evolved during the Wars of the Roses, with its many conflicts.
Richard III succeeded to the throne when King Edward IV died in 1483. Edward IV had made an enormous and lasting change in allowing the establishment of Caxton and his press in London. Richard, who had not expected to be King, was encouraged to take the Crown by Parliament, to try and stop the widespread bloodshed.
Max’s theme was that Richard III was, far from, the cruel despot portrayed by Shakespeare. He was not in fear of contenders to the Crown – Titulus Regis ruled the Princes in the Tower were not contenders, so it was unlikely that he had them murdered. He introduced the right of courts to grant bail, took action to prevent the intimidation of juries, encoded the laws of England, created a College of Arms and encouraged the arts, all things that endure until today. He travelled the country to see the courts in action and he was, truly, a man of the people.
However, Henry Tudor had other ideas, accusing Richard of many crimes. He recruited a band of French mercenaries and landed in Wales, and acquiring Welsh and Lancastrian privateers marched towards Bosworth where at Ambion Hill the armies met. Richard’s forces were out manoeuvred, whilst some of his supporters held back to see which way the battle would go. Richard was slain, probably by head injuries from the battle-axe, and his naked body was strapped to his horse, White Surrey, whilst his army fled for their lives.
Henry Tudor was crowned on the battlefield. He had no notions of fair government. He arrested nine related possible claimants to the throne and had them all killed. In 1502, James Tyrell, his main bodyguard, was arrested and executed, without trial, on the accusation that he had killed the Princes in the Tower.
Max, www.keenhistorytalks.com, took the opportunity to explain that his talk was only one of several he gives, was given rousing applause for an entertaining and informative evening.