Tag Archives: Richard III

A Review of The Princes in the Tower

I had been meaning to read Alison Weir’s The Princes in the Tower for quite some time, but being a mother slowed me down!  I am usually a fan of her work but not in this case.

Full Disclosure: I am a  member of the Richard III Society.  I acknowledge the likelihood that Richard III murdered his nephews but since there is no “hard” evidence, we should at least examine alternative theories.

In this book, Weir did no such thing.  She decided Richard III was guilty and painted him as Shakespeare’s villain.

It is undisputed that Richard usurped the throne from his nephews and placed them in the Tower of London.  He did this under that claim that Edward IV’s (the princes father) marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid due to a precontract.  Essentially, Edward IV had committed bigamy.

family tree

The above family tree is not my work.  I found it on Pinterest.

Weir presents Richard’s taking of the throne as calculated murder.  If Edward IV committed bigamy, the princes would have been illegitimate and unable to inherit the throne.  Back in these times, that was a very valid reason for Richard III to take the throne.  Being illegitimate was a BIG DEAL.

Richard was a loyal brother to Edward IV and usually did his bidding.  Edward asked Richard to be Lord Protector of the realm until Edward V reached his majority.

If Richard betrayed this, perhaps it was because he felt threatened.  The princes’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville, mistrusted Richard and plotted against him.  Usurping the throne and getting rid of the princes may have been a way for him to protect himself and his young son.

Of course, there is the possibility that Richard did not order the deaths of the princes and someone else did it to undermine his rule.

Another thing that bothered me in this book was the assertion that Richard hastened the death of his queen, Anne Neville through poison and malicious rumors, so he could marry his niece, Elizabeth of York.  I realize there was probably a flirtation or perhaps even an affair, but I just don’t think Richard killed his wife.  Most accounts show a respectful marriage, and it has been written that Richard was grief-stricken at Anne’s death.

Weir also harps on the incestuous nature of Richard III’s relationship with his niece, Elizabeth of York.  First, we don’t even know for sure that they had relations.  If they did, it would be incestuous by our modern definition however, back in these times, the church granted dispensations for these sort of things ALL THE TIME.  It’s gross to a twenty-first century mind, but don’t over-dramatize it.

My final issue with this work is that Weir relies heavily on Thomas More as a source.  More lived in the Tudor Court.  History is written by the victors, and I can’t imagine Henry VII would have enjoyed a favorable account of his predecessor that he killed.  And if the Tudors had something to do with the murders of the princes, even more reason to vilify the last Yorkist king.

Maybe Richard III was a child-killing asshole.  I would have appreciated more evidence from all sides in a work of this magnitude.  I would not fault anyone from concluding that Richard III was involved in the murders, but I think there were deeper reasons than him just being a power-hungry usurper.

 

 

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The LCD

One of the greatest experiences of my childhood was visiting the Tower of London with my family.  That day, history came alive and a lifelong passion was born.  When I returned with my husband in 2012, I was a little bit disappointed in my experience.  While the great structures were still there, many of the exhibits had been “dumbed-down” to make them more interactive.  I really didn’t need to vote on who I believed murdered the Princes in the Tower.  This did nothing to enhance my experience; I didn’t learn anything.  In fact, having the voices of little boys shout “Uncle!?!” actually detracted from my experience.

The same thing happened at Hampton Court.  We rented the audio tour, and what we got was a make-believe, short story about Katherine Parr’s wedding day to Henry VIII.  I would have preferred a straightforward audio tour.  A lot of us, even as children, don’t need all the bells and whistles to make something interesting.  Being in a site with as much history as Hampton Court was riveting enough.

Above Left: Exhibit in question in the Bloody Tower at the Tower of London.  I don’t have a problem with this display but there was an area where you can vote who you think killed the princes.  WHO CARES WHAT I THINK!?!?!  Above Right: Me at Hampton Court in the Haunted Gallery where Henry VIII’s fifth queen, Catherine Howard, ran screaming for the king to spare her life.  Stories like this are fascinating unlike the make-believe audio tour we had!

Unfortunately, this is just a small, personal example of how society caters to the lowest common denominator.

Another example – when I call to schedule a doctor’s appointment, I am often treated like I’m disengaged and unimportant.  I have to fight to get what I need.  My husband, who has experience in this field, says it because they see so many who don’t give a damn about their health and don’t listen to the advice of their doctors.  Just because other people don’t care doesn’t mean that I don’t.  I’ve never heard of just not showing up for an appointment, but apparently it happens multiple times per day!  When I go in for my visit, the doctor is usually delighted that I’m healthy and engaged in my healthcare.

It’s hard to find a real news broadcast anymore.  Respectable news programs show youtube clips as news.  They report what some clown says on Twitter as fact, and then it turns out to be wrong.  You would be hard-pressed to find many people in my generation who know the actual news, and I’m not talking about Keeping Up With the Kardashians.  I’m sure the average person knows what craziness Donald Trump tweeted early this morning, but do they know what is going on with North Korea or ISIS?

I’m not trying to be political here, but this is concerning.  I’m tired of living in a world where we cater to the uniformed.  We live in a nation where a lot of people think Lena Dunham and the Kardashians have all the answers.

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My Nerdy Hobby

I have always been a huge history buff.  In fact, history was my second major in undergrad.  If I had it to do all over again, I would have gotten a PhD in history and become a college professor.  I am particularly interested in British history.  This started back at the age of ten on my first visit to England where I feel in love with Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII, and the Princes in the Tower.  Over the last twenty years, I have always wondered who killed those two little boys (if both of them were even killed).

Traitor's Gate

Me standing in front of Traitor’s Gate at the Tower of London!

History, which is written by the victors, has indicated that it was their uncle, Richard III, in his greed quest to claim the English throne.  This is entirely possible; however, there are other parties who had equal or better interest in wanting the boys dead.  There are even some conspiracy theories that one or both of the boys got away and live civilian lives in exchange for their sister, Elizabeth, becoming Henry VII’s queen.

Bloody Tower

The Bloody Tower – The area where young King Edward V and his brother Richard, Duke of York, were held and possible murdered.

I was even more fascinated when the bones of Richard III were discovered in Leicester last year.  Thomas More, who worked for Henry VII, described Richard as an evil, lecherous, “crookback,” and this view was commonly accepted for hundreds of years.  The bones indicate that Richard was 5’8″ (above average height for the period) and suffered from scoliosis.  There are many historical accounts that show Richard to be a fairly pious and benevolent monarch.  Of course, there were executions he ordered that would make us squeamish in modern day; to hold the throne was a life and death struggle.  He was nowhere near his great nephew when it came to brutality.

Thirsty for more knowledge, I joined the Richard III Society last summer.  I get regular mailings/emails from them not only about Richard but about other historical figures and life in Yorkist England.  It is a great hobby for me, and I am trying to convince the family to move to York, although unsuccessfully, I am afraid.With that said, there have been a couple different sets of children’s bones found, two at the Tower of London and two at Windsor.  The set from the Tower of London, now buried at Westminster Abbey, seems to be the most promising.  It would be very interesting to test the DNA or Richard III’s bones vs. these sets.  Unfortunately, the Church of England will not allow this.  While a negative or positive test would neither condemn nor exonerate Richard, it would be fascinate to know if one or both of those sets of bones belonged to the princes.  I, for one, hope they got away.

Now, for some pictures of one of my favorite places in the world!

Tower Green

Me at Tower Green, where royal and noble executions took place.

Anne Boleyn

Me in Wakefield Tower where many famous prisoners were held.

Tower Entrance

Eric and me at the entrance to the Tower of London.

Raven

A Tower Raven – Legend has it that if the ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall.

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