King Richard III Essay Sample
Some of the greatest mysteries up for debate in English monarch history are the ones concerning Richard the Third, Duke of Gloucester, and the murder of his two nephews who were Edward V and Richard of Shrewsbury, Duke of York. Many people believed Richard murdered his nephews because he was jealous and wanted to obtain the throne for himself. Facts suggesting why Richard would be guilty or innocent will be analyzed in this paper along with a conclusion of which facts are most evident in proving one or the other.
Richard the Third was born on October 2, 1452, at Fotheringhay Castle, England. On March 4, 1461, Richard’s older brother, Edward IV, became king of England. On November 1, 1461, King Edward IV make Richard Duke of Gloucester. Then, on April 9, 1483, Edward IV died. In his will, he had given the title of Protector of England to Richard. Unfortunately, the Edward IV’s wife, Elizabeth Woodville, and her family did not want Richard being Protector, because they wished to have rule over Edward V. This was made evident in a written statement made by Dominic Mancini, an Italian man who was visiting England at the time of Richard’s reign, ‘…the queen ennobled many of her family. Besides, she attracted to her party many strangers and introduced them to court, so that they alone should manage the public and private businesses of the crown, surround the king, land have bands of trainers, give or sell offices, and finally rule the king himself.’ 1 Richard being aware of this decided to send a letter to Edward IV’s council in England warning them that he planned to completely follow his brother’s final wishes. Shortly after, Henry Stafford, Second Duke of Buckingham, came to Middleham to assist Richard with his every need.
One of the major facts that suggested Richard might have murdered his nephews was that he was the only one who had both the means and the opportunity to kill them. During Richard the Third’s Parliament meeting of 1484, the Titulus Regius Act was approved. The act stated that the children of Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville were illegitimate. This declared Edward V a disposed monarch, which left Richard the Third the only one eligible for the throne. Since it was not uncommon at the time for a disposed monarch to be done away with in some fashion, then this certainly gave Richard the means necessary to murder his nephews. As for the opportunity, it was well known that Richard only allowed himself and a priest to see the princes while they were under heavy guard in the Tower in London. This meant that only Richard or someone Richard hired killed the princes.
Moreover, Richard had grown tired of the Woodville’s protests and conspiracies they planned against him, despite Edward V already being a disposed monarch. Richard knew that if the Woodvilles were to succeed, then no one in England would dare to go against them. He may have decided to end it all by murdering his nephews to take away any possible hope they had to put Edward V on the throne.
‘The last major argument that provided evidence for Richard’s possible guilt was that he arrested and executed anyone who presented a possible threat in his plan to follow his brother’s final wishes.’ 2 Due to the possible mental and emotional strain that Richard was fighting with as a result of these executions, might have caused him to lose focus of his original goal and become full of distrust, fear, and hate toward the Woodvilles and anyone in compliance with them. This may have then led him to make decisions based off of emotion, which would have resulted in him killing his nephews out of hate for the Woodvilles.
Now, an observation that proved Richard’s possible innocence in the murder of his nephews was that Richard had a fairly stable relationship with the Woodvilles up to the time of his brother’s death. Richard had even settled a land dispute for Earl Rivers, brother to Elizabeth Woodville. Aside from that, Richard had an even closer and more loyal relationship with his brother, Edward IV, which would give a reason as to why he was so adamant about following through with Edward IV’s final wishes.
Furthermore, it was evident that even though Richard had placed his nephews in the Tower in London, he still made sure that the princes were in constant comfort. This was made obvious when Richard allowed a priest to go daily into the princes’ chamber to give them the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion. Also, before the execution of Hastings, one of the council members that Richard had executed due to suspicions of him conspiring with the Woodvilles, ‘the children of king Edward were seen shooting and playing in the garden of the Tower by sundry times.’ 3
Lastly, an important piece of information that could prove Richard’s innocence was that Elizabeth Woodville accepted Richard’s promise to take her daughters into the castle and care for them. Proving that she had come to terms with her sons most likely being dead and that she was still willing to place herself into Richard’s hands. She further proved her trust in him by writing to the Marquess and telling him to also place himself in Richard’s hands and forget about trying to replace Richard with Henry Tudor, son to Margret Beaufort and a man with a very distant claim to the English throne.
All the actions made by Richard after obtaining possession of Edward V appeared to be neither preplanned nor conducted out of pure hatred. Also, because Edward V had become a disposed monarch, then he clearly did not pose a threat to Richard’s succession to the throne. ‘Instead, the actions taken by Richard concerning his nephews appeared to be caused due to a bad mixture of Richard’s patience being pushed by the Woodville and government leaders’ conspiracies and Richard’s mentality and emotions becoming ever more screwed due to his increase of frustration and feeling of betrayal.’ 4 ‘Even with these issues, it does not appear that Richard personally murdered his nephews; however, it was evident that as a final precaution, Richard played some role in their murders. It was also evident that many of Richard’s decisions were set into motion with the cunning and alluring words of his closest ally and henchman, the Duke of Buckingham.’ 5 So, if this decision was decided with the aid of Buckingham’s persuasion or if it was solely based on confusion and fear, one will never know.
In conclusion, this mystery was one filled with so many conspiracies and unlikely betrayals which make it almost impossible to know for sure if Richard the Third was actually responsible for his two nephews’ murders. The evidence pointing towards Richard as their murder can be used just as strongly to prove as to why he didn’t murder them. No one will ever truly know what happened to the princes, but it was known for certain that they died at some point during Richard’s reign from July 6, 1483 to August 22, 1485.