Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover Book Cover

When More Evidence Comes To Light

Although I did not much like Alison Weir’s The Princes In The Tower, for her extreme bias without evidence (though I agreed with her conclusion), the book taught me a thing or two. Today I am concentrating on just the one.

When I was growing up I had a firm belief in the goodness of Henry VII and the badness of Richard III, it was something my childhood readings and a few classes had taught me and I believed it without question. I was also constantly presented by drawings of a calm, gentle, mature-looking Henry and a slightly crazed-looking Richard.

Image of Henry VII looking peaceful

This is not to say that I have since changed my overall opinion, because I haven’t. I still agree with my 8-year-old self that Richard didn’t deserve his crown and that he was responsible, if not directly, for the death of Edward V. I am, in that way, a staunch Lancasterian, even if I think that the house of York in general deserved the line through historical right.

But what I discovered showed me just how careful one should be when evaluating the importance of evidence. I had read that Henry VII had taken the crown from a horrible man who had killed two children. I saw the kind face of Henry in pictures. The pictures backed the texts up, this man was good. Now, as an adult, I have noticed the following: The image of Henry that I have included in this post is the one most often reproduced and replicated. It was painted in the 1500’s, so the artist would have been entrusted to create a good image of the king. The image I’ve included of Richard was also painted in the 1500’s, likely during Henry’s reign; it’s not surprising then that this older king doesn’t look particularly pleasant.

What my books failed to impart was the fact that while Richard had been giving his all in battle and wielding his sword, his rival had sat upon his horse watching the war from a safe position. You could say that Richard was reckless and that Henry was only doing what was normal at that period in time for a leader in war, but what it did for me was propel Richard into place as the courageous, and Henry as the selfish man unwilling to work at literal ground level but happy for others to die for him and his house.

Image of Richard III looking rather angry

Adding this information to the visual and other textual evidence can I see Richard in a new light? As one who was certainly brave – if wrong, and ruthlessly selfish – to defend the title he had stolen. In effect, he got what was due, he’d stolen the throne first and now it was going to be stolen from him in return. Even if this last fight was deserved he kept going when he could have sat back.

Henry VII on the other hand, just looked on, as he does in all the pictures undoubtedly designed to put the country at ease. Which, actually, makes me wonder. The opposing opinion to mine is that Richard didn’t kill the princes, and if you think about it, isn’t there every chance that it was done by someone in aid of Henry?



January 16, 2011, 4:16 pm

I think I am on the opposite side of this debate than you are :-) I really love Richard III, but that may be very much colored by my reading of The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Kay Penman. Have you read that? It’s fantastic.

I also read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, and found that an interesting take on the Princes in the Tower. I recommend them both, if you just want a different perspective on these two men.

Charlie: It’s weird perhaps, but even though I’m happy with my opinion I kind of want to change it to the opposing one, because of the things I’ve been thinking due to what I’ve read. I haven’t read Sharon Key Penman’s book, but I’m adding both your recommendations to my list, different views on the issues are something I’m very much interested in. Thank you, Aarti!


January 16, 2011, 8:24 pm

I love this period of history, but I’m more of a Yorkist than a Lancastrian. I agree with Aarti that The Sunne in Splendour is a fantastic book and it helped convince me that Richard III has been unfairly treated by history. I definitely recommend it as one of the best historical fiction books I’ve ever read. I recently bought a copy of The Daughter of Time too, though I haven’t read that one yet.

Charlie: A second on those books, sounds like I should check them out soon. It’d be interesting to hear your thoughts when you’ve read the latter :)


January 16, 2011, 9:39 pm

Like Aarti I was influenced into being more Yorkist than Lancastrian by reading Sunne in Splendour and other books. What I can’t tell you is who it is I think did kill the princes in the Tower if it wasn’t Richard.

I can’t remember where I saw it now, but a few years ago I am sure I saw something that said that they had done an xray of that picture of Richard and it showed that the “hump” on his shoulder had been added in much later, which suggests propoganda at work!

Charlie: I seem to remember something about that, too. I know a lot was made of the hump and that if there *was* one it wasn’t much to speak of and had been exaggerated.



Comments closed