Posted by: Julia Redlich   in News, NSW Branch News, Richard III in the Media

The (Australian) Sunday Telegraph of 10 February 2013 featured an article by Claire Harvey ‘Time to Tell the Truth’, which favoured – to put it politely – a rather traditionalist view of Richard III.  Several of our members as well as friends felt called upon to point out Ms Harvey’s misconceptions.   Two of the letters were printed, though in an abridged format.  We are pleased to make all letters available to you in full.

The first two were published in subsequent editions of the Sunday Telegraph.

While members of the Richard III Society worldwide appreciate that everyone has a right to their own opinion, the New South Wales Branch was disturbed by Claire Harvey’s comments that presented no reference to reliable sources to back up her arguments. The Society originated in 1924 for the following reason: “In the belief that many features of the traditional accounts of the character and career of Richard III are neither supported by sufficient evidence nor reasonably tenable, the Society aims to promote in every possible way research into the life and times of Richard III and to secure a reassessment of the material relating to this period and the role in English history of this monarch.”

The recent archaeological dig in Leicester has helped us in this task by revealing truths (such as he had scoliosis not a hunched back) about Richard that cancel much of the work of Henry Tudor and his spin doctors did to destroy Richard’s character and achievements. The Society’s work will still go on because its members are certainly zealous but not the nerds as described by Ms Harvey.

What happened to the two young princes will probably always be a mystery. There are several options for their disappearance, and they may indeed have been murdered, but there are other prime suspects including the Tudor family. Accessing the Society’s websites and others will provide further information and  suggest reliable sources.

Julia Redlich, Secretary, Richard III Society, NSW Branch

I was interested to read the provocative item by Claire Harvey regarding the recent confirmation of King Richard III’s remains by the University of Leicester. Ms Harvey’s stance is the stock version we all learned at school, and she would have done well to have read some of the more current, measured examinations of the historical facts.

Briefly: after the death of King Edward IV, a retired bishop came forth to admit that he had secretly betrothed Edward to another lady before his marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, therefore, under the laws of that day, rendering that marriage null and void and their children illegitimate. The lady had spent her life closeted away in a convent, and the bishop had remained silent, and in fear of his life, until the King’s death. But as the throne could only be held by one in the legitimate line those children were now a moot point, as they could not by law succeed their father. In other words, the princes were not Richard’s rivals, having been disqualified from the line of succession.
Many scholars believe that the person who would most benefit by the murder of the sons was the Lancaster line, in the person of Henry Tudor. There is no proof that the boys were not still living in the Tower at the time their uncle was overthrown on Bosworth Field, and it would clearly have been in Henry’s interests to get rid of them forthwith.

The further details of the story are far too complex to retell here, but what is true is that it is unfair to judge a man by the writings of his enemy. Richard would never have had a fair hearing during the Tudor dynasty, under whose patronage Shakespeare was writing.

Not all Ricardians are ‘zealots’ or ‘in love with their man’; some of us just want a fair hearing for a man who otherwise had lived an exemplary life and ruled well for his few years. During which time, by the way, the princes’ mother was on good terms with Richard; would that have been the case had she suspected him of murder?

What is needed here is temperance, objectivity and humility before we leap to easy judgement of others, even if they lived 500 years ago. We would request from the editor the publishing of a more nuanced and dispassionate treatment rather than the perpetuation of the default Tudor condemnation of Richard.

That said, we gladly support Ms Harvey’s request that the Tower remains be analysed as carefully as were Richard’s, as the outcome is of utmost historical interest. However, if it is revealed that they were indeed the princes, it would still not reveal who ordered the deed done. And finally, in the English legal system, both Richard III and Henry VII are innocent of the princes’ demise until proven guilty.

Leslie McCawley

Three not used, from Helen Portus, Kevin Herbert (both active members of the NSW Branch) and David Green, a long-standing friend of the Richard III Society.

Dear Editor


After all the well-balanced and well-researched articles this week about Richard III in all our major papers, both in Australia and worldwide, out of left field comes an article such as published by Claire Harvey!

Such ignorance! How fascinating!  Whilst Ms Harvey is obviously entitled to her opinions, does the Telegraph not usually prefer their writers to speak the truth?

Statements like:  “Richard III was a killer … a villain”.  Any evidence Ms Harvey??

Helen Portus

I read with unfettered astonishment the article: “Time To Dig Up The Truth” by Clare Harvey.

She is obviously unaware of the various contemporary sources available, none of which, as far as I recollect, actually state unequivocally that:

i ) the princes were murdered;

ii ) that their uncle was definitely responsible, if they were murdered;

iii ) that the bones discovered in 1674 were actually the bones of two lads of the correct age – (apart from the botched examination carried out earlier last century).

Some bones were actually found to be those of Barbary Apes from the Royal Menagerie, established by Henry III;

iv) that even should the bones in question be proven to be that of the unfortunate princes, and it be proven that they were murdered , no D.N.A. testing will indicate who was responsible for their deaths.

I can never understand why it is assumed by some that Richard needed the death of the princes.

They were no threat to him, nor their sisters, since they had all been declared illegitimate by decree of parliament – as specified in the Titulus Regius – a document which Henry VII attempted to destroy completely unread. Unfortunately for him and his supporters not all copies were destroyed.

Henry it was who needed the boys out of the way, since he re-legitimised the children of Edward IV so that his wife’s legitimacy might prop up his own rather dubious claim to the throne.

If his wife were legitimate, so too were all her siblings, including her two surviving brothers if living  whose claims at that time were superior to hers.

Through his mother , Margaret Beaufort, he was illegitimately descended from John of Gaunt (3rd surviving son of Edward III) and his mistress, Katherine Swynford; through his father, Edmund Tudor, he was probably illegitimately descended from the liasion (no proof of marriage has ever been found) between Katherine de Valois (the widow of Henry V and mother of Henry VI ) and Owen Tudor, her Welsh clerk of the wardrobe.

Perhaps the bones which should be re-examined by a similar DNA process are that of the so called Perkin Warbeck and the lad, who raised his standard in Dublin in 1486 and possibly fell at Stoke on Trent (all the dead would need to be examined) to be replaced by Lambert Simnel after the Battle of Stoke on Trent in June 1487 – for I strongly believe that the main two so called Pretenders were who they claimed they were – and not who Henry VII  and his minions claimed they claimed to be.

If Henry wanted to disprove the claims of both Pretenders why didn’t he ever allow his wife and sisters-in-law to examine Perkin Warbeck?  Surely a simple foolproof way of establishing his being an imposter. But he was never called an imposter, as far as I can recall. He was always styled a pretender.

A pretender is one who raises a valid claim to the throne – thus Bonnie Prince Charlie, James Edward, the Old Pretender etc.

I think Clare Harvey would be well advised to check her sources.

Kevin Herbert

I find Claire Harvey’s article on Richard III interesting. Not only for its obfuscation and inaccuracies but also that, despite the many books written on his life and times since the 17th century, such a piece could still be written.

15th century society was separated by class, each section knowing where it stood with its own aims and customs.   Without firm control the magnates across the country tended to rule their own counties or territories not always for the good of the inhabitants.  Family ties were of great importance and sometimes transcended oaths of loyalty to the Crown.  The so-called Wars of the Roses was a result of divisions that had its roots in the reign of Edward III (1312-1377).  A hundred years later Edward IV, a strong king, ruled England with his younger brother Richard governing the North. Edward was a woman-chaser who was troth-plighted (equivalent in customary law to marriage without consummation) to a lady named Eleanor Butler at the time of his secret marriage to Elizabeth Woodville.     His two sons were therefore illegitimate and the account of Edward’s affairs were made known after his death.  All this was published in an Act of Parliament, subsequently suppressed by Henry VII, but an original copy turned up in the Tower records much later.    The Tower of London was a royal palace as well as fortress and the obvious place to house the Princes at the time.

So much for motive.

The fate of the boys has been much debated, whether the bones  which are sealed will ever be examined remains to be seen. Josephine Tey quoted the old proverb, “Truth is the daughter of time”.  Richard’s silence in the face of rumours has perplexed historians, it has been a matter of probabilities discussed in many books and considered in the Trial Of Richard III (1984) which was properly constituted with judge Lord Elwyn Jones and Queen’s Counsel for both Defence and Prosecution appearing. The verdict was ‘Not Guilty’, one factor being the reconciliation between the boys’ mother and the King and another the lack of interest in the matter by his successor Henry VII.

The deaths of certain noblemen, condemned by Richard III were the result of betrayals by the breaking of oaths of loyalty, or direct revolt, which were a  capital offence, a matter not understood today.  He was a good, which means successful, soldier and his parliament enacted several statutes to the benefit of his subjects in property rights and the annulment of the custom of ‘benevolences’ which was another name for fines as a means of extracting money for the royal coffers.

Some of this information could have been aired in your columnist’s article, leaving out mention of Julian Assange who will not be pleased at being written  of in association with Richard III.   If Miss Harvey knows nothing of these matters then I suggest that she visits the library, Paul Murray Kendall’s Richard The Third (Unwins 1955) would be a good start.

David Green

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