Archive for the ‘Quotes’ Category


The “Murder” of King Richard III

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , ,

York House Books“King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was thrugh grete treason of the duc of Northfolk and many othre that turned ayenst hyme, with many othre lords and nobilles of this north parties, was piteously slain and murdred to the grete hevyness of this citie”

([f.169v], York House Books, 1461-1490, Vol.1, ed. by Lorraine C. Attreed. Alan Sutton for Roichard II & Yorkist History Trust, 1991, pp.368-369)


When I read the word “murder”, I think of detective novels. One person kills someone else after careful planning trying to hide the fact that he/she is the murderer, sometimes even trying to disguise it as an accident or suicide. In the end, Hercule Poirot, Lord Peter Wimsey, Miss Fisher etc clears it all up and explains what had been going on.

In the above well-known quote from the York House Books, especially as it is used in the same sentence as the alleged treason of the Duke of Norfolk and others, the word “murder” seems to suggest some kind of whodunnit.   However, was this really what the York city officials wanted to say?  After all, a death in battle, though certainly hoped for by the opposing side, is not the result of careful planning, nor would the person responsible try to hide his deed.

When the other day, a friend of mine referred to the “murder” of Richard, my literature professor at uni came to my mind. He was very strict on interpreting any work of literature, be it fiction, drama or poetry, within its historical context. To this end it was important to find out whether the meaning of a word was at the time it was written the same as its modern meaning. So we would make our way to the library, and check in the many volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary.

What applies to works of literature, certainly applies equally to historical records. Checking out “murder” in the online version of the OED first showed me the detective novel explanation: “The deliberate and unlawful killing of a human being, esp. in a premeditated manner; (Law) criminal homicide with malice aforethought (occas. more fully wilful murder); an instance of this.”

However, a bit further down there was another explanation, marked as now obsolete and recorded for the last time in 1590. Here it said: “Terrible slaughter, massacre, loss of life; an instance of this.”

“Terrible slaughter, massacre” are words which describe a medieval battle perfectly and fit in with what we know about Richard’s death. Therefore I would suggest that the city fathers of York used the word in this sense, without any more sinister connotations.


Literary Trivia

   Posted by: Julia Redlich Tags: , ,

Elizabeth George, Believing the Lie, Hodder & Stoughton, 2012, pbk ISBN 978 1 444 7 05980

H. Rider Haggard, Montezuma’s Daughter, first published 1896, various later editions as well as ebook formats are available.

Checking the new Elizabeth George Inspector Lynley novel for pro-Richard III comments, I was rather disappointed. These comments have not appeared recently, probably since Inspector Lynley’s wife Helen was murdered and hasn’t been there to tease him about his obsession or to wonder why he likes going to a place near Leicester in August. However I did find this which shows a Shakespearean look:

Valerie is looking at her husband, Bernard. “She glanced at him then. Such a little man, actually, he was shorter than she by nearly five inches. Small, a little delicate, mischievous looking, cocky, grinning … My God, she thought, all he needed was a hunchback, a doublet, and tights. She’d been as easily seduced as the Lady Anne.”

There may be more in this very enjoyable book. I couldn’t put it down for all the twist.

The other day, I was channel surfing and came to Lifestyle channel, Country House Rescue. One episode featured a place in Norfolk that I knew. Checking it on a map of Norfolk I saw it was near Bungay, and thought “that’s where Thomas Wingfield lived”. Funny how names from books first read in childhood are never forgotten! When I was 10 one of the teachers at my school was talking about Cortez and Mexico etc, and told us that if we wanted to know a little more we would enjoy Rider Haggard’s book Montezuma’s Daughter, something my father obligingly bought for me. It must have been one of the first “grown-up” books I read, but Thomas Wingfield became a permanent hero! Checking my copy again I loved this paragraph, where Thomas says:

Long ago the heiress of the Wingfields married a De La Pole, a family famous in our history, the last of whom, Edmund, Earl of Suffolk, lost his head for treason when I was young and the castle passed to the De La Poles with her.

Not really Ricardian, but not surprising because Haggard lived in Norfolk/Suffolk and would have been aware of the history of the county. But I was happy to know that my hero Thomas was related to Richard’s sister Elizabeth.


Rebecca’s Tale

   Posted by: Julia Redlich Tags: ,

Sally Beauman, Rebecca’s Tale. Little, Brown, 2001.  ISBN 0 316 858137

We all enjoy looking for references to Richard III in whatever we are reading.  I found another one in Sally Beauman’s novel Rebecca’s Tale, which is the second sequel to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca telling us about what happened to the de Winters after Manderley goes up in flames.

The first sequel Mrs de Winter was fairly straightforward, but this one is written by four different characters, one of them Rebecca herself.  There’s a lot of delving into her very hidden past to discover what made her who she was.  In case you haven’t read it and would like to I won’t go into it all, but when she was a child she was involved, like her mother, with a B-grade theatre company and played roles like Puck, Macduff’s son and Edward V.  When she sees Manderley for the first time, still quite young, she writes in one of her notebooks:

I knew I’d come home.  This place was mine?  Could I wrest if from the de Winters’ hands?  That would be true revenge for all the injustice dealt out to Maman … I considered my erstwhile successes and stratagems … Clever deformed Richard III had been my favourite character and mentor.  At that moment, a very Crookback mood came upon me.  I thought to myself:  Can I do this and cannot get a crown? Tut! Were it further off, I’d pluck it down.

Shakespeare’s Richard again, but Sally Beauman must have recognised something in the Bard’s character to link him to Rebecca’s ambition.

A bit of trivia:  ages ago when we used to spend our summer holidays in the Snowy Mountains while the hoi polloi made use of “Our” Beach at Balmoral, we used to rent a house on a property above Lake Eucumbene (5 km and 6 cattle grids off a minor road).  On the way we used to pass a really run-down cottage with its name proudly displayed by the roadside “Manderley”.  Anything further from the de Winters’ stately home couldn’t be imagined and we always enjoyed a good laugh as we drove by.


The View from Scotland on … Football

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: ,

Another opinion from James I/VI – this time on football:

Certainly bodily exercises and games are very commendable, as well for banishing of idleness as for making his body able, but from this compte [list] I debarred all rumling violent exercises as the football. (Basilicon Doron, 1599)

Football in those days was certainly a much more violent affair than the game played according to rules today.  It seems the football hooligans could often be found on the field, rather than surrounding it.  James was not the only one and by no means the first who held this opinion. Read the rest of this entry »


The View from Scotland … on Smoking

   Posted by: Win Tonkin Tags:

We continue our series of the opinions of James VI of Scotland /James I of England.

If only his view had prevailed 400 years ago, when the use of tobacco in Europe was still quite new. In Britain, Sir Walter Raleigh (c. 1552 – 1618) is credited with making tobacco popular.

A custom loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain, dangerous to the lungs, and in the black stinking fume thereof nearest resembling the horrible “Stygian smoke of the pit that is bottomless”. (A Counterblast to Tobacco, 1604)

During Richard III’s short reign there were only three vacancies for bishops, and it is remarkable that two of these went to Thomas Langton.  Langton ticked all the right boxes with Richard:  Richard preferred Cambridge men to those from Oxford – Langton had studied at Pembroke Hall in Cambridge, though he also was provost of Queen’s College in Oxford; Langton had studied further in Italy, in Padua and Bologna, and shared Richard’s interest in learning and humanistic scholarship.

St David’s Cathedral (© Isolde Martyn)

In May 1483 the Bishop of St David’s, Richard Martin, died and Richard as protector suggested Thomas Langton for the vacancy.  He must have proved a very able man and, when in February 1485 the see of Salisbury fell vacant, it was again Thomas Langton who was promoted [1]. Read the rest of this entry »


The View from Scotland

   Posted by: Win Tonkin Tags:

At our last general meeting we had the pleasure of listening to Win’s fascinating talk on aspects of Scottish history.  She used pictures from the 2003 Historic Scotland Calendar to illustrate her talk.  The calendar also contains for each month a quote from James VI of Scotland / James I of England, which we all found very interesting.

James was born on 19 June 1566 at Edinburgh Castle.  After his mother Mary Queen of Scots was forced to abdicate in his favour when he was thirteen months old, on 24 July 1567, he became King James VI of Scots.  He gained full control of the government in 1581.

In 1603 he succeeded Elizabeth I, who died without issue, as King James I of England.  Both countries remained legally separate, but were ruled by the same monarch. Read the rest of this entry »


John Rous on Richard III as Builder

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags: , , ,

Richard and his family (from The Rous Roll)

We have recently looked at a few of the collegiate churches founded by Richard while Duke of Gloucester or later as Richard III and will continue with a few others.

One chronicler who tells us about this is John Rous (1411-1491). Rous spent most of his life under the patronage of the Beauchamps and – after the marriage of Anne Beauchamp to Richard Neville (the “Kingmaker”) – the Nevilles.   During Richard’s reign Rous wrote The Rous Roll, a history of the Earls of Warwick, which is full of praise of Richard, the son-in-law of Richard Neville.

Once Henry Tudor was king he changed his tune completely and went on all out attack in his Historia Regum Anglie (History of the Kings of England).  This is origin of the legend that Richard’s mother was pregnant with him for two years and when he was born he had teeth and shoulder-length hair.  He also accuses him of personally killing Henry VI and poisoning his wife.

Unfortunately for Rous, copies of both texts have survived, which brought him “the distinction of being the most despised of the chroniclers”.  However, even among all the accusations of his later work, he sometimes can’t help himself and praises Richard, like in this passage where he talks about Richard’s building programmes:

This King Richard was praiseworthy for his building, as at Westminster, Nottingham, Warwick, York, and Middleham, and many other places, which can be viewed. He founded a noble chantry for a hundred priests in the cathedral of York, and another college at Middleham. He founded another in the church of St. Mary of Barking, by the Tower of London, and endowed the Queens’ College at Cambridge with 500 marks annual rent. The money which was offered him by the peoples of London, Gloucester, and Worcester he declined with thanks, affirming that he would rather have their love than their treasure.

I would not have thought that a Richard who would rather have his subjects’  “love than their treasure” fitted in well with the Tudor world view.  This is hardly a sentiment that Henry VII, with whom Rous wanted to ingratiate himself at that time, would have shared.


Antonia Gransden, Historical writing in England, Volume 2. Routledge, 1982.  ISBN 978-0-415-15125-2, pp.309-316

Jeremy Potter, Good King Richard?  An Account of Richard III and his Reputation.  Constable, London, 1994 (pbk).  ISBN 0 09 468840 0, p.88 (incl. quote from History of the Kings of England)


John Morton by Cresacre More

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis Tags:

While researching something else I recently came across Cresacre More’s biography of his great-grandfather Thomas More.  His Life of Sir Thomas More was probably first published in 1631.  This is what he has to say about his ancestor’s mentor, John Morton, who was Bishop of Ely during the reign of Richard III:

… the most worthy prelate that then lived in England, both for wisdom, learning and virtue, whose like the world scarce had, Cardinal Morton, archbishop of Canterbury, and lord high chancellor of England, whose grave countenance and carriage was such that he easily allured all men to honour and love him: a man, as Sir Thomas More describes him in his Utopia, of incomparable judgment, a memory more than credible, eloquent in speech, and, which is more to be wished in clergymen, of singular wisdom and virtue; so that the king and the commonwealth relied chiefly on this man’s counsel, as he by whose policy king Henry the seventh both got the crown of England from Richard the usurper, and also most happily procured the two houses of Lancaster and York to be united by marriage.

This glowing report is a masterpiece in what is being left out.  When we are told that John Morton’s “grave countenance and carriage … easily allured all men to honour and love him”, I can think of several people, who have taken me in by their air of seriousness and reason which hid a very calculating mind.  It can be a very useful tool in getting other people to do what you want.  Interesting that Richard of Gloucester did not fall for the “allure” and did not trust Morton.

Morton was certainly “eloquent in speech”, as he is usually credited with talking Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, into taking part in the 1483 rebellion.

No doubt “the king and the commonwealth relied chiefly on this man’s counsel”, when it came to devising ways of increasing tax revenue.  And we never doubted that he was had something to do with getting the crown for the usurper Henry Tudor.


Cresacre More, The Life of Sir Thomas More with a Biographical Preface, Notes and other Illustrations by the Rev. Joseph Hunter.   William Pickering, London, 1828

At Google Books:

Information on Cresacre More:  Andrei Volgin, Dictionary of National Biography: Volume 38. Milman – More.  Adamant Media Corporation, 2001. ISBN-13: 978-1402170652, p.448


George Bernard Shaw on Shakespeare’s Richard III

   Posted by: Julia Redlich Tags:

During a cleanup the other day I was debating whether to throw out theatre programmes and found this.  It is from the Bell Shakespeare production of Richard III in 2002.

The world being yet little better than a mischievous schoolboy, I am afraid it cannot be denied that Punch and Judy holds the field in the most popular of dramatic entertainments.  And of all its versions, except those which are quite above the head of the man in the street, Shakespeare’s “Richard III” is the best.  It has abundant devilry, humour and character, presented with luxuriant energy of diction in the simplest form of blank verse.  Shakespeare revels in it with just the sort of artistic unconscionableness that fits the theme.  Richard is the prince of Punches, he delights Man by provoking God, and dies unrepentant and game to the last.  His incongruous conventional appendages, such as the Punch hump, the conscience, the fear of ghosts, all impart a spice of outrageousness which leaves nothing lacking in the fun of the entertainment, except the solemnity of those spectators who feel bound to take the affair as a profound and subtle historic study.

George Bernard Shaw in December 1896, after a performance at London’s Lyceum Theatre of Shakespeare’s play.