‘King Richard – late mercifully reigning upon us, was … piteously slain and murdered, to the great heaviness of this city.’
So wrote the Mayor and Aldermen of York, following the Battle of Bosworth Field. Now the skeleton found beneath the car park in Leicester is truly that of Richard lll, last Plantagenet King who died on Bosworth field 1485, and has received honourable burial in Leicester, yet no-one can deny that Richard named, satirically, by Shakespeare ‘this sun of York’ – was indeed a true ‘son of York’.
Most intriguing is that the bones do not show Richard ‘scarce half made up’, as Shakespeare describes. There is so much satire and melodrama in Richard III, and Shakespeare was writing in dangerous times – no free speech here – so this depiction of villainy would fit in with what was, on the one hand, enjoyed by the populous, and on the other, did not ‘offend’ the ruling house of Tudor.
Richard III – the Llandovery Connection!
In 1485, Richard III gave a Charter to Llandovery, and appointed James Tyrell to be steward of Llandovery Castle. Before Bosworth he sent Tyrell to France to ‘monitor’ the build-up of the ‘invasion’ expected from Henry. Were the princes housed at that time in Llandovery Castle, or did Tyrell take them out of England into France for their safety? If we believe Tyrell to be the murderer of the princes, maybe we should start by digging up the car-park beside Llandovery Castle, to see what we may find.
Richard’s Wife and Son.
Prior to Bosworth, Richard lost all he loved. April 1484, his only son and heir, Edward, Prince of Wales died aged ten years old, and his wife Anne followed in March 1485, reportedly with an infection (possibly the plague), and almost certainly exacerbated by grief. Both Richard and Anne were reported as ‘near to madness’ with grief at the loss of their son.
A Cinderella story?
And while we are debating how evil Richard III actually was, let us remember that his marriage to Anne (Warwick, the kingmaker’s younger daughter) was a marriage of love; that following the Battle of Tewkesbury (1471) where the Prince of Wales (Anne’s husband) was killed, she was kidnapped by Richard’s brother, Clarence, hidden in the kitchens of a house, and Richard had to search London to find and rescue her. It was almost a ‘Cinderella’ story!
It is also interesting to note that following the death of his son, Richard named John de la Pole, his sister’s son, heir to the throne, and Elizabeth Woodville came out of sanctuary with her daughters, placing the girls in Richard’s care. Surely never the actions of a woman who believed Richard to have killed her two sons.
Richard faced Bosworth with a few loyal friends, but treachery was afoot. Rhys ap Thomas, with his army of 10,000 Welshmen, was one who claimed that Henry would only cross the mountains of Wales into England ‘over my dead body’ – but then positioned his ‘body’ under a bridge, allowing Henry to ride across the bridge with his army un-opposed!
Battle of Bosworth!
The final actions of Richard at Bosworth were foolhardy but so brave, his ‘cavalry charge’ very nearly reached Henry Tudor, he took out Henry’s standard bearer, and had it not been for the ‘turncoat’ Stanley, who having watched the ‘charge’ – transferred his allegiance to Henry, literally bringing his army in behind Richard and stabbing him in the back, he could have prevailed! But – to shouts of ‘Treason! Treason!’ the death of Richard brought to a close the Battle of Bosworth, and the Plantagenet rule.
And how did King Henry Tudor ‘rule’ after Bosworth? He backdated his reign, so that all who fought for Richard at Bosworth could be named traitors, though curiously, Henry issued two ‘pardons’ for James Tyrell. Was this a trick by Henry to get Tyrell to return from France, or was it a reward for services rendered? And what services might Tyrell have given or was being asked to perform? Were the two young princes, perhaps still alive in France, and was it Henry VII who now wanted them removed.
It was certainly in Henry’s best interest to remove all who might have a claim on his throne, and he quickly sent the son of Clarence – a young boy who had some mental infirmity – to the Tower – later executing him on a charge of treason.
Tyrell returned from France, to try to save the life of his son who was now in Henry’s hands, but the promised ‘pardons’ were not honoured, for Henry had Tyrell incarcerated with his son in the Tower, and both executed 1503. It was reported that James Tyrell admitted (presumably under torture) to be involved in the deaths of the two princes, though he was unable (even under torture) to say the whereabouts of their bodies.
Henry married Elizabeth of York, but stripped her mother Elizabeth Woodville of all her property and had her incarcerated in a secure convent where she died. Her voice on the truth was silenced.
‘Loyaulte me lie’- ‘Loyalty binds me’.
Richard III, King of England, died defending his realm against the invader Henry, Duke of Richmond.
Who was the greater villain in the case? The finger points steadily at Henry VII. With the discovery of these bones of Richard III in the Leicester car park, let us delve further into truths about this much maligned King, and not just believe all in Shakespeare’s Richard III, and the continuing Tudor propaganda and ‘spin’. It is time!
TRIPLE DICK – Simon Barnes
Llandovery Theatre Company
Want to know more about Richard III? Listen to some different ideas? Then Simon Barnes’ play Triple Dick, produced at Festivals here in 1977 and again in 1985, gives a very different character reading, and this Richard is straight backed!
Simon did a considerable amount of research when writing his play, helped by the Richard lll Society. In battle, Richard used an axe, and the image of a ‘crouching’ man on horseback with an axe must have been terrifying, and certainly his war weapon would have developed his shoulder muscles considerably, but Simon maintained he did not have a crooked back.
The Llandovery Theatre Company production of Triple Dick was first performed ‘in the round’ at the 1977 Llandovery Festival, and incidentally was seen by the assessor for the Gulbenkian Foundation and won the Company its very first grant towards the building of our theatre, providing lights and sound equipment. In the first production, Triple Dick, played beautifully by Thane Bettany, with Anne Kettle as Queen Anne, and Simon Barnes as the Mercenary, was a ‘palpable hit’!
The play is set in a ‘History correction unit’, which is clearly not ‘heaven’. It focuses on four main protagonists: Richard, Buckingham, Bishop Ely and Elizabeth Woodville; it traces how the cancers of ambition and greed led so many adherents to betray Richard’s cause in the final hours, and pre-destined the deaths of the two boys. All is linked by the Chorus, the Mercenary, a man who across the years can be bought and sold to kill, provided the price is right. Alas, the price not the truth still rules today.
MERCENARY Ah yes, rules… lovely things rules… no finer system has ever been designed for keeping people in their place and strangely enough the great paradox is – there are no rules. Laws of nature, yes… but no rules.
RICHARD But look… You must have some rules, or you have anarchy.
MERCENARY So, what is anarchy?
RICHARD Well, everyone is doing only what they want, regardless of others.
MERCENARY And what is a democracy but one section of people doing what they want to do regardless of another section… on the highly suspect basis that a policy is right if more people believe in it than do not. It’s just a question of numbers.
Simon Barnes writes with the lightest touch, and this is needed in the playing, despite moments of high drama and tragedy; and it is the Mercenary – the hired assassin – who is left to disentangle truth from lies, as we watch the downfall of a King, in a final spine-chilling twist, that seeks no applause, only silence!
Email reading copies of TRIPLE DICK available – please use our contact form and leave your message with name, email address and telephone number.
Jaqueline Harrison Barnes
For more information about Richard III look at the Richard III Society Website