Richard III

The first time I ever heard of Richard III, I was at the Tower of London with my grandmother, who entertained me with the story of the wicked king who had imprisoned his young nephews in the tower and then had them smothered in their beds to secure his own rule. Their bodies, she maintained, had been buried there to hide the murder. I didn't question this much, just taking note of yet another bit of morbid trivia associated with the city. We had, after all, just taken a Jack-the-Ripper tour around White Chapel and heard all about the beheadings of Henry VIII's wives, so the idea of familial regicide in the violent age of the Tudors wasn't hard to swallow.

A friend turned me onto this documentary, which sparked up my interest in the War of the Roses in general.

The last of the Plantagenet Kings, whose death ushered in the era of Tudors and the end of chivalry, King Richard III, despite his relatively short two year reign, is one of the more controversial royal figures of English history, and it is largely because he is the central figure in one of the world's greatest murder mysteries.

Infamous as the hunchbacked king who murdered his two nephews in order to take the throne, there is much debate as to whether this villainous deed was in character for a king who was otherwise known as just. His body, very recently found under a parking lot by a woman I am halfway convinced must be in contact with his ghost, has proven that he was, in fact, suffering from scoliosis. He was found to have a very slight build, so much so that researchers originally thought they were looking at female remains.

There are many arguments for and against his guilt, but the romance of Richard III is our inability to ever know for certain if he was innocent, and history has played us for fools, or if he really was the cold-blooded and ambitious killer he's been painted as in popular legend. I am personally not convinced either way, but I love a good unsolved mystery.

People who are interested in Richard III are... very invested in and, dare I say, devoted to him. To quote Jospehine Fey, "...anything about Richard (is) better than something about anyone else." It is this passion towards solving this 400 year old crime and this fixation surrounding the key suspect that first drew me to study the War of the Roses.

Recommended Reading :

Richard III, William Shakespeare

You know, it's Shakespeare. Obviously you should watch the Laurence Olivier version, meow 😖

Daughter of Time, Josephine Tey

Very classic mystery story that's a good place to start if you want to challenge the Richard-as-murderer hypothesis. Great way to kill a few hours if you enjoy old detective novels.

Royal Blood, Bertram Fields

Excellently researched beakdown of the events with rebuttals to some academic attacks against Richard III. This one is more balanced, in that it does not rule out the possibility that he was guilty, but provides alternative and believable theories about potential motives for the deed.

Requiem for a Rose King, Aya Kanno

When a friend of mine brought this title to my attention, it blew my mind; a shoujo manga about Richard III? It is everything I could ask for. The story is loosely based on the Shakespearean tradition, with Richard as the destined villain. He is intersex rather than hunchbacked in this version.

Wars of the Roses Series, Conn Iggulden

Solid historical fiction telling the events of the War of the Roses. Very good if you're having a hard time keeping up with textbook accounts and need something more engaging.