The History of King Richard the Third
by Thomas More
The recent discovery of the body of King Richard III of England
has renewed interest in the earliest biography of him by Thomas More. More left
it unfinished, but a continuation was added in the first publication in 1543.
Here we have the source of much of Shakespeare's play,
and of the subsequent popular image of Richard as one of history's leading
scoundrels. It describes a career based on treachery and ruthlessness,
prominent crimes being the massacre of his opponents upon seizing power and the
murder of the Princes in the Tower (who were his nephews). He is even credited
with a plan to buttress his claim to the throne by an incestuous marriage with
his niece Elizabeth, sister of the murdered princes. After a couple of
tyrannical years, he was overthrown by Henry Tudor to popular rejoicing. A man,
in short, deformed in both body and soul.
Subsequent historians have proposed that he was not as
black as he was painted, and that the biography was a work of Tudor propaganda.
It has even been suggested that the princes were murdered on the orders of
Henry Tudor, however the evidence for this is conjectural at best. A more
balanced judgement (ours) is that all the protagonists had the morality of drug
traffickers warring over territory. Still,
good or bad, handsome or ugly,
rich or poor, they are all equal now
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