Geeking out on Richard III

I’ve been watching the Trial of Richard III on youtube – there is no end to the geekiness.

 What, you might ask, is the Trial of Richard III?

Let’s start at the very beginning…

1480’s.  Wars of the Roses.  Medieval England is in shambles as one family has been tearing itself apart for several decades.

Edward IV is king.  When he got married, he made a love match with a commoner, Elizabeth Woodville.  Kind of a big deal at the time.  Lots of people thought she bewitched him.  He died suddenly leaving two small sons, neither of whom were old enough to rule on their own.  Edward had a brother, Richard.  Richard wants to become king.  So Richard takes both boys and puts them in the Tower of London, for their “protection”.  He says he’s going to prepare them for their coronation, but really he’s plotting to take the throne.  Which he accomplishes by saying that Edward had a precontract before he married Elizabeth (he gets a bishop to agree to this).  Therefore his marriage with Elizabeth would be invalid, and the children would be illegitimate.

Ergo, Richard would be king.

He has Parliament agree to it, and he gets himself crowned, and it’s all good.

Except for the princes in the tower.  Witnesses say that they saw them playing in the courtyard for several months, but then there was a raid trying to rescue them.  They were moved deeper into the Tower, and not allowed to play outside any longer.  Eventually no one saw them at all, and they were presumed dead.

So the obvious choice is Richard, right?  In the late 17th century bones were found under a stairwell which match the size of the princes, and so everyone assumed that he had murdered his nephews, and that was that.

But it wasn’t that simple.  There were a lot of people who had something to gain by the two princes dying.  Edward IV had another brother, the Duke of Clarence, who had a son.  He would have benefited.  Margaret Beaufort, the mother of the eventual Henry VII definitely benefited.

The bodies were never found, and one would assume that they would have been paraded around to show that they had died, especially to snuff out pretenders (there were several during the reign of Henry VII who said they were the younger prince who escaped from the tower – in the absence of DNA evidence there wasn’t really any way to prove it either way).

Elizabeth Woodville even reconciled with Richard III, and there was talk that her oldest daughter Elizabeth of York would marry him (she eventually married Henry VII).  She asked another son who was with Henry in exile to come home to the court of Richard.  Would she have done that when she suspected Richard of killing her two sons?

So yeah, there’s a lot of weird evidence both ways, and not a lot of answers.

So in the 1980’s Channel 4 in the UK had a trial of Richard, where they had historians argue it out in a courtroom with a jury and lawyers.

I won’t tell you what the verdict is.  But the 22 videos on youtube are pretty compelling.  Plus, the 80’s hair is awesome.

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE2FB948FC7CE8C2A

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