New History Lab puts Richard III on trial
This Friday, our ever-popular New History Lab teams up with the Richard III Society to stage a mock trial of one of history’s most infamous monarchs. Richard Plantaganet stands accused of murdering the Princes in the Tower and of generally being a rotten King.
Dr Matt Tompkins, Honorary Visiting Fellow in our Centre for English Local History, will represent the prosecution, while Richard Smith, Chair of the East Midlands Branch of the Richard III Society, will speak for the defense. After an introduction and outline of the charges, each Counsel will present their case. There will then be a debate with questions from the audience and a summing-up by each Counsel before a final vote from the jury (the audience).
Was Richard a murderer? Or has he been unfairly judged by history? We’ll find out on Friday. But in the spirit of civilised academic discussion that characterises the New History Lab, there will be tea and cake beforehand from 4.30pm before the main event at five o’clock. And pub at six.
Richard III ruled for just two years from 1483 to 1485. He was initially named Lord Protector of his two nephews, 12-year-old Edward V and nine-year-old Richard, Duke of York, on the death of their father, his brother, Edward IV. But when it was announced that Edward IV’s second marriage had been invalid and the boys were therefore illegitimate, Richard pronounced himself King and the two ‘Princes in the Tower’ were never seen again. Richard himself was killed just up the road from here at the Battle of Bosworth, bringing to an end the Wars of the Roses.
William Shakespeare had no doubt that Richard III was a villain and a murderer, and gave him a hunchback to boot, and this has coloured the popular perception of him ever since, crystallised by Laurence Olivier’s definitive performance.* However, the Richard III Society was founded in 1924 by a group of local historians who wanted to re-evaluate the King’s short reign and restore his reputation.
Murderous Monarch or hapless patsy of history? Let the people decide.
*Although anyone familiar with Peter Sellers’ version will have a different view of Richard III. It’s difficult to reconcile brutal child murder with Beatles songs…