Was Richard III a benevolent king or a murderous tyrant?

Posted by er134 at May 21, 2013 11:55 AM |
Experts to debate King Richard III’s reputation at a University of Leicester live debate on Thursday, June 6

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 21 May 2013

“Richard III: Benevolent King or Murderous Tyrant?”

Free public debate

Thursday 6 June, 6.30 to 8pm

Experts are set to debate one of the most contentious questions in English History – was King Richard III a good king or a murderous tyrant?

The University of Leicester is holding a free public debate on “Richard III: Benevolent King or Murderous Tyrant?” on Thursday, June 6.

The event follows on from the University’s momentous discovery of the remains of Richard III under a car park in Leicester.

Experts will debate whether Richard III was as evil as the nephew-murdering madman depicted in Shakespeare’s play – or whether he was in fact the victim of malicious Tudor propaganda.

The Question Time-style event will feature a panel consisting of Dr Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, Paul Lay, editor of History Today magazine, and Dr Mary Ann Lund, of the University of Leicester’s School of English.

The event will be chaired by Richard Taylor, the University’s Deputy Registrar and Director of Corporate Affairs.

Dr Mary Ann Lund, who specialises in prose writing, religion, and medicine in the English renaissance, said: “I'm interested in how Richard III's reputation became established after his death. In the 16th century, his name was a by-word for tyranny and usurpation. Much of this had to do with Henry Tudor, who had strong reasons for wanting to discredit Richard, and whose historians portrayed the last Plantagenet in the darkest colours.

“Their Richard was a mass murderer, deformed of body and soul. But why did Richard remain such a compelling figure of evil long after the need to bolster the Tudor claim to the throne had ended? By the time Shakespeare came to write his history plays, Elizabeth I had been on the throne for nearly 30 years, and - as she had no children - the end of the Tudor regime was in sight.

“The claim that his play was simply Tudor propaganda does not add up; Shakespeare's hunchbacked Richard of Gloucester, who delights in his own monstrosity, is no longer a serving a single political purpose.

“But from his appearance on the Elizabethan stage, the Shakespearean Richard caught the public imagination, and has limped his way into the popular consciousness. What was it about Shakespeare's Richard which made such an indelible mark on our impressions of the Yorkist king?

“However much Shakespeare is blamed for damaging Richard's reputation, he did much to make Richard memorable. I'd like to explore why that is.”

Dr Phil Stone said: "Since I am chairman of the Richard III Society, it should come as no surprise that I do not think of Richard III as a murderous tyrant. Clearly, he was no saint, but he certainly had the welfare of the common man at heart, instituting such things as bail and abolishing censorship. He published the laws in English so that all could read - and, perhaps, understand - them.

"Richard III is portrayed by Shakespeare as a deformed monster because, in those times, a deformed body was considered to be the outer manifestation of a deformed mind. Henry VII had had his predecessor killed, and usurped the throne. It was essential to blacken the character of the king he had replaced in order to justify his taking of the throne."

The debate is open to the public – and audience members will play a key part in the debate.

Tickets are free but must be booked – go to: http://leicesterexchanges.com/2013/05/13/live-event-richard-iii-benevolent-king-or-murderous-tyrant/

The event will be held at the Peter Williams lecture theatre, University of Leicester, on Thursday, June 6 from 6.30 to 8pm, with a drinks reception held from 8 to 9pm.

For more information, please contact Victoria Russell on 0116 223 1244 or at: vlh14@le.ac.uk

  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society


Notes to editors:

For more information, please contact Victoria Russell, Marketing Communications office, on 0116 223 1244 or at: vlh14@le.ac.uk

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