But is Richard the conniving villain of Shakespeare's depiction? Or is he, as mystery writer Josephine Tey argued in “Daughter of Time,” unfairly maligned?
A band of Richard advocates known as the Richard III Society helped underwrite the discovery of the body, hoping for a reassessment of Richard's guilt and new focus on achievements during his two-year-reign, such as instituting bail and lifting restrictions on printing presses.
“Richard III was no saint but neither was he a criminal. All but one of the so-called crimes laid at his door can be refuted by the facts,” society chairman Phil Stone wrote on CNN.com. “The one that cannot is the disappearance of his nephews … and the answer to that question is simply that no one knows what happened to them.”
Methinks the Ricardians protest too much. Biographer Michael Hicks of the University of Winchester told me that Richard “probably did kill the princes,” although not his wife. Likewise, Hicks said, there is circumstantial evidence that Richard killed King Henry VI, Henry's son Edward of Lancaster; and his own brother, George, Duke of Clarence. But, Hicks said, Richard was likely acting in all three cases at the instructions of his older brother, King Edward IV.
Richard “certainly said he had very good intentions when he became king but of course he wasn't able to fulfill them because circumstances caused him to spend his time on trying to remain king,” Hicks said. “We've all heard of politicians in that position, haven't we?”
Meanwhile, the squabbling continues, with a debate over whether Richard is to be buried in York, his ancestral home, or remain in Leicester, home to the rival House of Lancaster. “The one place he would probably not have wanted to be buried is Leicester,” Hicks observed.
The most unkindest cut of all? Somewhere Shakespeare is smiling.
WASHINGTON POST WRITERS GROUP