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The History of King Richard the Third
The History of King Richard the Third. 1.1 King Edward of that name the Fourth (40), after he had lived fifty and three years, seven months, and six days, and thereof reigned two and twenty years, one month, and eight days, died at Westminster the ninth day of April, the year of our redemption, a thousand four hundred four score and three, leaving much fair issue, that is, Edward the Prince, thirteen years of age; Richard Duke of York, two years younger; Elizabeth (17), whose fortune and grace was after to be queen, wife unto King Henry the Seventh (26), and mother unto the Eighth; Cecily (14) not so fortunate as fair; Brigette (2), who, representing the virtue of her whose name she bore, proFessed and observed a religious life in Dartford Priory, Dartford, a house of cloistered Nuns; Anne (7), who was after honorably married unto Thomas (10), then Lord Howard and after Earl of Surrey; and Katherine (3), who long time tossed in either fortune—sometime in wealth, often in adversity—at the last, if this be the last, for yet she lives, is by the goodness of her nephew, King Henry the Eighth, in very prosperous state, and worthy her birth and virtue.
The History of King Richard the Third. 1.2 This noble prince died at his palace of Westminster Palace and, with great funeral honor and heaviness of his people from thence conveyed, was interred at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. He was a king of such governance and behavior in time of peace (for in war each part must needs be another’s enemy) that there was never any prince of this land attaining the crown by battle so heartily beloved by the substance of the people, nor he himself so specially in any part of his life as at the time of his death.
The History of King Richard the Third. 2.1 Even after his death, this favor and affection toward him because of the cruelty, mischief, and trouble of the tempestuous world that followed afterwards—increased more highly. At such time as he died, the displeasure of those that bore him grudge for King Henry’s sake, the Sixth, whom he deposed, was well assuaged, and in effect quenched, in that many of them were dead in the more than twenty years of his reign—a great part of a long life. And many of them in the meantime had grown into his favor, of which he was never sparing.
The History of King Richard the Third. 2.2 He was a goodly personage, and very princely to behold: of heart, courageous; politic in counsel; in adversity nothing abashed; in prosperity, rather joyful than proud; in peace, just and merciful; in war, sharp and fierce; in the field, bold and hardy, and nevertheless, no further than wisdom would, adventurous. Whose wars whosoever would well consider, he shall no less commend his wisdom when he withdrew than his manhood when he vanquished. He was of visage lovely, of body mighty, strong, and clean made; however, in his latter days with over-liberal diet, he became somewhat corpulent and burly, and nonetheless not uncomely; he was of youth greatly given to fleshly wantonness, from which health of body in great prosperity and fortune, without a special grace, hardly refrains. This fault not greatly grieved the people, for one man’s pleasure could not stretch and extend to the displeasure of very many, and the fault was without violence, and besides that, in his latter days, it lessened and well left.
The History of King Richard the Third. 3 In which time of his latter days, this realm was in quiet and prosperous estate: no fear of outward enemies, no war in hand, nor none toward, but such as no man looked for; the people toward the Prince, not in a constrained fear, but in a willing and loving obedience; among themselves, the commons in good peace. The lords whom he knew at variance, he himself in his deathbed appeased. He had left all gathering of money (which is the only thing that withdraws the hearts of Englishmen from the prince), nor anything he intended to take in hand by which he should be driven thereunto, for his tribute out of France he had obtained before, and the year foregoing his death he had obtained Berwick Castle, Berwick on Tweed. And although throughout his reign he was with his people so benign, courteous and so familiar that no part of his virtues was more esteemed, yet that condition in the end of his days (in which many princes by a long continued sovereignty decline into a proud port from their debonair behavior at the beginning) marvelously in him grew and increased so far forth that, in the summer, the last that ever he saw, his Highness, being at Windsor hunting, sent for the Mayor and Aldermen of London to him—for no other errand but to have them hunt and be merry with him. Here he treated them not so stately but so friendly and of so familiar cheer, and sent venison from there so freely into the city, that no one thing in many days before got him either more hearts or more hearty favor among the common people, who oftentimes more esteem and take for greater kindness a little courtesy than a great benefit.
The History of King Richard the Third. 4.1 So died (as I have said) this noble king in that time during which his life was most desired. The love of his people and their entire affection toward him would have been to his noble children a marvelous fortress and sure armor (having in themselves also as many gifts of nature, as many princely virtues, as much goodly ability as their age could receive), if division and dissention of their friends had not unarmed them and left them destitute, and the execrable desire of sovereignty provoked their uncle to their destruction, who, if either kind or kindness had held place, must needs have been their chief defense. For Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, by nature their uncle, by office their protector, to their father beholden, to themselves by oath and allegiance bound, all the bands broken that bind man and man together, without any respect of God or the world, unnaturally contrived to bereave them, not only their dignity, but also their lives. But because this Duke’s demeanor ministers in effect all the whole matter whereof this book shall treat, it is therefore appropriate to show you somewhat, before we further go, what manner of man this was who could find in his heart so much mischief to conceive.
The History of King Richard the Third. 4.2 Richard, Duke of York, a noble man and a mighty, had begun not by war but by law to challenge the crown, Putting his claim into the Parliament. There his cause was either for right or favor so far forth advanced that King Henry (although he had a goodly prince utterly rejected his own blood; the crown was by authority of Parliament entailed unto the Duke of York, and his male issue in remainder, immediately after the death of King Henry. But the Duke, not enduring so long to tarry, but intending under pretext of dissension and debate arising in the realm, to reign before his time and to take upon him the rule in King Henry’s life, was with many nobles of the realm at Wakefield slain, leaving three sons — Edward, George, and Richard.
All three, as they were great states of birth, so were they great and stately of stomach, greedy and ambitious of authority, and impatient of partners. Edward, revenging his father’s death, deprived King Henry and attained the crown.
The History of King Richard the Third. 4.3 George, Duke of Clarence, was a goodly noble prince, and at all points fortunate, if either his own ambition had not set him against his brother, or the envy of his enemies had not set his brother against him. For were it by the Queen and the lords of her blood, who highly maligned the King’s kindred (as women commonly, not of malice but of nature, hate them whom their husbands love), or were it a proud appetite of the Duke himself intending to be king, in any case, heinous treason was there laid to his charge, and, finally, were he faulty or were he faultless, attainted was he by Parliament and judged to the death, and thereupon hastily drowned in a butt of malmesey, whose death, King Edward (although he commanded it), when he knew it was done, piteously bewailed and sorrowfully repented. See Execution of George Duke of Clarence.
The History of King Richard the Third. 5 Richard, the third son, of whom we now treat, was in wit and courage equal with either of them, in body and prowess far under them both: little of stature, ill featured of limbs, crooked-backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard-favored in appearance, and such as is in the case of lords called warlike, in other men called otherwise. He was malicious, wrathful, envious, and from before his birth, ever perverse. It is for truth reported that the Duchess his mother had so much ado in her travail to birth him that she could not be delivered of him uncut, and he came into the world with the feet forward, as men be borne outward, and (as the story runs) also not untoothed. Either men of hatred reported the above for truth or else nature changed her course in his beginning—in the course of whose life many things were unnaturally committed. No unskilled captain was he in war, for which his disposition was more suited than for peace. Sundry victories had he, and sometimes overthrows, but never by fault of his own person, either of hardiness or political order. Free was he called when dispensing gifts, and somewhat above his power liberal; with large gifts he got for himself unsteadfast friendship, for which he was glad to pillage and spoil in other places, and get for himself steadfast hatred. He was close and secret, a deep dissembler, lowly of countenance, arrogant of heart, outwardly friendly where he inwardly hated, not omitting to kiss whom he thought to kill; pitiless and cruel, not for evil will always, but for ambition, and either for the surety or increase of his estate. Friend and foe was much the same; where his advantage grew, he spared no man death whose life withstood his purpose. He slew with his own hands King Henry the Sixth, being prisoner in the Tower of London, as men constantly say, and that without commandment or knowledge of the King, who would, undoubtedly, if he had intended such a thing, have appointed that butcherly office to some other than his own born brother.
The History of King Richard the Third. 6.1 Some wise men also think that his plan—covertly conveyed—lacked not in helping his brother Clarence to his death, which he resisted openly, although somewhat (as men judged) more faintly than one who was heartily concerned for his welfare. And they who thus judged, they think he for a long time during King Edward’s life forethought to be king in case the King his brother (whose life he looked to, so that evil diet should shorten it) should happen to die (as indeed he did) while his children were young. And they judged that for this reason: he was glad of his brother’s death, that Duke of Clarence, whose life must needs have hindered his plans, whether the same Duke of Clarence had kept himself true to his nephew the young King, or enterprised to be king himself. But of all this point, is there no certainty, and whosoever divines upon conjectures may as well shoot too far as too short. However, this have I by credible information learned, that the same night in which King Edward died, one Mistlebrook, long before morning, came in great haste to the house of one Potter, dwelling in Redcross Street, Cripplegate Ward, and when he was with hasty rapping quickly let in, he revealed unto Potter that King Edward was departed. “By my truth man,” said Potter, “then will my master the Duke of Gloucester be king.” What cause he had so to think it is hard to say: whether he, being well disposed toward him, knew anything about such a thing the Duke had purposed, or otherwise he had any inkling thereof, for he was not ever likely to speak of it.
The History of King Richard the Third. 7 But now to return to the course of this history, were it that the Duke of Gloucester had of old planned this conclusion, or was now at first thereunto moved and put in hope by the occasion of the tender age of the young princes his nephews (as opportunity and likelihood of success put a man in courage of what he never intended), certain is it that he contrived their destruction with the usurpation of the regal dignity upon himself. And forasmuch as he well.