Richard III – ‘I am a villain: yet I lie. I am not’

Villain or not, Richard III has received a great deal of national press recently.  The archaeological dig in a car park in Leicester on the site of the lost church of the Grey Friars has recently exhumed a skeleton thought to be this much maligned king – the last English king to die in battle.  Last month, it was announced by the British Government that if the skeleton proves to be Richard III, then he will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral.

I personally am a staunch Ricardian and so think that Henry VII, having dispatched his enemy, did a metaphorical hatchet-job on the reputation of his predecessor.  A hundred years later, Shakespeare added to the Tudor myth of this diabolical king – ‘Deformed, unfinish’d, sent before my time’.  I hope now his body has been re-found, he can be re-buried with the dignity he deserves.  At the risk of incurring the wrath of local people within Leicester, I would prefer this re-burial was a more regal place such as Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle.

Below are images of Richard III from the early 20th century – postcards and cigarette cards collected by schoolboys and young men during the Edwardian era and throughout the reign of George V. I find it very interesting that the 1902 image of Richard is that of a noble warrior king in full battle regalia rather than the more familiar portrait as shown in the other cards. Is this unwitting testimony that the Edwardians were experiencing a Ricardian revival? Or was it just the publisher, Tuck, who were supporters of Richard III?

Richard III – Tuck’s Kings & QueensRichard III, postcard from Tuck’s Kings & Queens, c.1902

Richard III – Ogden’s Guinea GoldRichard III, cigarette card
from Ogden’s Guinea Gold New Series I, c.1902

Richard III – Mazawatte Tea game cardRichard III, games card
from Mazawattee Tea game Our Kings and Queens, c.1902

Richard III – Tuck’s Kings & Queens
Richard III – Tuck’s Kings & Queens









Richard III, cigarette card from Player’sKings and Queens of England, c.1935


Richard III – Taddy’s Coronation SeriesRichard III – Taddy’s Coronation Series










Coronation Procession of Richard III and Anne of Warwick,
cigarette card from Taddy’s Coronation Series, c1902


Richard III – Battlefields of Great BritainRichard III – Battlefields of Great Britain




Bosworth Field 1485, cigarette card from Smith’s Battlefields of Great Britain, c.1913 (reproduction 1997)




I personally find the discovery of Richard’s body one of the most exciting events to happen in recent English history. Not because it will rewrite history – it won’t. The facts and the myths will still remain – what happened 527 years ago, happened and can’t be ‘rewritten’ in the history books. However, the search and discovery of the ‘lost’ body of the last truly medieval king is remarkable and therefore the discovery itself will become a new chapter for the history books.

Further reading:
Richard III Society
University of Leicester archaeological team’s blog – the Search for Richard III

You may also be interested in
– School Trip Friday – Of cabbages and kings

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