ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tracy Kiely is a self-proclaimed Anglophile (a fact which distresses certain members of her Irish Catholic family). She grew up reading Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, and watching Hitchcock movies. She fell in love with Austen’s wit, Christie’s clever plots, and Hitchcock’s recurrent theme of “the average man caught in extraordinary circumstances.”
After spending years of trying to find a proper job that would enable her to use her skills garnered as an English major, she decided to write a book. It would, of course, have to be a mystery; it would have to be funny; and it would have to feature an average person caught up in extraordinary circumstances. She began to wonder how the characters in Pride and Prejudice might fit into a mystery. What, if after years of living with unbearably rude and condescending behavior, old Mrs. Jenkins up and strangled Lady Catherine? What if Charlotte snapped one day and poisoned Mr. Collins’ toast and jam? Skip ahead several years, and several different plot ideas, and you have her first mystery Murder at Longbourn.
While she does not claim to be Jane Austen, Agatha Christie, or Hitchcock (one big reason being that they’re all dead), she has tried to combine the elements of all three in her books.
Richard III has long been regarded as one of the great villains of history, thanks in large part to Shakespeare’s damning portrayal. He is the evil hunchback who cruelly locked his young nephews in the Tower of London before having them murdered. He is a "bottled spider," an "abortive, rooting hog," and a "poisonous bunch-back’d toad.” (Seriously, how great was Shakespeare with the insults?) After either killing or destroying most of his family, he famously dies on the battlefield, right after crying out, “A horse, a horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
Well, I say “nay, nay” to that.
And from what I’ve been told, I’ve said it a lot.
This became clear to me a few years ago, when the website Funny or Die began producing a series of videos entitled Drunk History. The premise was simple: take a person who was passionate about a famous historical event, get them “pie-eyed” as my mother-in-law would say, and have them explain the event. The drunken narrative was then reenacted and lip-synced by comedians such as Will Ferrell, Jack Black and Michael Cera. If you haven’t seen any of the original skits, I suggest you do so now. I can wait. (My personal favorite is Vol. I The Hamilton-Burr Duel.) Anyway, one day I showed one to my sister-in-law and she said, “I would love to see YOU get drunk and explain your theory that Richard III didn’t kill the princes.” Apparently, I’ve opined my wholehearted agreement on the matter many, many times. (I have just been told that for the sake of accuracy, I must add one more “many” to that amount.)
For those of you unfamiliar with facts of Richard’s story, here’s a brief history. When King Edward IV died in April of 1483, he left behind his second wife (Elizabeth Woodville) and their three children: Edward, Richard, and Elizabeth. (He left behind several other children, but they were, to put it politely, “born on the wrong side of the blanket” and so weren’t eligible for the throne.)
Upon his death, King Edward’s younger brother, Richard, swore his allegiance to the princes and became their protector. He then escorted the boys (aged 12 and 9) to the Tower of London where young Edward would presumably be prepped for his ascension to the throne. However, before this could happen, King Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was declared invalid. This now meant that their children were also born on the wrong side of that blanket and were ineligible for the throne.
Next in line was Richard, and on July 6 of 1483, he was crowned Richard III. The young princes were not seen again in public after August of that year. In 1485, Richard III died in battle against Henry Tudor (The War of the Roses). Henry ascended the throne, becoming Henry VII. In a gesture of goodwill, Henry declared King Edward’s marriage as legal and married King Edward’s daughter, Elizabeth, thereby joining the two warring families. The exact fate of the two princes is not known until 1674 when some workmen discover a small wooden box in the Tower of London. Inside are two small skeletons.
The popular theory is that they died at the hands of their monstrous uncle, Richard III. Shakespeare’s play now becomes historical fact rather than entertainment, and most students of history are taught that Richard III was a cold-blooded killer.
However, there are some problems with this theory. First is the accuracy of Shakespeare’s play. Much of Shakespeare’s depiction was based on Thomas Moore’s biography of Richard III. That biography was basically a propaganda piece backed by the Tudors to bolster their own popularity. (It would be like the Bush administration writing a biography about Bill Clinton or the Obama administration backing a tell-all on Dick Cheney.) Now that Richard III’s remains have been found, we know that he was not a hunchback and did not have a withered arm as Shakespeare claimed.
Then there is the question of motive. Why would Richard kill the princes in the first place? He was legitimately made king by an Act of Parliament known as Titulus Regius. The princes were no threat, as they were considered illegitimate. Another problem with casting Richard as the murderer is the behavior of the princes’ mother. Elizabeth Woodville, remained on good terms with Richard, and her daughters took part in court events. Would she really do this if she thought he’d killed her sons? I doubt it. But, do you know who Elizabeth did not get along with? Richard successor Henry.
Once Henry VII takes power, one of the first things he does is marry the princes’ older sister, Elizabeth. But to make her his queen he must first make her legitimate. So what does he do? He basically voids the decree declaring that King Edward’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was invalid. Very sweet, except that by doing that he has now made the princes legitimate, too. And if they are legitimate, then the Lancaster family might argue that they are the true successors to the throne. In this scenario, Henry VII has a much stronger motive for killing the boys than Richard ever did. Another interesting tidbit, soon after Henry VII comes to power, guess who is sent of to a nunnery? His mother-in-law, the princes’ mother, Elizabeth Woodville. Furthermore, King Henry never said one word about the boys, despite the rumors of their death. How easy it would be for him to say, “Yes, they are dead. They were killed by Richard. See, aren’t you glad I’m your King? That guy was a real psychopath.” The same could be said for Elizabeth, their sister. If Richard had killed them, she would have received no argument from Henry about going public with her suspicions. And yet she too, never said one word.
However, their silence makes perfect sense if it was Henry who killed the boys.
And then finally, there’s this. As you probably know, a few years ago they found the remains of King Richard III under a parking lot, and were able to perform a facial reconstruction of what he may have looked like.
That’s right Richard III was Lord Farquaad from Shrek.
And while Lord Farquaad was a jerk, he was also a coward and not terribly bright. I simply can’t picture someone who looks like this being the evil mastermind depicted in Shakespeare’s play.
Is this at all scientific? Hell no. Not one little bit. But, still I stand by it. Just be happy I didn’t try to explain this to you while loaded with Chardonnay. And if you would like to read more about this by someone who presents a far more compelling argument, I highly suggest you read Josephine Tey’s novel, The Daughter of Time. And then tell me that Richard III wasn’t framed.
WHAT HISTORICAL EVENT ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT? Tell us or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of MURDER WITH A TWIST! (U.S. only please.)
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