'What was Richard III really like?’ - A new study of the last Plantagenet king
Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities
Medieval re-enactors stand guard at the spot that remains were recovered, in the same area predicted by David Baldwin (Credit - University of Leicester)
The possible remains of Richard III discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists may prove to give closure to a 500-year old mystery, but there’s plenty of story left to tell, says David Baldwin, a retired University of Leicester historian.
David Baldwin’s new study – the most recent biography of Richard III to be published - interprets contemporary and near-contemporary sources, and suggests that the King’s complex and difficult childhood, in which his father, uncle, and elder brother were killed and he was sent into exile, all before his ninth birthday, could account for the drastic measures he took to secure his position later.
The findings come after David Baldwin predicted in an article written in 1986 that during the 21st century, the remains of the last Plantagenet king would be found on the site of the Grey Friary. He rejected the popular belief that Richard III’s remains were dug up and thrown into a river when the friary was dissolved.
For David Baldwin, this argument never held much water.
He said: “I've always argued against the idea that Richard's remains were disinterred at the Dissolution of the Monasteries and thrown into the river. My conclusion in 1986 and subsequently was that:
“Visitors to Leicester who were shown an old stone coffin said to be Richard's assumed that his grave had been desecrated and the coffin was all that was left of it; but the likelihood was that it remained - and still remains - somewhere beneath the site of the old friary.”’
David Baldwin also rejects the notion that Richard III was as ‘bad’ – or as ‘good’ - as some have argued. He said:
“Richard has frequently been portrayed as either a villain or a hero, but he was probably neither. Rather, he was a man of his time whose childhood insecurity determined the course of the rest of his life. He behaved badly on occasion because he thought he had no alternative, and while we cannot excuse him, we can try to understand his mindset and why he acted as he did - to get as close to the 'real' Richard as we can.”
David Baldwin is excited about the prospect of the skeleton being Richard III’s because of what it can tell us about him and because it will again bring him to the forefront of public attention.
“Even if the remains are not Richard's, the interest generated should still encourage scholars and researchers to seek out new evidence that will tell us much more than we could have learned from his bones alone.”
David Baldwin’s new book, Richard III (Amberley, 2012), Hardback, 256pp, 81 illustrations, is out now.