To Prove A Villain: The Real Richard III


Exhibition at the Royal National Theatre, London
March 27-April 27, 1991


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Preface to the online edition: When this exhibition was conceived and executed, the World Wide Web was barely a gleam in anyone’s eye, and the Richard III Society had no plans for publication of an exhibition catalog in any guise. Recognizing the value of the work that went into the exhibition, however, Society volunteers produced a photocopied exhibition catalog in 1993. It had no pretensions to high production values, but had the virtue of making the high-quality content available to a wider audience.

Some things have changed since that printed catalog. We lost our Chairman, Robert Hamblin, whose introduction to the printed version appears below,last year. We lost one of the prime movers of this exhibition, former chair Jeremy Potter, a few years before. The actual exhibition was removed from Warwick Castle a few years ago when they reorganized their exhibits; portions are now on display at various sites in England. The Richard III Society now has its own website,, where you can find up-to-date information on Society programs and activities. Later fifteenth-century England has been a fertile field for scholars in the past decade and many new books, conferences, and essays have shed new light on many of the issues of Richard III’s life and reign — while a final resolution to the central debates still eludes us.

This online presentation is an extension of the printed-catalog concept to the World Wide Web. We have limited ourselves to presenting photographs of the exhibition cases — the viewer can find higher-quality reproductions of much of the material contained here in many of the excellent works on the period. This set of pages, then, is presented as a primer on Richard III and his times, as well as a sourcebook on which other Ricardian exhibitors may draw for ideas for displays in their local libraries, schools, and theater lobbies.

We are honored that the American Branch has been permitted to place this exhibition on its website, another example of the ways that the worldwide community of Ricardians can collaborate across the continents. Special thanks are due to American Branch member Tamara Mazzei, who has created this online version. Her work reflects her commitment to clean design, accessibility for the visually impaired, and, wherever possible, fast-loading sites. You can view other examples of her work at

–Laura Blanchard. November 2003

1993 Introduction to the Printed Version

It is a privilege to contribute an introduction to this record of the Richard III Society’s Exhibition — “To Prove a Villain: The Real Richard III” — as it enables me to pay tribute to the immense amount of dedicated work undertaken on behalf of the Society by many members in different parts of the world.

When the suggestion for this Exhibition was first considered by the Committee, it was well aware that a great deal of research and preparation of material had already been put into the production of other displays by Geoffrey Wheeler, the Society’s Press Records and Exhibitions Officer, but the scope of a full-scale treatment of the subject for the Royal National Theatre still represented a formidable challenge.

Nevertheless, when the management of the Royal National Theatre agreed to the staging of the Exhibition, it was felt to be too good an opportunity to miss. It was particularly appropriate in that the Society’s Exhibition would relate to the historical characters and their fifteenth century context, as the production of “Richard III” with Sir Ian McKellen in the title role which was then playing at the Theatre, had transposed the action to the 1930s, with emphasis on the political aspect and drawing comparisons with the rise of fascism. The effort, time and skill expended by Geoffrey Wheeler and his collaborators were well rewarded when the management of the Royal National Theatre reported that the Exhibition had aroused considerable interest among both theatregoers and visitors to the complex.

It was felt that it would be a tragedy if this fine Exhibition were then to be put into storage or dispersed. Fortunately, as a Past Master of the Wax Chandler’s Company of the City of London (which had received its charter from Richard III) I had contacts with the management of Warwick Castle, which has strong connections with Richard III and his contemporaries. It as, therefore, with satisfaction that the Committee learnt that my suggestion to install the Exhibition at Warwick Castle had been met with enthusiasm by its management. Accordingly the Exhibition was transported to the Castle and made into a permanent Exhibition, which was officially opened in September 1991 by the Society’s Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester. Since that time it has been viewed by a large number of the visitors to the Castle and has attracted new members to the Society [Ed. note: at this writing (November 2003) the exhibition has been removed from Warwick Castle and portions are on display at several locations in England.].

–Robert Hamblin†, Chairman, Richard III Society
January 1993


Participants in 1991 Exhibition, Olivier Theatre, Royal National Theatre

  • Concept and organization: Geoffrey Wheeler
  • Exhibition texts: Peter W. Hammond, Josephine Nicholl, Jeremy Potter†, John Saunders, Anne F. Sutton, Dr. Pamela Tudor-Craig, Livia Visser-Fuchs, Geoffrey Wheeler, William J. White
  • Calligraphy: Margaret Collings (Australia); William Hogarth† (U.S.A.)
  • Word processing and typed graphics: Peter W. Hammond, Jeremy Potter, Marian Mitchell (exhibition)
  • Memorabilia showcase display construction: Jim Hughes
  • Special assistance: Pauline Stevenson, Robert Hamblin†
  • Loans of memorabilia: Pete Armstrong, Jim Hughes, Vikktoria Jacobs, Shirley and Roy Linsell, Joyce Melhuish†, Elizabeth Nokes, John Saunders, Anne Smith, Irene Soulsby, Dr. Philip T. Stone, Catherine Vickers, Geoffrey Wheeler

For the 2003 American Branch online edition

  • Text keyboarding and image scanning: Laura Blanchard
  • Image enhancement and web design: Tamara Mazzei

† deceased


  • My Sovereign King, Queen and Princely Peers: Biographies of characters in Shakespeare’s Richard III. Illustrated with portraits, seals, signatures, etc.
  • Divided York and Lancaster: Background to the Wars of the Roses; synopsis of events, popular misconceptions. Text by Peter Hammond.
  • My Life Upon a Cast: Chronology of the life and reign of Richard III (four panels), illustrated with places, personalities, battlefields, etc. Text by Peter Hammond.
  • These Supposed Crimes: Four major accusations (the murders of Edward of Lancaster, Henry VI, Clarence and Queene Anne) discussed and illustrated. Text by Peter Hammond.
  • Poor Painted Queen: Royal portraits: Henry VI, Edward IV, Queen Elizabeth, etc. With commentary by Pamela Tudor-Craig, PhD., FSA.
  • I Looked on Richard’s Face: Portraits of Richard III. With commentary by Pamela Tudor-Craig.
  • A Book of Prayer…True Ornament to Know a Holy Man: Richard III’s books. With commentary by Anne F. Sutton and Livia Visser-Fuchs.
  • Give Me Some Ink and Paper…These Letters Will Resolve My Mind: Richard III’s letters, from his earliest in 1469 to that of the Buckingham rebellion in 1483 with its long postscript in his own hand.
  • Every Tale Condemns Me For a Villain; The Truth Shall Live From Age to Age: Richard’s detractors: Croyland Chronicle, Mancini, Polydore Vergil, Thomas More, Shakespeare, etc. Richard’s defenders: Buck, Walpole, Halsted, Tey, other twentieth-century defenders. Illustrated with pages from their works. Text by Jeremy Potter.
  • The Royal Tree: Family tree illustrated with portraits from effigies and manuscripts, heraldic badges of Lancaster and York. “Pro” and “anti” quotes on Richard’s appearance and character.
  • Richard Yet Lives; Welcome Sweet Prince: The Richard III Society. History, memorials, achievements. Text by John Saunders. Medieval London, with maps showing principal Ricardian sites, side panels featuring Baynard’s Castle and Crosby Hall.
  • This Famous Isle: Map of Ricardian Britain with illustrations of famous sites.
  • The Sons of Edward: The Princes in the Tower. With commentary by John Saunders…
  • The Dead Bones That Lay Scattered By: The bones found in the Tower. With commentary by W. J. White.
  • The Most Deadly Boar: Richard’s boar badge. Contemporary examples in glass and stone, manuscripts, seals, etc. With commentary on its origin and significance by Geoffrey Wheeler.
  • Near to the Town of Leicester: Medieval Leicester, modern memorials. Blue Boar Inn, Richard’s Bed, Bow Bridge, other traditional connections; battlefield relics.
  • Even Here, on Bosworth Field: Bosworth Field. Brief account of the battle and map. Principal features of the area today. Richard III at Bosworth paintings, etc. Memorials to those who fought in the battle, Yorkist and Tudor.
  • Looking on His Images: Memorabilia; three-dimensional objects.

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