“Richard yet lives” (IV.4)…”England’s worthy King” (III.7)
The Richard III Society. History, memorials, achievements, text by John Saunders.
“Welcome, sweet Prince, to London” (III.1)
Top row, from left:
Middleham window, 1934
Bottom row, from left:
Fotheringhay Castle plaque
Top row, from left:
James Butler Statue, Leicester, unveiling
Bottom row, from left:
Sheriff Hutton tomb
Left: Baynards Castle Illustrations: Engravings reconstructing the riverside views of the castle; model in the London Museum; rescue excavations in 1972 revealed part of the dock and river frontage, before it was re-buried under the development of the site for the present motorway and boys’ school.
Centre: Map of Medieval London, with Ricardian sites indicated.
Right: Crosby Place illustrations: Crosby Place as it may have appeared in the 15th century; Crosby Hall, rebuilt in Chelsea; tomb and effigies of Sir John Crosby and his wife, St. Helens, Bishopsgate.
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The Richard III Society: Its history and achievements
The origins of the Richard III Society are to be found in the formation of the ‘Fellowship of the White Boar’ in 1924, founded by S. Saxon Barton, a Liverpool surgeon. The early Fellowship did not achieve a wide membership beyond its core of founder members. Activities declined with the advent of the Second World War and it was not until the 1950s that moves were made to re-activate the Fellowship. It was formally reconstituted in 1956 with a wider membership and the name was changed to ‘The Richard III Society’ in 1959.
Today the Society boasts a worldwide membership of over 4,000, ranging from Australia to Zimbabwe. It has branches in Europe, the U.S.A., Canada, Australia and South Africa, in addition to many branches and groups within the United Kingdom.
The aims of the Society may be summarized as follows:–
- To promote research into the life and times of Richard III.
- To secure a re-assessment of the material relating to this period and of the role and reputation in English history of this monarch.
- To further the above aims through the publication of a quarterly journal, The Ricardian, and a newsletter, circulated to all members of the Society. [Ed. note: Effective 2003, The Ricardian is an annual and the “newsletter” is greatly expanded]
- To arrange, through the Committee, and through Branch Committees in their own areas, appropriate historical and social activities.
The society has been active in the field of historical research — The Ricardian contains articles and research notes of a scholarly standard and is recognized in academic circles as being a valid contributor to fifteenth-century studies.
The Society’s role in the publishing of books and papers has greatly enhanced its standing as a learned historical society. The publication of a full transcript of British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, in collaboration with a respected fifteenth-century historian, has been a major achievement. Other publications include an itinerary of Richard III and a collection of articles from The Ricardian. The Society’s publishing achievements have recently culminated in the establishment of an independent charity — the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, which aims to maintain and broaden the Society’s publishing programme, to obtain funds as a charitable trust, and to increase cooperation with the academic community through its non-Society trustees. The Trust’s first year has seen the publication of a new translation of the Crowland Chronicle and the proceedings of the 1984 Cambridge Symposium. For additional information on the activities of the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust click here.
The Society maintains a library of books and papers associated with Richard III and the fifteenth century, which may be used by all members.
The Society has initiated and supported the erection of memorials in many buildings and localities associated with Richard III and the House of York. In 1934, the Richard III memorial window was installed in Middleham church. Richard’s birthplace, Fotheringhay, has been the focus of much Society interest. A plaque was erected in 1964, near to the site of the castle and the Society has been closely involved with the establishment of the Yorkist Memorial Chapel in the parish church. Through the ‘Ricardian Churches Restoration Fund’ the Society has contributed to the repair and maintenance of many churches associated with Richard III throughout the country. York Minster, Westminster Abbey, Crosby Hall and the cities of Leicester and Gloucester have all been recipients of memorials sponsored by the Society. In 1978 an appeal was launched for a statue of Richard III to be erected at Leicester and it was unveiled in 1980 by HRH Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. The statue remains the most poignant memorial to Richard III.
In 1980 the Society had the honour to receive Royal Patronage when HRH The Duke of Gloucester became its patron, and in 1989 a Coat-of-Arms was granted to the Society by the College of Arms, an institution founded by Richard III in 1484.
The Society has co-operated actively with outside bodies from many fields. It participated in the quincentenary celebrations of the battles of Barnet, Tewkesbury and Bosworth, and in 1973 with the National Portrait Gallery, assisting in preparation of their ‘Richard III Exhibition.’
Recent years have seen increased involvement in the academic world through the Society’s publication programme and the organisation of seminars and courses, together with the establishment of a bursary, at York University, for students researching late fifteenth-century topics. Participation in the 1984 televised ‘Trial of Richard III’ brought much publicity and a ‘not guilty’ verdict for Richard. Through its research, publications and social activities over the past 60 years, the Richard III Society can claim to have successfully helped in the promotion of a re-assessment of the life and character of Richard III and his contribution to the development of the English nation.
Further reading: The Richard III Society: The first fifty years, a personal account’ by George Awdry (published 1976).
Baynard’s Castle was the western outpost of the City, built by William the Conqueror as a counterpart to the Tower in the east. The castle was rebuilt several times, the earliest following its destruction by King John, and its new site was situated close to the outlet where the FleetDitch ran into the Thames. After a fire in 1428, the King either gave or sold the property to Richard, Duke of York, who made it his town house. His Duchess, Cecily, continued to live there after his death, and it was in the Great Hall that Edward IV was proclaimed King in 1461. Richard, Duke of Gloucester, also stayed here, and it was used in the month leading up to his accession for the greater convenience of water transport to Westminster and the Tower. Mancini writes that Richard had ‘purposely betaken himself to his mother’s house so that these events might not take place in the Tower, where the young King was.’ Here the Three Estates petitioned Richard to become King. The castle survived the Great Fire, but the walls were severely damaged and there was no attempt to rebuild. One turret stood until 1720 although fragments of the castle were built into local houses until the site was cleared in the early nineteenth century.
In 1466, Sir John Crosby obtained from the Prioress of St Helens a lease of lands and tenements near the convent in Bishopsgate. Retaining one wing of the house, which formerly belonged to an Italian merchant, he added apartments worthy of his status as an Alderman and Member of Parliament. The mansion, known as Crosby Place, was still the highest in the city, some hundred years after its building, according to John Stow. Knighted in 1471 by Edward IV, after taking prominent part in the defence of the City against a Lancastrian attack, Crosby was then sent to negotiate trade agreements with the Duke of Burgundy and became Mayor of Calais, then England’s great wool emporium. He died in 1471 and subsequently his widow leased ‘the great messuage called Crosby Place’ to Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Shakespeare, who himself later resided in the Parish of St. Helens, mentions it on three occasions in Richard III, and on account of the tradition that he was offered the crown there, the Solar and Great Chamber came to be known as the Council Chamber and Throne Room. Subsequent occupiers of the house included the lord Mayor of 1516, Sir Thomas More in 1523 and visiting ambassadors. The buildings fell into disuse after the Civil War and became successively a chapel, warehouse, evening institute and restaurant until being bought by the Bank of India. The great banqueting hall, with its minstrels’ gallery and richly carved ceiling, was then carefully demolished and re-erected in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, in 1910.