The Royal Tree

“The royal tree…” (III.7)

Family tree illustrated with portraits from effigies and manuscripts, heraldic badges of Lancaster and York. Favourable and adverse quotes on Richard’s appearance and character.

Royal Tree

Favourable Quotes

‘The Duke of Gloucester, that most noble prince, young of age, victorious in battle….Grace him followeth, fortune and good speed. I suppose he is the same that clerks of read, Fortune hath him chosen and forth with him will go. Her husband to be, the will of God is so.’

–Verses on the recovery of the throne by Edward IV after the battle of Barnet, 1471

‘I trust to God, soon, by Michaelmas, the king shall be at London. He contents the people where he goes best that ever did prince, for many a poor man hath suffered wrong many days, hath been relieved and helped by him, and his commands on his progress. And in many great cities and towns were great sums of money given to him, which he hath refused. On my troth I never liked the condition of any prince so well as his. God hath sent him to us for the weal of us all.’

–Dr. Thomas Langton, Bishop of St. Davids, to be Prior of Christchurch, September 1483

‘The most mighty prince Richard, by the grace of God, King of England and of France and Lord of Ireland, by very matrimony without discontinuance or any defiling in the laws, by heir male lineally descending from King Harry II. All avarice set aside, he ruled his subjects in his realm full commendably, punishing offenders of his laws, specially extortioners and oppressors of his commons and cherishing those that were virtuous, by the which discreet guiding he got great thanks of God and love of all his subjects, right and poor, and great laud of the people of all other lands about him.’


–John Rous, the Yorkist ‘Rous Roll’ 1483-85

‘And most excellent redoubted prince, forasmuch as your full might and most noble courage is daily disposed and moved to accomplish the offices of [Justice: Prudence, Force and Temperance] and in especial for to execute the cardinal virtue of force as to vanquish through the might of God…to subdue your great Adversary of France…’

–William of Worcester, dedication to Richard III, 1483-84

‘He kept himself within his own lands and set out to acquire the loyalty of his people through favour and justice. The good reputation of his private life and public activities powerfully attracted the esteem of strangers. Such was his renown in warfare that whenever a difficult and dangerous policy had to be undertaken it would be entrusted to his discretion and his generalship. By these arts Richard acquired the favour of the people and avoided the jealousy of the queen, from whom he lived removed.’

–Dominic Mancini, ‘The Usurpation of King Richard III’ 1483

‘And thus this little book I present to my redoubted natural and most dread sovereign lord, King Richard of England and of France, to the end that he command this book to be had and read unto other young lords, knights and gentlemen within this realm, that the noble Order of Chivalry be hereafter better used and honoured than it hath been in late days passed. And herein he shall do a noble and virtuous deed. And I shall pray Almighty God for his long life and prosperous welfare and that he may have victory of all his enemies, and after this short and transitory life to have everlasting life in heaven whereas is joy and bliss, world without end. Amen.’

–William Caxton ‘Dedication to the Order of Chivalry to King Richard III’ 1484

In the preamble to his will, drawn up on 20 August 1485, Robert Morton, a kinsman of John Morton, Bishop of Ely, later Cardinal, writes that ‘he is going to maintain our most excellent King Richard III against the rebellion against him in this land.’

‘If we look first of all for religious devotion, which of our princes shows a more genuine piety? If for justice, who can we reckon above him throughout the world? If we contemplate the prudence of his service, both in peace, and in waging war, who shall we judge his equal? If we look for truth of souls for wisdom, for loftiness of mind, united with modesty, who stands before our King Richard? What Emperor or Prince can be compared with him in good works or munificence?’

–Pietro Carmeliano’s dedication of ‘The Life of St. Catherine’ to Sir Robert Brackenbury 1483-85

Adverse Quotes

‘Undoubtedly it might be said of this ill-starred king that the prophetic saying was verified in him which says:–“I beheld the evil man exalted as the cedars in Lebanon, I passed by and lo, he was not. I sought him and he was not found in his place.” For it is sufficiently well known to your Royal Majesties that this Richard killed two innocent nephews of his towhom the real belonged after his brother’s life, but for all that King Edward, their father, was waging war in Scotland, while Richard stayed in England. It is alleged that there he had them murdered with poison.’

–Diego de Valera to the Catholic monarchs of Spain, 1 March 1486

‘The usurper King Richard III then ascended the throne of the slaughtered children whose protector he was himself. Richard was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire, retained within his mother’s womb for two years and emerging with teeth and hair to his shoulders. He was born at the Feast of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. At his nativity Scorpio was in the ascendant, which is the sign of a house of Mars. And like a scorpion he combined a smooth front with a stinging tail. He received his lord King Edward V blandly, with embraces and kisses and within about three months or a little more, he killed him, together with his brother. And Lady Anne, his queen, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, he poisoned. Anne, his mother-in-law, the venerable Countess, widow and right heir of this noble lord, fled to him for refuge and he locked her up for the duration of her life. And, what is most detestable to God and all Englishmen and indeed to all nations to whom it became known, he caused others to kill the holy man King Henry VI or, as many think, did so by his own hands.’

–John Rous, ‘Historia Regum Anglie 1486

‘He was little of stature, deformed of body, one shoulder being higher than the other, a short and sour countenance, which seemed to savour of mischief and utter evidently craft and deceit. The while he was thinking of any matter, he did continually bite his nether lip, as though that cruel nature of his did rage against itself in that little carcass. Also he was wont to be ever with his right hand pulling out of the sheath to themiddle and putting it in again, the dagger, which he did always wear. Truly he had a sharp wit, provident and subtle, apt both to counterfit and dissemble his courage also high and fierce, which failed him not in the very death, which when his men forsook him he rather yielded to take with sword than by flight to prolong his life, uncertain what death perchance soon after by sickness or violence to suffer.’

–Polydore Vergil ‘Anglica Historia’ 1534

‘Richard, the third son, of whom we now entreat, was in wit and courage equal with either of them, in body and prowess far under them both. Little of statue, ill featured of limbs, crook-backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right, hard favoured of visage….he was malicious, wrathful, envious and from his birth ever froward. It is for truth reported that the duchess his mother had so much ado in her travail that she could not be delivered of him uncut, and that he came into the world with the feet forward and (as fame runneth) also not untoothed. None evil captain was he in war, as to which his disposition was more meetly than for peace. Sundry victories had he and some time overthrown, but never in default, as for his own person, either of hardiness or politic order, free was he called of dispense and somewhat above his power liberal, with large gifts he got him unsteadfast friendship for which was fain to pillage and spoil in other places, and get him steadfast hatred. He was close and secret, a deep dissimulator, not letting to kiss whom he thought to kill; dispiteous and cruel, not for evil always but often for ambition and either for the surety or increase of his estate.’

–Thomas More, ‘History of King Richard III’ 1557

;Although he was a prince in military virtue approved, jealous of the honour of the English nation, and likewise a good lawmaker, for the ease and solace of the common people, yet his cruelties and parracides, in the opinion of all men, weighed down his virtues and merits, and in the opinion of wise men, even those virtues themselves were conceived to be rather feigned and affected things, to serve his ambition, than true qualities ingenerate to his judgements or nature. And for the politic and wholesome laws which were enacted in his time, they were interpreted to be but the brocage of an usurper thereby to woo and win the hearts of the people, as being conscious to himself, that the true obligations of sovereignty in him failed and was wanting.’

–Sir Francis Bacon ‘History of the Reign of King Henry VII’ 1641