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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 51

Edward V. and Richard III. (1483—1485)

page 40

Edward V. and Richard III. (1483—1485).

Edward IV. was succeeded by his son, Edward V., a lad of twelve. He reigned for nearly three months—a long time, considering the character of his amiable uncle, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the Protector of the realm. It has been said that it is possible to paint the devil himself in colours too dark; but no one has yet been able to find pigments black enough to suit the moral lineaments of Richard III. Compared with him, even King John becomes respectable, and Nero has to look to his laurels. He accused his own mother of marital infidelity, and got his two nephews, the elder being the king, first bastardized and then suffocated in the Tower. The murdered lads' sister, his niece, Elizabeth, he proposed to marry, and the young lady, with the correct moral instinct of royal persons, was eager for the match. He beheaded everyone who stood in his way, generally without trial. Yet he appears to have been a man of considerable ability—a sort of "greatest of the Plantagenets" in his way. He was a patron of Caxton.

But such stupendous villany, though it might appal for a time, could not endure. The worst of the Plantagenets was also the last. On Bosworth field Richard encountered the Duke of Richmond, the head of the revived Lancastrian party, and shrieking wildly, "Treason! treason!" fell like Macbeth, fighting with desperate valour. Treason to Richard, or indeed to any of his hateful race, were indeed a paradox. "We came of the devil," said Richard I., "and we shall go to the devil." And he said well.

Yet true it is and of verity, that in our national and public schools the ingenuous youth of England are to-day taught to reverence rather than to execrate the memory of this detestable line of reprobates. We are but beginning to recognise that kings are not gods, but by the very law of their existence the worst specimens of men.