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under whom he wrote had devised and spread abroad to veil the defects in bis own title to the crown; and more than one great actor has, since that time, stereotyped his delineation on the minds of the nation at large, by the painful fidelity of bis representation. Sharon Turner suspects him of having been the wicked uncle whose misdeeds furnished the subject for the ballad of the “ Babes in the Wood.” Mr. Samuel Weller points one of his happiest quotations of ancient saws, by reference to his example, as one who preferred business to pleasure, in that he stabbed the other king in the 'Tower before he smothered the babies. Horace Walpole, in the latter part of the last century, was the first writer who ventured to say a word in justification of one who had previously been represented as a monster equally deformed in mind and body. He examined the charges against him with the most laborious research, with the greatest skill and ingenuity; and, though he did not convince Hume, he certainly proved to the satisfaction of the greater part of those who gave themselves the trouble to examine the question, that some of the accusations brought against him were wholly false ; that others were greatly distorted and exaggerated ; and if he failed in exculpating him from the gravest of all the imputations——that of the murder of his nephews-it was more because, as advocates are sometimes apt to do, he overdid his case; and, as he would probably never bimself have been led to doubt the truth of the charge, had it not been for the manifest falsehoods contained in the different documents by which Henry VII. strove to fix it on him; so the shifts to which he himself is reduced, in order to throw doubt on the fact of the murder of the young princes, furnish perhaps the greatest proof that that crime was really cornmitted by Richard.
Mr. John Heneage Jesse, whose name will, doubtless, be familiar to our readers as the author of a most interesting and authentic “ History of the Court of England Under the Stuarts,” has recently supplied us with some very claborately compiled memoirs of the “ Life and Times of King Richard III.,” whose whole career he examines with the judicial calmness that becomes a historian. He attributes, perhaps, more weight than we ourselves should be inclined to assign to the account of Sir Thomas More and others, who manifestly wrote under the influence of Henry, and takes upon himself what appears to us to be a wholly superfluous labour, when he applies himself gravely to controvert the view asserted or implied in different scenes of Shakspeare's immortal drama. We did not know that, since the Duke of Marlborough's time, anyone had
looked that greatest of poets as a historian, and with reference to the period which we are considering, we had fancied that people generally agreed with Die Vernon, that, “ with his Lancastrian partialities, he had turned history upside down, or, rather, insiile out.” But, in his general delineation of Richard's character, Mr. Jesse proceeds on the most trustworthy authorities; and he displays an intimate acquaintance with the state and position of the different factions which, after the death of Edward IV., and even before that epoch, distracted the kingdom ; and also a worthy appreciation of the great capacity for both war and government which
Richard, from an early age, exhibited. He explains, briefly, but clearly, the jealousies of the contending nobles; the general hatred in which Ed. ward's widow and the whole faction of the Woodvilles was held; and the equally general feeling that Richard was the one master-spirit of the age. The dying Edward had, indeed, sought, in his last moments, to reconcile the chiefs of the rival parties in the State; but the friendship which was pledged at the side of his death-bed was blown away like a cobweb by the events which followed upon his death, and by the circumstances in which that occurrence left the kingdom. His heir was a minor. Since the Conquest there had been but four precedents for a minor occupying the throne, and each of those instances had brought with it disorder and tumult at home, defeat and disgrace abroad. The last minority was still within the recollection of living men, and the sad and shameful records of the early years of the reign of Henry VI. were well calculated to dispose those who could remember that period, to acquiesce in any arrangement which would diminish the probability of the recurrence of so calamitous an era.
It would seem at first that Richard had no idea of usurping the crown, but was solely bent on preserving it for his nephew. Sharon Turner, a historian whose unwearied research, experienced acuteness, and unswerving partiality, render him, perhaps, our safest guide through these perplexed times, points out that, at the opening of the youthful king's first parliament, Richard himself attended on his nephew, and that the speech with which the parliament was opened spoke of the royal boy in terms of the highest eulogy, praising his "gentyl wytte” and ripe understanding, far surpassing the nature of his youth-—a source of popularity which his uncle never would have suffered if he had then intended to depose him." The argument is most convincing, and Mr. Jesse adopts the conclusion to which it leads, expressing his own doubt “whether, at this time, or even later, Richard entertained any serious thoughts of deposing his brother's son, much less of procuring his assassination.” But all writers who would exculpate Richard from any of the imputations cast upon him take upon themselves an arduous task, from the difficulty of contending against the unrivalled fascinations of Hume's style, which makes them forget his general neglect of antiquarian research, and of the duty of examining both sides of the question. Hume's deference to More's authority is so implicit that he actually prefers his statements as evidence to public documents which are still in existence. And, in the same spirit of carelessness, for it can hardly have been any. thing else, he unreservedly adopts the narrative of Lord Bacon, resting his belief on a theory which he would appear to have invented himself, that “ Bacon plainly composed his elaborate and exact history from many records and papers which are now lost, and that, consequently, he is always to be cited as an original historian.”
Richard's supposed crimes have been enumerated by Horace Walpole in the following order :-His murder of Prince Edward, son of Henry VI.; his murder of that sovereign himself ; the murder of his brother, the Duke of Clarence; the execution of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan; the execution of Hastings; the murder of the princes, and of his own queen. Of the first
crime Mr. Jesse acquits him, as Walpole had done before, producing an additional evidence which had escaped the notice of his predecessor, that De Commines expressly states the young prince to have been “slain on the field of battle,” at Tewksbury. His share in the death of Henry he equally discredits, though he believes that he was murdered by some one, namely, by Edward IV. bimself. There is really no evidence whatever to show us how Henry died; those who attributed his death to the hand of Richard all admitted that in so doing they were trusting to mere report ; and it appears to us far more reasonable to adopt Sharon Turner's version of the occurrence, that “ Henry was so shocked at the tidings of the death of his son, the irretrievable defeats and loss of his friends, and the captivity of his queen, that his frame sank under the effect of this sudden communication.” Again, of the death of Clarence, our biographer agrees with Walpole and Sharon Turner in absolving the Duke of Gloucester; though he differs from the last-mentioned writer in imputing the deed solely to King Edward. Mr. Turner, looking for the instigators of the duke's exccution among those who had derived the greatest benefit from it, had pointed out that there had been quarrels“ between Clarence and the queen's brother, Lord Rivers ; that his confiscated estates were chiefly given to Rivers ; and the wardships and marriage of his heir to the queen's son, the Marquis of Dorset;" while“ the act of attainder charges Clarence with proposing treason against the queen and his son." In support of his view Mr. Jesse reminds us that, “in the first place, Clarence had openly disputed his brother's legitimacy on the ground of their mother's incontinency; and, in the next place, that the act of parliament which had declared Edward to be an usurper, and had settled the crown on Clarence and his descendants after the death of Edward, son of Henry VI., was still unrepealed.” Either of these causes, the king's jealousy, or the queen's enmity, were sufficient to lead to Clarence's destruction; and it is probable that both of them dil, in fact, contribute to it. But it is plain that neither of them could have intluenced Richard; and, in spite of Hume and Shakspeare, we may join with a safe conscience in pronouncing him wholly innocent of all share in what, after all, was a not very inexcusable transaction.
Our biographer justifies the execution of Rivers, Grey, and Vaughan, showing not only that it was, in all probability, fully deserved by their par. ticipation in a plot against the Protector; but also that Rivers himself, by the language of his will, dated only a few hours before his execution, seems to admit the justice of his fate. The death of Hastings raises a more intricate question, and the circumstances which led to it will probably never be unravelled. He had been one of Edward's most trusted counsellors, but had also been ove of the leaders of that haughty and powerful party among the nobles, who despised the family of the queen as upstarts, and euvied and hated them for the power which they had engrossed since her muriage. His energetic remoustrances had prevented the queen from collecting a force sufficient to overcome all possible opposition, and to preserve the en ire power of the kingdom to her relations; yet it seems probable, indeed, almost certain that he was subsequently gained over by her, and induced
to concur in schemes to abridge Richard's Protectorate, if not, as Richard himself averred, to deprive him of his life. It must be especially remembered, that the Protectorate with which Richard was invested was very inferior, both in power and duration, to a Regency. It, in fact, conferred only the Presidency of the Council of Regency; and, according to the latest precedent, that of Henry VI., even that dignity would cease as soon as Edward was crowned. Henry VI., as Mr. Turner points out, was crowned at eight years old, for the express purpose of terminating the Protectorial office.” And there were other precedents still more full of danger to anyone who should be placed in the position in which Richard would have found himself after he had ceased to be Protector. He had likewise to recollect that the Duke of Gloucester, in the reign of Richard II., had been destroyed by that king, from political oppositions, although his uncle; and that the last Duke of Gloucester, notwithstanding that he also was uncle to the reigning sovereign and his presumptive heir, had, by the use or abuse of the royal authority, been arrested, and that his imprisonment had been followed by an immediate mysterious death. That Richard really did believe himself in danger, is proved by a letter which he wrote to the Mayor of York only three days before the death of Hastings, and, therefore, we cannot wonder at, and are hardly entitled to blame, his resolution of ensuring bis own safety by the destruction of the ablest of his foes, which should be a lesson also to those who remained behind. If this view of Richard's reasons for putting Hastings to death be correct, it also shows us the motives which suddenly influenced him in his decision to seize the crown, to the exclusion of his nephew. He saw no other safety for his own life. Young Edward's coronation, by terminating bis Protectorate, would place the chief power in the hands of the queen and her friends, between whom and himself there was now open war; and, if we may trust Mr. Turner's inferences, “Richard now proceeded to the usurpation of the crown with the approbation of most of the great men, both of the Church and State, in London. Not that the assent of the whole country could be any justification of the treasonable and immoral action, but the facts prove that the Protector, however bad or blameable, was no worse than the most distinguished men of rank of that day. All who hoped to profit by it supported him; and the same motive would have made them as readily put him down by the same means if his competitors had anticipated him. This is probably the real truth of the case. Both parties were playing the same game of unprincipled violence; and Richard was the most prompt, determined, and unshrinking.”
There was but a short step from the deposition to the murder of his nephews. Horace Walpole, as we have already said, laboured to discredit this fact; but we agree with Mr. Jesse and Mr. Turner, that there can be no reasonable doubt of it. That if the princes died they were murdered, there can he no controversy whatever. We may not feel quite certain hovo the crime was perpetrated. We may feel bound, with Walpole, to reject Tyrrell's confession as at rue account, and admit that we rest oor judgment that Richard caused them to be murdered, mainly on the common belief of that time that they were dead. Common belief, it is true, is generally
perilous to trust to, but circumstances in this case give it a solidity which takes it out of the general rule; for the belief in the fact of their death was entertained by those who were most interested in disbelieving it. The Queen Dowager, Lord Dorset, Sir Edward Woodville, Sir Thomas St. Leger, who was married to Richard's sister, the Courtneys, the Chenys, the Talbots, the Stanleys, and, in a word, all the partisans of the house of York, were so assured of the murder of the two princes that they applied to the Earl of Richmond, the mortal enemy of their party and family, proposing to set him on the throne, which must have been utter ruin to them if the princes were alive; and they stipulated further to marry him to the Princess Elizabeth, as heir to the crown, who, unless they were dead, was no heir at all. But, besides them, we have Richard himself to bear testimony to their death: for he proposed to marry his niece, a very unusual, if not unprecedented, alliance in England, in order to unite her title to his own. Yet, if he knew the princes to be alive (and he certainly knew wbether they were living or not) he also knew that she had no title whatever. If Richard did murder his nephews, and the evidence on this point certainly seems irresistible, his action, as has been said of another royal murder in the present century, was worse than a crime-it was a blunder. His accession had, at first, been almost universally popular, and all his measures and all his conduct had been such as were well calculated to establish and extend bis reputation. He had in a most eminent degree displayed the kingly virtues of mercy and justice-examining in person into the just administration of the laws, and proclaiming an amnesty (which was faithfully observed) for all offences committed, by word or deed, against himself. He had obtained a recognition of his authority from foreign Sovereigns, and from the most illustrious of all at that time, Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, he had received proposals for an intimate alliance. He had secured the tranquillity of his northern frontier by a peace which he had made with James III. of Scotland. But the nation had been too long torn by civil wars to settle dowo at once into a state of peacefulness and order under any sovereign, however prudent, or however peaceful. Rumours of conspiracies gained ground, and these conspiracies the statement that the young princes were dead—a word which every one interpreted “ murdered”—not only furnished with a reason but also with a leader. While the princes were alive they could not have been very formidable, in the first place, as being children; and, secondly, as being in his power. But their death set all their adherents at liberty to transfer their allegiance; and, as he himself was the representative of the Yorkists, they had no resource but to pass over to the Lancastrian camp, and to range themselves under the leadership of Henry of Richmond.
The last charge against Richard, that he caused the death of his queen, may be dismissed as one as little requiriog refutation, as it may be thought that of his murdering his nephews required proof. Richard was certainly not a man to commit wholly needless crimes ; and there seems to be no reason to doubt that, so far from wishing his wife's death, he was sincerely attached to her. To the energy and wisdom of his rule during his