Latest news from Berwick Civic Society
On Wednesday, March 9, Dr Sandra Pendlington addressed the society on the invasion of the North by Richard, Duke of Gloucester, and subsequent King of England.
Anticipating the usual line of inquiry – did he or didn’t he murder the princes in the tower? – she said that was not going to form a part of her talk, which was going to have three themes: Richard’s early history, his time as Lord of the North, and recent events in Leicester.
This she did with excellent illustrative material and a noteless fluency that those of us with a jumbled memory of the War of the Roses as a sort of gory morass to be avoided at all costs in examinations could only admire.
She started by dealing with the image of ‘Bad King Richard’, as portrayed by the likes of Olivier.
He was no saint, but nor was he the kind of ruler the Tudors made him out to be.
He grew up in turbulent times.
In 1460, when he was eight, his father and brother were killed at the Battle of Wakefield, and the following year was taken to Flanders for safety.
That year, too, saw the bloodiest ever battle on English soil, that at Towton in which 25,000 soldiers were killed.
He was made Duke of Gloucester by his victorious brother, who became Edward IV, and learnt the business of knighthood in a tough apprenticeship at Middleham castle, but there followed another exile and major battles at Barnet and Tewkesbury.
Only 18 when he became Lord of the North, he set up courts for the regular dispensation of justice, as well as the Council of the North, and ‘punched fairly and firmly’ against the Scots; in all this gaining a good reputation.
In 1482 an army of 20,000 men appeared outside Berwick’s walls and was admitted to the town without opposition, the castle, though, holding out. The disunited Scots failed to fight and meekly bought Richard off.
Following a siege, Berwick castle finally surrendered and the Scottish garrison was allowed to march away with their weapons. From that date Berwick has always been English.
Following his death at Bosworth, in which he fought “like a spirited and most courageous prince”, his body was displayed at Newark for three days, then buried at Greyfriars Priory.
Of the many rumours that later circulated, one was that his body had been dug up and thrown in the river.
There seems little doubt, though, that it was his mortal remains recovered from a Leicester car park.