“LOYALTY BINDS ME”
Richard III’S sense of allegiance was both heartfelt and pragmatically disposable
Richard’s personal motto “Loyaulte me lie” (“Loyalty Binds Me”) is sometimes considered a historic irony. The virtue of loyalty seems almost laughable considering that he likely ordered the deaths of his nephews, Edward V and his brother Richard, the Duke of York, after usurping the crown. However, Richard was often true to his motto and to understand him better we need to learn why loyalty was, important to him.
Despite the controversy surrounding the Princes in the Tower, Richard showed few signs of disloyalty to his Yorkist family before 1483. He venerated the memory of his father and was also genuinely devastated when his wife and son died in close succession between 1484-85.
Richard’s greatest of display of loyalty was to his brother Edward IV. It never wavered despite the fact that Richard was educated in the household of Warwick the Kingmaker who later betrayed Edward and briefly deposed him. Richard shared his brother’s exile and fought as his right-hand man at Barnet and Tewkesbury before becoming his steadfast representative in the north of England.
His loyalty was in marked contrast to his elder brother
George, Duke of Clarence.
Despite being a
Yorkist, Clarence defected to the
Lancastrians and was later convicted of treason and executed on Edward’s orders. It is generally agreed that Richard played no part in his brother’s murder and may even have tried to save him.
Nevertheless, these marked displays of familial loyalty may ironically have led Richard to usurp the throne from his nephew in 1483. His primary loyalty was to his interpretation of how the kingdom should be ruled. Richard had grown up in an England that was ravaged by civil war and he had governed fairly in the north to restore the peace.
He may have believed that a strong monarchy could not exist while a child was on the throne. In Richard’s view, the 12-year-old Edward V could be manipulated by his scheming Woodville relations and that could not be allowed to further destabilise the kingdom.
Usurpation was not unusual in the Middle Ages and it is likely that Richard took the throne out of a combination of desperate motives, opportunity and self-preservation.
Hard though it may be to understand,
Richard’s actions towards the Princes in the Tower were not borne out of personal malice. To use Oliver Cromwell’s phrase, it was probably ‘cruel necessity’ that drove Richard in 1483.
It is possible that Richard was loyal to a vision of Yorkist England that necessitated making pragmatically cruel decisions for national stability. However, if that required the murder of children then it is not surprising that Richard’s concept of loyalty comes under such severe
Compared to his treacherous brother George, Duke of Clarence, Richard’s loyalty to his brother Edward IV was unquestionableThe imprisonment and disappearance of the Princes in the Tower is the most controversial event of Richard’s life and is the biggest question mark over his family loyalty Richard was deeply loyal to his wife and queen Anne Neville. His grief was profound when both Anne and their son Edward died