The Daily Telegraph

Anne Sutton

Defender of Richard III who helped to pave the way for his bones to be found in a Leicester car park

- Anne Sutton, born November 3 1942, died June 18 2022

ANNE SUTTON, who has died aged 79, was the most accomplish­ed advocate of all that was laudable in Richard III; her work brought him to the forefront of scholarly debate, and without her energetic promotion of his importance, King Richard’s remains, under that famous Leicester car park, would never have been found and identified.

Her role in rehabilita­ting him as a serious focus for academic research and discourse – often contrary to traditiona­l scholarshi­p – was exemplary. She had great charm and an exceptiona­l memory, and the ability to connect and understand complicate­d material. Above all, she approached her subject with academic thoroughne­ss.

Anne Frances Sutton was born on November 3 1942, the eldest child of Philip and Catherine Sutton (née Howard). Philip Sutton was born in China, son of a Kowloon merchant, while Anne’s mother was of Anglo-irish descent. Her early years were spent in Sidcup, Kent, and later in Norwich, where she was educated at the High School for Girls.

She became hooked on history and drama, and both were to play an integral role when she went to St Hugh’s College, Oxford, in 1961 to read History. She joined the university Dramatic Society, performing in such plays as Measure for Measure, The Crucible and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

After she graduated, an acting career beckoned, and for a time she was in rep at Scarboroug­h and York. But by the end of the decade Anne Sutton had given up the theatre to focus on her second passion, training as an archivist in London.

In 1972 she joined the former Corporatio­n of London Records Office, and stayed there until 1981.

She retained a touch of the dramatic in her manner, and users of the Records Office still recall her long chestnut hair, immense knowledge and (sometimes) daunting personalit­y as she quizzed them on why, exactly, they wanted to consult a particular manuscript. Her next position was archivist at the Mercers’ Company, until her retirement in 2002. Her depth of knowledge of the material in her care was such that she embarked on a PHD at Royal Holloway, University of London, on “The Mercery Trade and the Mercers Company of London from the 1130s to 1350”.

The 15th century was Anne Sutton’s passion. She was a great fan of Olivier’s Richard III, and with the realisatio­n that acting was not for her, she had taken up the torch for England’s last Plantagene­t king. She joined the Richard III Society in 1967 and became a leading member, intent on rehabilita­ting Shakespear­e’s villain in the eyes of the public and to improve his academic credibilit­y among her peers. She was a witness for the defence in The Trial of Richard III on Channel Four in 1984.

Her delivery, knowledge of her subject and scholarshi­p lent weight to the defence, and the king was found not guilty.

The main aim of Anne Sutton’s research was to provide evidence of the ability and achievemen­ts of Richard III; at the same time his life served as a peg on which to hang a series of works which might serve as models for the modern scholarly history of other medieval English kings.

Her 1984 book with Peter Hammond, The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents, is the only such work about any English coronation, just as her study (with

Livia Visser Fuchs) Richard III’S Books (1997) is the only book on any medieval English monarch’s library.

A growing stream of articles on Richard began in 1975, and came to exceed a hundred, in addition to 14 books of which she was sole or joint author or editor.

Her last monograph, The King’s Work: The Defence of the North Under the Yorkist Kings, 1471–85 (2021), is a tour de force of primary research, analysis and originalit­y. It is also a monument to Anne Sutton’s ability to work for many hours every day, with intense focus which helped her to ignore physical discomfort – even when she was already ill.

One of her achievemen­ts was as editor of The Ricardian, the journal of the Richard III Society, for 43 years, from 1979 until her death.

She was good at dealing with the beginners among her contributo­rs, guiding them towards a proper attitude to the evidence and a balanced presentati­on, but her own growing reputation also attracted experience­d authors in the field and ensured that the scholarly level of the journal rose steadily over the years.

She would not suffer fools gladly, but she enjoyed collaborat­ion, especially when she felt that her study of Richard would benefit from the expertise of her collaborat­or.

Philip Sutton wrote a letter to his daughter to mark her first birthday in 1943: “If you have the common sense and tenacity of the English, and the culture and brilliance which the Irish can give you, we will be proud of you.” This she achieved.

Anne Sutton was unmarried.

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Anne Sutton: charm and an exceptiona­l memory

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