Jane Austen…The Young Historian
When it was announced on September 12, 2012 that a skeleton had been discovered in the ruins of the Greyfriars church I was ecstatic. I waited, impatiently, until finally on February 4, 2013 the remains, through DNA analysis, were identified as Richard III.
As someone who has devoted many years studying this period of English history and the life (and death) of King Richard III, I was thoroughly and utterly excited to watch this historic discovery play out.
Being a Ricardian, I am of the belief that Richard III was innocent of the accusations lobbed against him. However, there are many who believe him to be the villain that William Shakespeare portrayed him as in his play Richard III.
Richard III, like Henry VIII, is a one of the few English kings that people continue to have differing opinions about and at the age of fifteen Jane Austen voiced her opinion about the late king in her piece of juvenilia, The History of England, dated 26 November 1791.
Richard the 3d
The Character of this Prince had been in general very severely treated by Historians, but as he was a York, I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man. It has indeed been confidently asserted that he killed his two Nephews & his Wife, but it has also been declared that he did not kill his two Nephews, which I am inclined to believe true; & if this is the case, it may also be affirmed that he did not kill his Wife, for if Perkin Warbeck was really the Duke of York, why might not Lambert Simnel be the Widow of Richard. Whether innocent or guilty, he did not reign long in peace, for Henry Tudor Earl of Richmond as great a Villain as ever lived, made a great fuss about getting the Crown & having killed the King at the battle of Bosworth, he succeeded to it.
-The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st
By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian.
To view, and read, the original manuscript of Jane Austen’s The History of England, please visit The British Library’s interactive online Gallery HERE
Whether you are a Ricardian, or one who adheres to Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard, or one who has just discovered Richard III, I encourage you to explore the following websites. (Please note that both websites show photographs of the remains of Richard III. I would recommend checking out the content of the websites before allowing young children to view them)
The University of Leicester’s website: The Search for Richard III by the University of Leicester