Every now and again it’s pleasant to revisit a subject and today it’s the turn of King Richard III and his role in the book trade. This has been prompted by a chat I had yesterday in our local town with a political canvasser (did you know a general election is looming in the UK?!) Somehow we turned to medieval politics and he asked me what my ‘speciality’ was. I suppose I could have said ‘late medieval’ or ‘the Wars of the Roses’, but I went narrower and simply said ‘King Richard III’. He looked a little taken aback, then admitted that apart from the Battle of Bosworth (boo!) and Shakespeare’s play (boo hiss!!), he didn’t really know much about Richard – except that he didn’t reign for very long.
Of course I pointed out that Shakespeare’s version was pure fiction (I don’t need to go into details here I imagine!), and that, although Richard was only on the throne for just over two years, he did more in that short time that most other monarchs. Especially – and here’s the crunch – for ‘ordinary’ people. People like you or me or the man I was talking to. (Of course, I’m making an assumption here – that no one reading this blog inhabits the higher echelons of the aristocracy. If you do hail from such a privileged background, may I humbly beg your pardon, Your Grace/Highness/Majesty….)
Given the context of our chat (i.e. political canvassing), I offered two distinct examples of King Richard’s concern for ‘ordinary’ people, rather than just the nobles of his day. First, that he was the first monarch to have the proceedings of his Parliament (the laws) written (and printed) in English, rather than French as had been usual (so that everyone could understand them, not just those descended from the Norman aristocracy – the same for his coronation oath, again the first time it was sworn in English). And then there was his protection for the book trade.
And that’s where my blog-revisit comes in. I wish I’d had it to hand when talking to the gentleman yesterday as it details what Richard did and why – and yes, in answer to his question, it is believed that it was King Richard himself who made the change to the law detailed in the following blog to ensure books and education were as widely available as possible.
Please do read on…. you may also discover something about books that you didn’t know before! https://alexmarchantblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/king-richard-iii-and-the-book-trade/
Alex Marchant is author of two books telling the story of the real King Richard III for children aged 10+, The Order of the White Boar and The King’s Man, and editor of Grant Me the Carving of My Name and Right Trusty and Well Beloved…, two anthologies of short fiction inspired by the king, sold in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK).
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