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The "Tudor myth" is the tradition in English history, historiography and literature that presents the period of the 15th century, including the Wars of the Roses, in England as a dark age of anarchy and bloodshed. It served the political purpose of promoting the Tudor period of the 16th century as a golden age of peace, law, order, and prosperity.
Conspicuous in this tradition of history writing and literature was the portrayal of Richard III of England (1452-1485; reigned, 1483-1485) as a deformed hunchback and murderer. One of the historians who founded this tradition was Thomas More, who wrote a history of Richard III of England. William Shakespeare continued in this tradition through his history plays that covered the 15th century: Richard II, Henry IV, Part 1, Henry IV, Part 2, Henry V, Henry VI, Part 1, Henry VI, Part 2, Henry VI, Part 3, and Richard III. This tradition dominated the writing of British/Commonwealth-American history up until the twentieth century. However, Horace Walpole and Sir George Buck contradicted this dominant school of historiography during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
The revisionist historian Paul Murray Kendall, author of Richard III (1956), among others, was instrumental in drawing the attention of fellow historians to the distortions of this tradition. (See also, historical revisionism.)
The concept of Merry England takes the opposite view of this period. More specifically, Ricardian historians, the Richard III Society and The Society of Friends of King Richard III have striven to provide historical perspectives more favourable to Richard III and his achievements during his brief reign.
Two main sources of the "Tudor myth" tradition
- The Anglica Historia of Polydore Vergil, Books 23-25 on Richard III.; Entire 1555 edition (Henry VII's official historian). First in print in 1534.
- Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard III (1513). Even though this work is considered biased, modern research has shown More's facts to be accurate: his source was John Morton, who was Archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VII, and had served as Bishop of Ely under Edward IV and Richard III.
Further line of the tradition
- Edward Hall's Union of the Noble and Illustre Families of Lancaster and York (1548), which was then in turn used as a reference by
- Raphael Holinshed and his collaborators who wrote the Chronicles of England, Scotland and Wales (2nd edition, 1587), which was Shakespeare's primary source for his history plays.
- William Shakespeare's play, Richard III
- Gillingham, John. The Wars of The Roses: Peace and Conflict in Fifteenth-Century England. Louisiana State University Press, 1981
- Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard III, New York: W. W. Norton, 1956.
- Kendall, Paul Murray. Richard III: The Great Debate: Sir Thomas More's History of King Richard III and Horace Walpole's Historic Doubts on the Life and Reign of King Richard III, 1965.
- Reese, M. M. The Cease of Majesty: A Study of Shakespeare's History Plays, New York: St Martin's Press, 1961
- Tillyard, E.M.W. Shakespeare's History Plays, New York: Macmillan, 1944