Ricardian (Richard III)

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Richard and his son standing on white boars in a contemporary heraldic roll

Ricardians are people interested in altering the posthumous reputation of Richard III, King of England (reigned 1483–1485). Richard III has long been portrayed unfavourably, most notably in William Shakespeare's play Richard III. In an effort to turn this around and paint such characterizations as politically motivated, Ricardian historians' work has produced editions of documents from Richard's reign, research, and articles which have contributed to scholarship of England in the 1480s.

The two most notable societies of Ricardians are the Richard III Society and the Richard III Foundation, Inc. A much smaller organisation, the Plantagenet Alliance, comprising collateral descendants of Richard III, is also considered to be Ricardian.


Ricardian historiography includes works by Horace Walpole and by Sir George Buck, who was the king's first defender, after the Tudor period.

Ricardian fiction includes Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time and Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour. Elizabeth George writes of the fictional discovery of an exonerating document in her short story "I Richard". Science Fiction writer Andre Norton, in the 1965 novel Quest Crosstime, depicted an alternate history in which Richard III won at Bosworth and turned out to be one of England's greatest kings, "achieving the brilliance of the Elizabethan era two generations earlier".

Richard III Society[edit]

The Richard III Society was founded in 1924 by Liverpool surgeon S. Saxon Barton as The Fellowship of the White Boar, Richard's badge and a symbol of the Yorkist army in the Wars of the Roses. Its membership was originally a small group of interested amateur historians whose aim was to bring about a re-assessment of the reputation of Richard III.

The society became moribund during the Second World War. In 1951 Josephine Tey published her detective novel The Daughter of Time, in which Richard’s guilt is examined and doubted. In 1955, Laurence Olivier released his film of Shakespeare's Richard III, which at the beginning admitted that the play was based on legend, and a sympathetic, detailed biography of Richard was published by Paul Murray Kendall, all of which went some way towards re-invigorating the society.

The Fellowship of the White Boar was renamed The Richard III Society in 1959.

In 1980, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became the society’s Patron. (Richard III was Duke of Gloucester before ascending the throne, therefore he was before his accession (Prince) Richard, Duke of Gloucester).

In 1986 the society established the Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, a registered charity,[1] to advance research and publication related to the history of late medieval England.

The society publishes a scholarly journal, The Ricardian.[2]

Rediscovery of Richard III[edit]

In 2012 the society, working in partnership with the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, exhumed a skeleton at the site of the former Greyfriars Church that was later confirmed to be that of the King.[3]

Philippa Langley, the secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Richard III Society, inaugurated the quest for King Richard's lost grave as part of her ongoing research into the controversial monarch. Her project marked the first-ever search for the grave of an anointed King of England, and in 2013 was made into an acclaimed TV documentary Richard III: King In A Car Park by Darlow Smithson Productions for Channel 4. From the start Philippa was nominated by the Duke of Gloucester, patron of the Richard III Society, as his point of contact for the search and reburial project, which culminated in a fitting re-interment ceremony and memorial for King Richard in an honoured place in Leicester Cathedral.

Philippa Langley and Dr John Ashdown-Hill were awarded the MBE in recognition of their services to "the Exhumation and Identification of Richard III" (London Gazette) in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours.

The Richard III Foundation, Inc.[edit]

The Foundation is a non-for-profit §501(c)(3) educational organization. The aims of the Foundation are to study, share and stimulate interest in the life and times of King Richard III and the Wars of the Roses.

The Richard III Foundation, Inc. is the only Ricardian organization which directly asserts that its aim is to vindicate Richard. Its website states, "The Foundation seeks to challenge the popular view of King Richard III by demonstrating through rigorous scholarship that the facts of Richard’s life and reign are in stark contrast to the Shakespearian caricature."[4]

The Foundation provides a focal point for people who share a fascination with this dynamic period in history. Through continuous research, their work is to identify and translate documents and texts that shed new insight into this important period of history.[4]

Plantagenet Alliance[edit]

Main article: Plantagenet Alliance

The Plantagenet Alliance is a grouping of 15 individuals who claim to be "collateral [non-direct] descendants" of Richard III,[5] and have been described as a "Ricardian fan club".[6] The group unsuccessfully campaigned during 2013 and 2014 to have Richard re-interred at York Minster rather than Leicester Cathedral, believing that that was his wish.[5][7] During the campaign, the group failed to attract enough support to petition parliament.[8]


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