LIC Blog

To Prove a Villain

"See, I told you that Shakespeare was right!"

Over the last month this jibe had echoed down the internet from the ignorant and misinformed in a variety of ways.

But the message is unmistakeable.

The skeleton found in Leicester has a severe curvature of the spine - crippling in its severity and this is precisely the kind of deformity envisaged in the play of "Richard III".

From this all sorts of unspoken, as yet, inferences emerge, to the effect that this twisted body housed a twisted mine and this man did unspeakable things.

With almost religious fervour the haters of Richard III cling to this mantra:


Their certainty apes that of enthusiasts for Papal infallibility!

Yet this assurance of theirs rests on one slender thread, that of the author of the image of Richard as so cruelly deformed, Thomas More.

As Richard S. Sylvester states in his commentary on More's "The History of King Richard III":

crook backed. This detail is not found in Rous, the Croyland Chronicle, Fabyan, or Polydore and it is certainly not noticeable in the contemporary portraits of Richard ... If Richard had such a deformity, it could not have been conspicuous.

page 166f The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of Thomas More, Volume 2

The scoliosis on the unearthed skeleton was so severe as to be all too conspicuous!

More alone upholds the edifice of Richard as crippled in this way. But his description of the King is a package. We may not select only the bit we desire.

More's crook-backed Richard is also:

little of stature, ill featured of limbs, crook-backed, his left shoulder much higher than his right ...

page 7 The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of Thomas More, Volume 2

The deformity described by More is the exact opposite of that seen on the Leicester skeleton, where right shoulder is elevated above the left.

Nor is it acceptable to hear the discrepancy explained away by alleging that many highly intelligent senior academics cannot tell their left from their right.

It is a simple matter of accuracy and reliability. If More cannot be precise in such matters, what other untruths lie beneath the surface of his writing?

The credibility of his tale depends upon his own credibility.

Ever since the axe ended his life, More has been eulogised by the Papal Church, who ultimately canonised him. But he has also exerted a malign influence over the humanistic cultures of nominally Protestant nations.

Isn't he the man for all seasons?

It is high time that the mask was removed from More to unveil his real character.

More Vulgarity

More is represented by himself and his disciples as an urbane man of letters, a wit and intellectual in complete command of the English language. 

The real Thomas More was both coarse and crude.

A man whose judgment is governed by his personal considerations only, does not consider the personal considerations of other people, except in so far as they can be used to further his own ends. As a result, an externalism prevails. Thus, the coarse humanist, Thomas More, advocated in Utopia that young people view each other in the nude before deciding to marry. When Sir William Roper praised this aspect of Utopia and asked that it be applied to More's two daughters, whom he was courting, More took Roper to the bedroom where the two girls were asleep together, "on their backs, their smocks up as high as their armpits. More yanked off the cover, and the girls modestly rolled over. Roper slapped one on her behind, stating, I have seen both sides; thou art mine." [from pages 212-214 of Aubrey's Brief Lives,1957]. The fact that Roper had a happy marriage does not alter the fact of the basic coarseness of both father and husband."

page 339 The Institutes of Biblical Law by R J Rushdoony, 1973

 But this is nothing compared to his written coarseness, which comes to the fore in the Responsio ad Lutherum, which he wrote under a pseudonym. Richard Marius states:

More calls Luther insane, a drunkard, vainglorious and self contradictory.

page 281 of Thomas More by Richard Marius

This sounds quite tolerable, until we actually read an example taken from the climax of his book.

 [Luther] has nothing in his mouth but privies, filth and dung, with which he plays the buffoon ... he would cast into his mouth the dung which other men would spit out into a basin ... If he will leave off the folly and rage and the till now too familiar mad ravings, if he will swallow down his filth and lick up the dung with his tongue and his pen ... to carry nothing in his mouth but bilge-water, sewers, privies, filth and dung ... we will take timely counsel, whether we wish ... to leave this mad friarlet and privy-minded rascal with his ragings and ravings, with his filth and dung, shitting and beshitted.

page 683 of The Yale Edition of the Complete Works of Thomas More, Volume 5 Part i

 cited in William Tyndale: a biography by David Daniel, page 259

How can Doyle-Davidson write:

Ever since his death he [More] has been ... a popular favourite, beloved of all for his sweetness and nobility of Character.

page 356 of The Essential Articles for the Study of Thomas More edited by Sylvester et al

Richard Marius was nearer the mark, when he wrote:

More's plodding insults and witless vulgarity offer only a monotonous scatology as wearing as the talk of small boys in school washrooms.

page 282 of Thomas More by Richard Marius

This is Thomas More, sounding like some degenerate punk rocker from the late 1970s.

He would have done well to consider the words of Jesus Christ:

... every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Matthew 12. 36-37

But then this proud humanist would have had to read Tyndale's English New Testament - a thing which he hated.

More Lies

Thomas More has a track record as a liar.

In 1517 More entered the Council of Henry VIII. This was against the advic of his close friend, since 1499, Erasmus. Both Erasmus and More have left behind the strong impression that More entered royal service with great reluctance and under immense pressure.

Erasmus assured their mutual friends that More had to be dragged into Henry's court, since:

no one tried more energetically to obtain court appointment than he strove to avoid it.

page 6, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More by J. A. Guy

And again:

... he always had a special hatred of tyranny and a great fancy for equality.

page 7, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More by J. A. Guy

This is what More wanted his intellectual friends to believe. The record shows that More had worked for years to achieve the goal of royal employment.

Over a period of years, Thomas had made it his business to do various jobs for the government ... He joined his father [John More] on a Middlesex special commission in July 1509, and as a commissioner of sewers for the Thames district between Greenwich and Lambeth in February 1514. He assisted the staff of Chancery as a part-time examiner and arbitrator.

page 7, The Public Career of Sir Thomas More by J. A. Guy

In May 1515 he was sent on an embassy to Flanders to renegotiate commerical treaties. Wolsey and the Council asked him to investigate the Evil May riots of 1517.

By the time he went on his second embasy to Calais in August 1517 he was already Henry VIII's sworn man!

More so obviously attempted to ingratiate himself with Wolsey that an observer in 1516 remarked that More "haunted" the Court and none bade Wolsey good morning earlier than he.

So much for More's being unwilling to become a servant of the State. Yet he was quite willing to deceive his fellow philosopher-kings into believing that he had been compelled to enter Henry's Court.

The same bare-faced lying occurs in More's History of Richard III.

Thomas More had been pressed into a career in English law by his father. From his marriage in 1505 More rose to prominence as a barrister. A mere 20 years after Bosworth, when he was in his late twenties More eats and sleeps the law with men, who would have known that Parliament had passed a statute in 1484 establishing the legal title of Richard III to the crown.

Yet at no point in his "History" does More mention that Act of Parliament, Titulus Regius.

Perhaps More feared to write about it?

After all the first Act of Henry Tudor in Parliament was not only to repeal Titulus Regius, but to repeal it, without it having been read, and to order all copies of it to be seized and destroyed.

The truth is far simpler. Any reference to Titulus Regius would utterly demolish the tissues of lies, which More called "History". The essence of Richard's claim to the crown was that his brother, Edward, had married Lady Eleanor Butler before he married Elizabeth Woodville. This revelation came to the light of day via the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Robert Stillington, who had witnessed the first marriage.

... at the time of the contract of the same pretensed marriage, and before and long time after, the said King Edward was and stood married and troth plight to one Dame Eleanor Butler, daughter of the old Earl of Shrewsbury, with whom the said King Edward had made a precontract of matrimony, long before the Elizabeth Grey in the manner and form aforesaid.

Clear enough?

So how does the virtuous saint Thomas handle this?

He introduces as an alleged bride of Edward IV, one Elizabeth Lucy.

He drags this woman-of-straw before our gaze about six times in his narrative.

But no one alive in the 1460-80 period would have believed it for a second. Elizabeth Lucy was one of Edward's whores. She bore him at least one child. This was well known. Yet More lies in his teeth.

To admit the truth would have rightly damned Edward. Eleanor Butler was the child of Sir John Talbot, the war-hero of the 100 years war in France. If it became public knowledge that "good King Edward" had seduced the daughter of such a man, abandoned her and married another then his reputation would lie in tatters, and his life justly forfeit.

More uses Lucy as a diversion, a smoke-screen, by which he can discredit Richard III. But if truth is in part "the daughter of time", then it is high time this man was called what he is - a liar and perverter of the truth.