In the belief that many features of the traditional accounts of the character and career of Richard III are neither supported by sufficient evidence nor reasonably tenable, the Society aims to promote, in every possible way, research into the life and times of Richard III, and to secure a reassessment of the material relating to this period, and of the role of this monarch in English history.
The Richard III Society may, at first glance, appear to be an extraordinary phenomenon - a society dedicated to reclaiming the reputation of a king of England who died over 500 years ago and who reigned for little more than two years. Richard's infamy over the centuries has been due to the continuing popularity, and the belief in, the picture painted of Richard III by William Shakespeare in his play of that name. The validity of this representation of Richard has been queried over the centuries and has now been taken up by the Society.
The Society is perhaps best summed up by its Patron, the present Richard, Duke of Gloucester:
"… the purpose—and indeed the strength—of the Richard III Society derives from the belief that the truth is more powerful than lies; a faith that even after all these centuries the truth is important. It is proof of our sense of civilised values that something as esoteric and as fragile as reputation is worth campaigning for."
The Society has several thousand members worldwide. It operates on many levels and is open to laymen and historians alike. All that is needed is an interest in the life and times of Richard III. Find out how to become a member.
Saxon BartonThe Richard III Society was founded during the summer of 1924 by a Liverpool surgeon, Saxon Barton, and a small group of friends. They were all enthusiastic amateur historians with a particular interest in the life and times of Richard III. Their motivation was a belief that history had not dealt justly with the King's posthumous reputation and they wanted to encourage and promote a more balanced view. In Saxon Barton's own words 'in my view historical belief must be founded on facts where possible and on honest conviction'. They called themselves 'The Fellowship of the White Boar' and remained a relatively small and informal grouping. Their activities inevitably declined with the onset of the Second World War.
Josephine Tey: Daughters of TimeThe 1950s saw a number of key events which raised the level of interest in the controversies surrounding Richard III. Of most significance was the publication in 1951 of Josephine Tey's classic crime detective novel The Daughter of Time. This brought the controversy to the attention of a wide reading public. The mid 1950s saw the release of Laurence Olivier's film of Shakespeare's Richard III and the publication of Paul Murray Kendall's sympathetic biography of the king. All these events contributed to a growth of potential members for an organisation whose primary focus was Richard III.
Isolde Wigram laying a wreath under the plaque
commemorating Queen Anne in Westminster AbbeyOne individual, introduced to the subject by reading Tey's novel, was Isolde Wigram. She discovered the existence of the Fellowship and tracked down Saxon Barton. He appointed her secretary and she became the key driving force in re-activating the Fellowship to meet the new challenges. At a meeting in London in 1956, the Fellowship was formally reconstituted on a wider membership basis. Saxon Barton died in 1957, but the Fellowship lived on and in 1959 was renamed The 'Richard III Society'.
HRH The Duke of Gloucester
KG GCVODuring the next four decades the Society grew at a steady rate, helped by events such as the 1973 National Portrait Gallery exhibition 'The Age of Richard III' and the 1983 to 1985 quincentenary celebrations of Richard III's reign. As membership increased so did the range of the Society's activities, in particular its contribution to historical research. In 1980 the Society received the honour of Royal Patronage when HRH The Duke of Gloucester agreed to become its patron.
The Richard III Society is an international organisation with a membership of several thousand and a formidable range of achievements to its name. Its contribution to fifteenth-century research and scholarship is widely recognised and admired. The recent discovery and identification of King Richard's remains at the Greyfriars Dig in Leicester has led to a resurgence of interest in the king and given renewed impetus to the Society and its work to secure a more balanced assessment of his character and role in history.
The raison d'être of the Richard III Society is to research into the life and times of King Richard III. We believe that history has not dealt justly with his posthumous reputation and we aim to encourage and promote a more balanced view.
Many commonly held ideas about Richard III emanate from William Shakespeare's play. The society's view is that Shakespeare's Richard III is a wonderful play, with good theatre achieved through his villainous character; however it is not history, it does not represent fact and it is the society's role to portray the real Richard III.
The negative perception of Richard III relates to some or all of the following points:
The society consider that Richard III and his alleged misdeeds need to be evaluated within the context of the period in which he was living; morals and behavior were radically different to our times and it is necessary therefore to examine the period of Richard III, rather than just the person. On this basis we actively promote research into any aspect of the later fifteenth century which sheds light on issues such as 'what was it like to be Richard III?' ' Was he, or would he have been (given longer on the throne), a good king? - and what is a good king anyway?'
The Richard III Society, above all, wants to set the record straight. 'Great is truth, and it shall prevail,' (from the Apocrypha). As our Chairman, Phil Stone, always says, we are not the Richard III Adoration Society. We are a society of people who prefer that history should be based on ascertained facts rather than on intuition, propaganda and spin. We are not even Counsel for the Defence, whose job is to set a client's case in the best possible light even if it means setting uncomfortable facts on one side.
We want to strip away the spin, the unfair innuendo, Tudor artistic shaping and the lazy acquiescence of later ages, and get at the truth.
The Society organises many different types of events, at both a national and regional level. An event can be educational, a social get-together, a visit to a historic site, a commemoration or a celebration. The Society organises all of these types of events and at a local level the Society's branches and groups arrange their own meetings and, in some instances, events such as lectures or study days which are open to all members.
The calendar available on this site relate to major Society events and further details can be found under the relevant sections.
In some instances events may be open to non-members and the following officers can be contacted for further details.
General enquiries, conferences and study weekends:
e-mail: Susan and David Wells, Joint secretaries
e-mail: Marian Mitchell, Visits Officer
Branches & Groups Liaison Officer:
e-mail: Jacqui Emerson, Secretary
Merchant Adventurers HallThe venue for AGMs held in York
The interior of the Senate House,
Univiersity of London, 2013 AGM venueThe Annual General Meeting and Members' Day is held in London, and every third year in another UK city. This is the main occasion for members to meet each other and network. In addition to the formal proceedings, other attractions include a guest speaker, craft and book stalls.
Queens College Cambridge
2005 Triennial Conference venueEvery three years the Society holds a major conference, with up to 150 participants, addressed by leading specialists in late medieval history. The first conference was held in 1981.
The 2015 conference will again be held at Burleigh Court, Loughborough (17-19 April) – Richard III Revealed.
The format for the conferences is that they take place over a long weekend (Friday to Sunday) on a UK university campus. Delegates can be residential or non-residential and there is free time on the Saturday afternoon for delegates to explore any local places of interest. The conferences offer an exciting opportunity for delegates to meet each other and members of the academic community.
The Society's first study weekend was held in York in 1991 to provide an opportunity for members to get together in a small and informal group to learn research techniques and study aspects of medieval history. The weekends have continued ever since and take place in the intervening years between the triennial conferences.
For well over a quarter of a century, the Society has placed the following In Memoriam notice in The Daily Telegraph:
PLANTAGENET, RICHARD - Remember before God, Richard III, King of England, and those who fell at Bosworth Field, having kept faith, 22nd August, 1485. 'Loyaulté me Lie'. Richard III Society.
Banner flying over Ambion HillThe Society visits Bosworth on the Sunday closest to 22 August, for its annual commemoration of the Battle. A service is held in Sutton Cheney church to honour the fallen in the battle and is attended by Society members from around the world. During the service the chairman reads from one of the lessons and two wreaths are hung adjacent to the Society's commemorative plaque. After the service members visit the Battlefield Centre.
Fotheringhay NaveEach year members from all over the country meet in the tiny Northamptonshire village of Fotheringhay for a festive lunch followed by the Carol service.
The service is always a great success, not in the least due to the superb singing of the choir, the St Peter's Singers, who are based in the Peterborough area, and for many, the event is considered as the sign that the Christmas season has really begun. It is an excellent opportunity for members and friends alike to get together in a convivial atmosphere in the magical medieval surroundings of the church.
Whilst all branches and groups organise their own events at a local level, some of the larger branches hold study days. For example the Norfolk Branch who organise an event each November in Norwich with guest speakers drawn from the academic community as well as from members and the East Midlands Branch held a very successful event in 2011 in Leicester. Other branches, such as London & Home Counties and Devon & Cornwall hold lectures which are advertised in the Bulletin and which all members are welcome to attend. The Yorkshire Branch organise several commemorative events, such as laying a wreath at the statue of the duke of York at Sandal in December, the anniversary of his death.
The overseas branches are similarly active. The Australasian branches get together every two years for a convention and in north America AGMs of the American and Canadian branches have been held separately or as joint events.
Romney Marsh, Kent, 2006
Avignon Pont St Benezet, 2008The society organises several visits each year which have a Ricardian connection or are related to the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. However, sites of historic national or international interest, such as important Roman remains or the Normandy beaches, are not ignored.
Caerphilly Castle, Welsh Marches, 2002
Bruges, 2012The visits fall into three categories, day trips by coach where we rendezvous at the Embankment, London; an annual long weekend trip by coach or train to our central location with days out by coach from a local company. Members are also welcome make their own way to the central location and join up with the main party.
We also organise Continental visits which start from London and our most frequent destinations are in France or Belgium, often drawn by names of past conflicts—Poitiers, Crecy, Agincourt or Waterloo.
The raison d'être of the Richard III Society is to research into the life and times of King Richard III.
The formal structure for research within the Society is led by a research officer. Responsibilities include:
Through its research community the Society has recently completed its third major research project, concerning fifteenth century wills and is about to embark on its fourth wills project. Wills are a very important source for details of medieval life and for genealogical details of the testator and his family. There is still a lot of research to be undertaken on fifteenth century life and a number of projects have therefore been funded by the Society, this includes funding for the Inquisitions Post Mortem from Richard's reign and a transcription and translation of the original Latin version of Polydore Vergil's History of Richard III.
The first three research projects have been printed and can all be purchased through the Society:
The Society's academic achievements fall into two main categories, its publishing programme and its support of education and the learning of history.
Education and Learning
One of the most important assets that any organisation possesses is its reputation, in other words its public image. Organisations whether they be government, industry, charities or societies spend a tremendous amount of their time and resources, in not only promoting their images publicly, but just as importantly, managing them too, this is what is termed Reputation Management.
How is reputation management undertaken? Most obviously the media in all of its forms, however dealing with the media can be a minefield and has to be carefully managed. Contrary to the perception of many people the media is not a public information service it is a business and therefore it is important to understand its aims and objectives.
In order to achieve its aims the media can often manipulate information or stories in order to heighten drama which catches public attention which in turn raises reading or viewing figures which translates into increased advertising revenue.
Dealing with the media is a skilled business and therefore the Society has nominated public and press relations officers to deal direct with the media. Failure to channel media contacts through public/press relations officers could result in embarrassment at the very least, or at worst, actual harm to the Society's hard earned reputation.
The Society is active in celebrating milestone anniversaries, of King Richard and his family, of the Society, and initiating and supporting the erection of memorials in many buildings and localities associated with Richard and the House of York. The Society also supports restoration and conservation work to the fabric of many churches with Ricardian connections under the auspices of the Ricardian Churches Restoration Fund. A selection of the commemorations are:
HRH The Duke of Gloucester
KG GCVOIn 1980 HRH the Duke of Gloucester became the Society's Royal Patron.
The patronage brings tangible benefits to the Society and, together with our achievements in many other fields, gives us gravitas. It is also further evidence of our viability and status as a serious historical society.
Over the past thirty years the Duke of Gloucester has attended many Society events; initially these were focused on the 1983-5 Quincentenary celebrations.
In 2003 he attended the launch of Anne Sutton's Festschrift at the Society of Antiquaries and gave a short speech acknowledging her 25 years as editor of The Ricardian. He also used the opportunity to emphasise his pleasure at being the Society's Royal Patron.
In 2004 the Society acknowledged the 25th anniversary of the Duke's patronage with a celebratory event held at the College of Arms.
In 2010 he attended a service at Fotheringhay Church to commemorate the 550th anniversary of the Reburial of Richard III's father, the Duke of York. He paid tribute to the work of the Society.
We remain grateful for His Royal Highness's continuing support and commitment to the Society and its aims.