Many writers of history – factual and fictional – have weighed in on the case and character of Richard III, and the fate of the Princes in the Tower. None have approached the task with their tongue placed quite so far in their cheek as the famous Jane Austen.
Known for her lighthearted romances which poke fun at the etiquette of her day, one of Jane’s earliest pieces of writing was a satirical ‘History of England,’ written in 1791 when she was just 15 years old. Jane’s sister, Cassandra, to whom the work is dedicated, provided little illustrations throughout. The title page reads:
‘The History of England
from the reign of
Henry the 4th
to the death of
Charles the 1st
By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian
To Miſs Austen, eldest daughter of the Revd George Austen, this work is inscribed with all due respect by
N.B. There will be very few Dates in this History.’
This piece of writing was only intended to amuse her family, and as such, was not published until long after her death. In 1922, a descendant of her brother allowed the piece to be published, along with some of her other early writings.
Here is Jane Austen’s whimsical take on the highly divisive Richard III:
Richard the 3rd
The Character of this Prince has been in general very severely treated by Historians, but as he was a YORK, I am rather inclined to suppose him a very respectable Man. It has indeed been confidently asserted that he killed his two Nephews and his Wife, but it has also been declared that he did not kill his two Nephews, which I am inclined to beleive true; and if this is the case, it may also be affirmed that he did not kill his Wife, for if Perkin Warbeck was really the Duke of York, why might not Lambert Simnel be the Widow of Richard. Whether innocent or guilty, he did not reign long in peace, for Henry Tudor E. of Richmond as great a villain as ever lived, made a great fuss about getting the Crown and having killed the King at the battle of Bosworth, he succeeded to it.