Today’s announcement about the discovery of the bones of King Richard III has kept the media rather busy. Whatever the discovery may or may not lead to in terms of reappraising this notorious king, for over five hundred years the idea of Richard as a manipulative, murderous tyrant has been enduringly popular in the public imagination. It was certainly so in the Georgian era.
The following extract from the Cheltenham Chronicle illustrates one way in which Richard’s villainous deeds were brought back to public notice in 1813 – his name was allied to that of the modern-day evil-doer, Napoleon Bonaparte.
“A COMPARATIVE LIKENESS OF BONAPARTE AND RICHARD III.
There is a strong likeness in the persons of these tyrants, except the deformity of body in Richard. – In their bloody deeds their similitude is most striking – both savage and unrelenting! Richard planned, and merely effected, from political motives, a Marriage with a lady whose kindred he had butchered;– Bonaparte compelled his wife Josephine to a seperation [sic], under the like policy to make way for the daughter of his late enemy the Emperor of Austria, whose aunt he may be said to have been instrumental in bringing to the block: and who, from being only a Corsican adventurer, by the the most villainous arts usurped the throne of the late King of France.
We will still hope for a continuation of the resemblance of his actions with the bloody Richard; & that the catastrophe of this campaign on the fields of Germany, may resemble that of Bosworth field. Then we may congratulate Europe, and indeed the world, with having the portrait complete; and encourage a hope for another Richmond on the Gallic throne.”
–Cheltenham Chronicle, Thursday 20th May 1813
- David Garrick as Richard III by William Hogarth (1745)