Titulus Regius

   Titulus Regius (“royal title”) is the document that formally declares RICHARD III’s title to the throne. Incorporated into an act of PARLIAMENT in 1484, the document is there described as a “roll of parchment” or petition presented by “the three estates of this realm” to Richard, duke of Gloucester, requesting him to take the Crown. The petition, which was likely compiled at Richard’s direction, justifies his accession by explaining why the children of his older brothers were barred from the succession. Because it was presented to Richard before he took the throne, probably at a meeting in LONDON on 26 June 1483, Titulus Regius is the first and clearest statement of Richard’s reasons for replacing his nephew as king. The petition, which Richard had widely published after its presentation, invalidates the marriage of EDWARD IV and Elizabeth WOODVILLE by stating, without giving any sources, that Edward was not free to marry Elizabeth because he was already betrothed to Eleanor Butler. The BUTLER PRECONTRACT meant that king and queen were living “together sinfully and damnably in adultery,” and that all their children, including EDWARD V and his brother Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, were “bastards . . . unable to inherit or to claim anything by inheritance.” Titulus Regius also condemns the Woodville marriage as having been contrived by witchcraft, worked upon the king by the bride and her mother, JACQUETTA OF LUXEMBOURG, duchess of Bedford, and as having been made in secret, “without reading of banns” and contrary to “the laudable customs of the Church of England.” Because George PLANTAGENET, duke of Clarence, Richard’s other brother, was “convicted and attainted of high treason” in 1478, his son Edward PLANTAGENET, earl of Warwick, was likewise “disabled . . . of all right and claim . . . to the crown and dignity royal.” With all Richard’s nephews and nieces thus barred from the succession, Titulus Regius declares Richard to be the only “person living . . . that by right may claim the said crown and dignity royal by way of inheritance.”
   The document also argues that Richard III’s accession is necessary for the restoration of good government, which suffered under Edward IV due to his acceptance of the “counsel of persons, insolent, vicious, and of inordinate avarice,” meaning, the queen’s family, the Woodvilles. Edward is characterized as “delighting in adulation and flattery, and led by sensuality and concupiscence,” while Richard is praised for his “great wit, prudence, justice, princely courage, and memorable and laudable acts in diverse battles.” The document also hints at the rumored illegitimacy of Edward IV and Clarence, who were born abroad in Rouen and Dublin, respectively, by stating that Richard was “born within this land,” whereby the estates might have “more certain knowledge of your birth and filiation.” Titulus Regius also declares Richard “the undoubted son and heir of Richard, late Duke of York,” thereby implying Richard’s acceptance of doubts as to his brothers’ paternity and as to his mother’s fidelity.
   Although serving as the justification for Richard III’s usurpation, the declarations of Titulus Regius were apparently not universally accepted, especially after the disappearance of Edward IV’s sons in the TOWER OF LONDON in the late summer of 1483. In 1484, Richard’s first and only Parliament gave the petition statutory authority, explaining that such enactment was necessary to settle the “doubts, questions, and ambiguities” that had arisen since 1483 “in the minds of diverse persons.” Because Titulus Regius questioned the legitimacy of his soon-to-be queen, ELIZABETH OFYORK,HENRY VII had the act repealed by his first Parliament in 1485 and sought to destroy all existing copies of the document.
   Further Reading: Hicks, Michael, Richard III: The Man behind the Myth (London: Collins and Brown, 1991); the text of Titulus Regius is available on the Richard III Society Web site at http://www.r3.org/bookcase/texts/tit_reg.html.

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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