The Usurpation of Richard III

   Dominic Mancini’s Latin work De Occupatione Regni Anglie per Riccardum Tercium (usually translated as The Usurpation of Richard III) is the only contemporary account of the events surrounding RICHARD III’s seizure of the English throne in 1483 (see Usurpation of 1483). At the behest of his patron, Angelo Cato, archbishop of Vienne, the Italian cleric Dominic Mancini (c. 1434–c. 1514) came to England in 1482 as part of a French diplomatic mission. Recalled to FRANCE by Cato in July 1483, Mancini thus spent the critical months of April to July 1483, the period from EDWARD IV’s death to Richard III’s coronation, in LONDON. Upon Mancini’s return, Cato asked him to write an account of Richard’s seizure of the throne of his nephew EDWARD V; the result was the Usurpation, which, according to Mancini, was completed on 1 December 1483, about six months after the events it describes. Mancini’s manuscript then disappeared until 1934, when it was discovered in the municipal library at Lille, France.Written before the accession of HENRY VII and thus unaffected by the anti-Richard PROPAGANDA emanating from the Tudor COURT after the Battle of BOSWORTH FIELD in 1485, the Usurpation was immediately recognized as an extremely valuable source for a controversial period of English history. Mancini was highly critical of Richard III, portraying him as deceitful, ambitious, and ruthless, motivated by an “insane lust for power” (Dockray, p. xvii) that drove him to eliminate anyone who stood between himself and the Crown. Coming from someone who appeared to be an independent observer and an eyewitness to at least some of the events described, this was a powerful indictment of the king. However, modern scholars have questioned the accuracy of the Usurpation. Unfamiliar with England and its politics, Mancini probably spoke little English, never left London, and may have been influenced by a desire to write a dramatic story for his patron. Although vague about his sources, Mancini probably got much of his information from fellow Italians resident in London, who interpreted for him current rumors and Richard’s own propaganda declarations. In the Usurpation, Mancini himself warned Cato not to expect “the names of individual men and places or that this account shall be complete in all details” (Dockray, p. xvi). Mancini gets wrong the date of Edward IV’s death and incorrectly places the surrender of Richard PLANTAGENET, duke of York, before the execution of William HASTINGS, Lord Hastings. The only informant named by Mancini is Dr. John Argentine, personal physician to Edward V and one of the last persons to see him and his brother alive in the TOWER OF LONDON. Mention of Argentine may indicate that much of Mancini’s information ultimately derived from supporters of Edward V, a fact that would explain the Usurpation’s hostile depiction of Richard III.
   See also Princes in the Tower
   Further Reading: Dockray, Keith, Richard III: A Source Book (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Sutton Publishing, 1997); Mancini, Dominic, The Usurpation of Richard III, edited and translated by C. A. J. Armstrong (Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK: Alan Sutton, 1989).

Encyclopedia of the Wars of the Roses. . 2001.

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