Philippa Gregory

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Analyze Richard III's morals and physicality in The White Queen.

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In The White Queen, Richard III is portrayed as a more sympathetic and kinder man than in most other stories where he appears. For example, it is implied that he did not kill his nephews. Physically, he is not described as a hunchback and is in fact somewhat handsome. His better appearance may be linked to his improved level of morality.

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For much of the four centuries after Richard III's death, it has been common to paint him as a villainous figure. Only recently have storytellers working in historical fiction become interested in portraying him as a complicated, or even heroic, character.

Philippa Gregory's novel The White Queen portrays Richard in a more even-handed manner: while he acts against the interests of the protagonist Elizabeth Woodville when seizing the throne from his nephews, he is not openly malicious or scheming as he is in earlier depictions. Physically, he is rather handsome (though not as handsome as his brother Edward) instead of hunchbacked. It must be noted that in earlier portrayals, Richard's appearance was usually linked to his morals or lack thereof.

The most notable departure from most fictional portrayals of Richard III in Gregory's book is that she makes it explicit that he did not kill his nephews. The disappearance of the boy princes in the tower had many assuming for centuries that Richard had them assassinated. Newer theories suggest Henry VII or the Duke of Buckingham could have been culprits instead.

In Gregory's novel, Richard explicitly tells Elizabeth he had nothing to do with what happened to her children. His confession is implied to be sincere. Elizabeth herself believes him as evidenced by allowing her daughters to approach Richard in one scene. As a result, Gregory presents Richard III as a morally complicated character; at heart, though, he is still an essentially good man.

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