What did King Richard III Sound Like?

Countdown: 34 days to go to King Richard III’s reinterment.

So many odd pieces of trivia have come out about King Richard III since the archaeological dig in Leicester. One of the more interesting — in my opinion — is what experts believe Richard sounded like based on his own writing.

Studying two letters that Richard wrote the postscripts to, Dr Philip Shaw of the University of Leicester was able to determine through his spelling that Richard spoke with a Midlands accent as people in the 15th century were more likely to spell words in ways that reflected their local dialect. Here is a link to Shaw being interviewed and reading the two postscripts (Soundcloud link) shown in blue below:

The first letter was written to John Say in 1469. This is the earliest known surviving letter of Richard’s and it is written by a clerk, but the postscript is in Richard’s own hand:

The Duke of Gloucester
Right trusty and well beloved, we greet you well. And forasmuch as the King’s good Grace hath appointed me to attend upon his highness into the North parts of his land, which will be to me great cost and charge, whereunto I am so suddenly called, that I am not so well purveyed of money therefore as it behoves me to be, and therefore pray you as my special trust is in you, to lend me an hundredth pound of money unto Easter next coming, at which time I promise you you shall be truly thereof content and paid again. The bearer hereof shall inform you, to whom I pray you to give credence therein, and show me such frendliness in the same as I may do for you hereafter, wherein you shall find me ready. Written at Rising the 24th day of June.
R. Gloucestr

Sir J Say, I pray you that you fail me not now at this time in my great need, as you will that I show you my good lordship in that matter that you labour to me for. (British Library Cotton Vespasian Ms. F iii f 19)

The second postscript written in Richard’s own hand is a lengthy one to Bishop John Russell, his Chancellor, dated 12 October 1483 concerning the rebellion of Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.

We would most gladly ye came yourself if that ye may, and if ye may not, we pray you not to fail, but to accomplish in all diligence our said commandment, to send our Seal incontinent upon the sight hereof, as we trust you, with such as ye trust and the Officers pertaining to attend with it; praying you to ascertain us of your News. Here, loved be God, is all well and truly determined, and for to resist the Malice of him that had best Cause to be true, the Duke of Buckingham, the most untrue creature living; whom with God’s Grace we shall not be long till that we will be in those parts, and subdue his Malice. We assure you there was never false traitor better purveyed for, as this bearer Gloucester shall show you. (Public Record Office C81-1392 No. 6)

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One Response to What did King Richard III Sound Like?

  1. A really interesting post, Victoria, and something I would otherwise have missed. I enjoyed “listening to Richard”.

    Liked by 1 person

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