Richard III and the Princes in the Tower

Does King Richard III deserve a Royal Funeral?

This unit was developed following the exciting discovery in 2013 of the remains of the last Plantagenet King of England, Richard III. Always a controversial figure who is great for a few lessons of study, this discovery re-opened the debate about whether his reputation as the most evil King in British history is justly deserved. I framed this question with my students in terms of "Does Richard III deserve a Royal Funeral?" by focusing on two key issues.

A. Introduction - Guess the Topic!

Introductory Presentation / Video
This presentation provides a series of 'mystery' images. Students are asked to raise their hands when they think they know what the topic is (but not to say anything!). Before showing the video clip and final slide, the teacher should ask students with their hands up what they think the images relate to (i.e. the recent discovery of Richard III's body). The following video is incorporated within the presentation.

Focus Point 1: Was Richard Guilty of Murdering his own Nephews?

Starter Image
Place this image on the screen in the classroom and ask students if they can determine its relevance for our topic. The teacher should then elaborate as necessary (i.e. that the Princes were the heirs to the throne, but that shortly after their father's death and under their uncle's protection they disappeared. Their fate remains a mystery but one of the central accusations against Richard is that he had them killed).

The Princes in the Tower: Card Sort Exercise
This worksheet provides students with an overview of the mystery relating to the Princes in the Tower. Students then organise a series of statements into evidence of guilt or innocence, then match up pairs of statements relating to similar themes / pieces of evidence.

The Princes in the Tower: Classroom Debate
Students are organised into 6 teams to construct a case seeking to prove a particular fate for the Princes in the Tower. At the end of the exercise students write-up their findings declaring Richard guilty or innocent of the crime.

Focus Point 2: Was Richard any more Violent and Cruel than other Royals of this Period?

The Wars of the Roses
In this activity students analyse a royal family tree to make deductions regarding the changing fortunes of the Houses of Lancaster and York. Further stimulus material leads into a research phase in which students try to determine whether other royals - all of whom have received a royal burial - were equally or even more cruel and / or incompetent than Richard III.

Wars of the Roses overview
This video can be used as extra stimulus during the lesson.

Extension / Stimulus Material

David Mitchell's reflections on the discovery of Richard III's body - why not just leave it where it is?!


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