Richard II's lasting legacy in Munster

richard 2
richard 2
Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

A Chara, King Richard III (1483-1485) has been in the news recently with final confirmation that the remains found under a car park in England are his. It may be appropriate now to recall a piece of diplomacy in Ireland involving Richard and the Earl of Desmond.

The attainder and hasty decapitation of a previous Earl of Desmond in February 1468, during the reign of Richard's predecessor (and brother) Edward IV, was surely one of the crimes of the century. Recognising the injustice of the Earl's execution against an Anglo-Norman lineage conspicuous for its support of Richard's branch of the Plantagenets known as the House of York, Richard sent the Bishop of Annaghdown (Thomas Barrett) to the dead Earl's successor, his son Earl James, with an offer of pardon. There were conditions attached. The Desmonds were to bring an end to the war, and Earl James was to marry an English wife provided by Richard.

The embassy was not a success. War continued and the Earl married an Irish bride (a daughter of O'Brien of Thomond); finally, at the end of 1487, the Earl was murdered by some of his own Desmond relatives.

The Desmonds would have done well to heed Richard's warnings. The Tudors, who took the throne after victory over the forces of York at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, had none of the sympathy with the Desmonds that distinguished Richard and his predecessors, sympathy partly founded on the fact that the Desmonds and the Yorkists were cousins, and that both belonged to a Church with the Pope at its head.

But a memento of the Bishop's embassy to the Earl survived: the Boar emblem of Richard. We learn that a gold collar brought by the Bishop as a gift bore the King's emblem a White Boar pendant; and it is likely that the use of the Boar as a Desmond emblem is to be dated from this time.


Gerald O'Carroll,