A Study in Piety
Borthwick Paper 129
Detailed DescriptionRichard III as Duke of Gloucester: A Study in Piety by Michael Hicks The new Borthwick Paper by Michael Hicks is a companion to his 1986 publication ‘Richard III as Duke of Gloucester: A Study in Character’. Echoing its predecessor’s focus on Richard’s life before his brief reign as King, Hicks’ new work sets out to examine his piety, finding in him a man of serious, albeit conventional, religious belief. The paper looks at Richard’s religious endowments as Duke of Gloucester, including his efforts to endow important new colleges at Middleham in Yorkshire and Bernard Castle in Durham, as well as smaller endowments such as that at Cambridge University and St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. It is unclear whether Barnard Castle College was ever formally constituted or in operation, but Hicks draws on Middleham parish church records to prove that Middleham College certainly was, albeit for a short time. Both colleges were forfeit at Richard’s death in 1485. Hicks argues that Richard’s principle foundations were highly personal, to be known as the ‘Duke of Gloucester’s’ priests or colleges. He set high standards for their staff and took a personal interest in the building work and arrangement of the church at Middleham, and probably at Barnard Castle, though fewer records survive to prove it. They were also unusual for the time in not fulfilling a charitable and educational role, conforming, as Hicks writes, to an older model. It is in these deviations from the norm that Hicks finds insight into Richard’s own religious preferences. He highlights in particular Richard’s explicit rejection of the uses and rites of York, common in the Northern churches, for Sarum at Middleham College, his additions of extra observances to the daily round of services there, and his choice of saints to be venerated. Hicks’ paper explores the ‘essentials’ of Richard’s religious life and the personal religion that he developed before he became King. As such it adds to our understanding of a man and a King who has, in Hicks’ own words, long been assessed on the rather limited evidence of his accession and brief reign.