Errors and Omissions: Richard III returns but a royal mystery remains unsolved

Our peerless Letters editor pricks the hype in this week's Independent

We went a bit over the top in our coverage, last Saturday, of the finding of the body of King Richard III. A headline said that it “could prove that he really didn’t commit the greatest crime in royal history” – the murder of the princes in the Tower. Hardly that; all it could do is cast doubt on the identification of two skeletons found in the Tower in 1674 as those of the princes, if their DNA didn’t match Richard’s.

A panel accompanying the story informed readers that the princes “disappeared from the Tower in 1483”. No, they disappeared into the Tower in 1483, which is the whole point.

The revisionist zealots of the Richard III Society are naturally cock-a-hoop at discovering the skeleton of their unsavoury hero. No one can deny, however, that Richard in 1483 staged a coup against his nephew Edward V, had the two boys declared illegitimate, had himself crowned king, and banged them up in the Tower, whence they never emerged alive. That is not enough to convict Richard in a court of law, but I submit that the overwhelming likelihood is that he had them done to death, as everybody seems to have believed at the time.

Alternative theories, such as that they were murdered on the orders of Henry VII, having been found still alive in the Tower when he took over in 1485, are as far-fetched as the equally persistent notion that Shakespeare’s plays were written by somebody else.

Out of order

Here is what comes of writing too fast and trying to cram too much into one sentence: “The company fell on the sort of hard times its clients usually face when they have to make loan repayments in 2009 after it emerged that directors had made a mess of provisioning against bad loans.”

That was from a business analysis piece, published on Wednesday, about troubles at one of those companies that makes loans to people who might have difficulty getting them anywhere else. The reader can work out what it means, but you have to go back a second time to make sure you are not reading about clients making loan repayments in 2009.

Better to split it into two sentences and swap things round a bit: “In 2009, the company fell on the sort of hard times its clients usually face when they have to make loan repayments. It emerged that directors had made a mess of provisioning against bad loans.”

Appealing

“Specs appeal,” said a headline on Monday’s style pages. What a lovely old headline, none the worse for having been applied to any feature article about glasses since William Boot was a lad.

Does anyone talk about “sex appeal” any more? It has a strong flavour of the 1950s. But its headline offspring still flourish – not only “Specs appeal” but the equally jolly “Sax appeal”, seen above a thousand arts and entertainment features about jazz or swing music.

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