Prior to his accession (July 1483) Richard was presented with a document in the name of Parliament and People of England, to which he gave his assent.
¶ Where late heretofore, that is to say, before the consecration, coronation, and enthronement of our Sovereign Lord the King Richard the Third, a roll of parchment, containing in writing certain articles of the wording underwritten, on the behalf and in the name of the three estates of this realm of England, that is to wit, of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and of the Commons, by many and diverse persons of the Commons in great multitude was presented and actually delivered unto our said Sovereign Lord the King, to the intent and effect expressed at large in the same Roll; to the which Roll, and to the considerations and present petition comprised in the same, our said Sovereign Lord, for the public well-being and tranquillity of this land, benignly assented.
At the time neither the Lords nor the document’s authors were formally assembled as Parliament, and thus the document’s veracity has been questioned.
¶ Now forasmuch as neither the said three Estates, neither the said persons, which in their name presented and delivered, as is above said, the said Roll unto our said Sovereign Lord the King, were assembled in form of Parliament; by occasion whereof, diverse doubts, questions and ambiguities, being moved and engendered in the minds of diverse persons, as it is said:
This current Parliament accepts that the document was formally assented to, thus removing all doubts as to its legality, and it shall be treated thus in law.
Therefore, to the perpetual memory of the truth, and declaration of the same, be it ordained, provided and established in this present Parliament, that the wording of the said Roll, with the contents of the same, presented, as is above said, and delivered to our aforesaid Sovereign Lord the King, in the name and on the behalf of the said three Estates out of Parliament, now by the same three Estates assembled in this present Parliament, and by authority of the same, be ratified, enrolled, recorded, approved and authorised, into removing the occasion of doubts and ambiguities, and to all other lawful effect that shall and must thereof ensue; so that all things said, affirmed, specified, desired and remembered in the said Roll, and in the wording of the same underwritten, in the name of the said three Estates, to the effect expressed in the same Roll, be of like effect, virtue and force, as if all the same things had been so said, affirmed, specified, desired and remembered in a full Parliament, and by authority of the same accepted and approved.
The wording of the said Roll of Parchment, whereof above is made mention, follows and is thus:
To the High and Mighty Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester
We invite the King in the name of Parliament and the Commons of England to give assent to this document for the well-being of the kingdom and its people.
¶ Please it your Nobel Grace to understand the consideration, election and petition underwritten, to the benefit of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons of this Realm of England, and thereunto agreeably to give your assent, to the common and public well-being of this land, to the comfort and gladness of all the people of the same.
Previously the wise counsel of Parliament ensured the King ruled prosperously, that God was respected, that Justice was well administered, the land was at peace, and that enemies were resisted and goods traded; and thus the land was prosperous and rich and the poor well fed.
¶ First, we consider how that heretofore in time past, this Land many years stood in great prosperity, honour and tranquillity; which was caused, forasmuch as the Kings then reigning used and followed the advice and counsel of certain Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and other persons of approved seriousness, prudence, policy and experience, dreading God and having tender zeal and affection to indifferent ministration of Justice, and to the common and politic well-being of the Land; then our Lord God was dread, loved and honoured; then within the Land was peace and tranquillity, and among Neighbours concord and charity; then the malice of outward enemies was mightily resisted and repressed, and the land honourably defended with many great and glorious victories; then the intercourse of merchandise was largely used and exercised: by which things above remembered, the Land was greatly enriched, so that as well as the Merchants and Artificers, as other poor people, labouring for their living in diverse occupations, had competent gain, to the sustenance of themselves and their households, living without miserable and intolerable poverty.
But afterwards, our vain rulers took advice from greedy individuals, rejecting the prudent counsel previously offered. And so prosperity decreased, and law and Church was disrespected. Therefore, without immediate action, the kingdom will descend into misery.
But afterwards, when those such as had the rule and governance of this Land, delighting in adulation and flattery, and lead by sensuality and carnal lust, followed the council of persons insolent, vicious, and of inordinate avarice, despising the council of good, virtuous and prudent persons, such as above remembered; the prosperity of this Land daily decreased, so that felicity was turned into misery, and prosperity into adversity, and the order of policy, and the law of God and Man, confounded; whereby it is likely this Realm to fall into extreme misery and desolation, which God forbids, without due provision of suitable remedy be had in this behalf in all goodly haste.
In particular after Edward IV pretended to marry Elizabeth, all civil, Church and natural law was perverted, and so too the customs of Englishmen; and the land was ruled by fear. This has caused much misery, oppression and lawlessness so no man could be sure of his livelihood nor any woman of her liberty.
¶ Over this, among other things, more specially we consider how that the time of the Reign of King Edward IV, late deceased, after the ungracious pretence of marriage, as all England has cause so to say, made between the said King Edward and Elizabeth, sometime wife to Sir John Grey Kt, late naming herself and many years heretofore Queen of England, the order of all politic rule was perverted, the laws of God and of God’s Church, and also the laws of Nature and of England, and also the laudable customs and liberties of the same, wherein every Englishman is inheritor, broken, subverted and condemned, against all reason and justice, so that this Land was ruled by self-will and pleasure, fear and dread, all manner of equity and laws laid apart and despised, whereof ensued many inconveniences and mischief, as murders, extortions and oppressions, namely of poor and impotent people, so that no man was sure of his life, land nor livelihood, nor of his wife, daughter nor servant, every good maiden and woman standing in dread to be ravished and defiled.
And that time was marked by terror and strife, to the detriment of every Englishman.
And besides this, what discords, inward battles, effusions of Christian men’s blood, and namely, by the destruction of the blood of this land, was had and committed within the same, it is evident and known through all this realm, unto the great sorrow and heaviness of all true Englishmen.
The false marriage between Edward and Elizabeth was not the will of Parliament, rather it is widely known to be the result of sorcery by Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta. This witchcraft will be proved if necessary.
And here we consider how that the said feigned marriage between the above named King Edward and Elizabeth Grey (Elizabeth Woodville) was made of great presumption, without the knowing assent of the Lords of this Land, and also by Sorcery and Witchcraft, committed by the said Elizabeth and her mother Jacquetta Duchess of Bedford, as the common opinion of the people, and the public voice and same is through all this Land; and hereafter, if and as the case shall require, shall be proved sufficiently in time and place convenient.
The marriage was also made in secret, which is ungodly and unlawful.
And here also we consider how that said feigned marriage was made privately and secretly, without edition of banns, in a private chamber, a profane place, and not openly in the face of the Church, after the law of God’s Church, but contrary thereunto, and the laudable custom of the Church of England.
At the time King Edward was already married to Eleanor Butler (Lady Eleanor Talbot), daughter of the 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, with whom he had entered a marriage contract long before his marriage to Elizabeth.
And how also, that at the time of contract of the same feigned Marriage, and before and a long time after, the said King Edward was and stayed married and troth plight to one Dame Eleanor Butler, Daughter of the old Earl of Shrewsbury, with whom the same King Edward had made a precontract of matrimony, a long time before he made the said feigned Mariage with the said Elizabeth Grey, in manner and form above said.
And we remember how in 1478 King Edward’s brother George was convicted of treason and attainted, his children stripped of all claim to the throne.
¶ Moreover we consider how that afterward, by the three Estates of this Realm assembled in Parliament held at Westminster the 17th year of the Reign of the said King Edward IV, he then being in possession of the Crown and Royal Estate, by an act made in the same Parliament, George Duke of Clarence, Brother to the said King Edward now deceased, was convicted and attainted of High Treason; as in the same Act is contained more at large. Because and by reason whereof, all the children of the said George was and is disabled and barred of all Right and Claim, that in any way they might have or challenge by Inheritance, to the Crown and Dignity Royal of this Realm, by the ancient Law and Custom of this same Realm.
And that you are the true inheritor of the Kingdom through your father, and that no-one else has a claim to the throne. And because your are born in England you will desire prosperity for England, and we can be sure of your parentage and loyalties. And we have witnessed your courage in defence of the Kingdom, and acknowledge your noble lineage.
¶ Over this we consider how that You be the undoubted Son and Heir or Richard late Duke of York, very inheritor to the said Crown and Dignity Royal, and as is in right King of England, by way of Inheritance; and that at this time, the premises duly considered, there is no other person living but You only, that by Right may claim the said Crown and Dignity Royal, by way of Inheritance, and how that You be born within this Land; by reason whereof, as deem in our minds, You be more naturally inclined to the prosperity and common well-being of the same; and all the three Estates of the Land have, and may have, more certain knowledge of your Birth and Filiations above said. We consider also the great Wit, Prudence, Justice, Princely Courage, and the memorable and laudable Acts in diverse battles, which as we by experience know You heretofore have done, for the salvation and defence of this same Realm; and also the great dignity and excellence of your Birth and Blood, as of him that is descended of the three most Royal houses in Christendom, that it to say, England, France and Hispania.
Because we desire a return to peace, and because we have full confidence in your abilities, with confidence we choose you to rule. And we hope that both the desire of Parliament and the truth or your inheritance will persuade you to accept the crown and kingdom; and we swear our loyalty.
¶ Wherefore, these promises by us diligently considered, we desiring effectively the peace, tranquillity, and well-being public of this Land, and the reduction of the same to the ancient honourable estate and prosperity, and having in your great Prudence, Justice, Princely Courage and excellent Virtue, singular confidence, have chosen in all that which in us is, and by this our Writing choose You, high and mighty Prince, into our King and Sovereign Lord et c., to whom we know for certain it belongs of inheritance so to be chosen. And hereupon we humbly desire, pray and require your said Noble Grace, that, according to this Election of us the Three Estates of this Land, as by your true Inheritance, You will accept and take upon You the said Crown and Royal Dignity, with all things thereunto annexed and belonging, as to You of Right belonging, as much by Inheritance as by lawful Election; and, in case You so do, we promise to serve and to assist your Highness, as true and faithful Subjects and Liegemen, and to live and die with You in this matter, and every other just quarrel.
We would rather commit to the uncertainty of your cause than live in the present oppression. May God guide you in the right course, and so our troubles be lifted.
For certainly we be determined rather to adventure and commit us to the peril of our lives and jeopardy of death, than to live in such thraldom and bondage as we have lived long time heretofore, oppressed and injured by Extortions and new Impositions, against the Laws of God and Man, and the Liberty, old Policy, and Laws of this Realm, wherein every Englishman is inherited. Our Lord God, King of all Kings, by whose infinite goodness and eternal providence all things being principally governed in this world, lighten your soul, and grant You grace to do as well in this matter as in all others, all that may be according to his will and pleasure, and to the common and public well-being of this Land; so that, after great clouds, troubles, storms and tempests, the Sun of Justice and of Grace may shine upon us, to the comfort and gladness of all true Englishmen.
Your right to the throne is attested by all knowledgeable persons.
¶ Albeit that the Right, Title, and Estate, which our Sovereign Lord the King Richard the Third has to and in the Crown and Royal Dignity of this Realm of England, with all things thereunto within the same Realm, and without it, united, annexed and belonging, being just and lawful, as grounded upon the Laws of God and of Nature, and also upon the ancient Laws and laudable Customs of this said Realm, and so taken and reputed by all such persons as being learned in the Laws and Customs.
But most people are not so learned, and thus doubts have been raised.
Yet nevertheless, forasmuch as it is considered, that the most part of the people of this Land is not sufficiently learned in the above said Laws and Customs, whereby the truth and right in this behalf of likelihood may be had, and not clearly known to all the people, and thereupon put in doubt and question.
A declaration of Parliament will put all men’s doubts at rest.
And over this, how that the Court of Parliament is of such authority, and the people of this Land of such nature and disposition, as experience teaches, that manifestation and declaration of any truth or right, made by the Three Estates of this Realm assembled in Parliament, and by authority of the same, make, before all other things, most faith and certainty; and, quieting men’s minds, removes the occasion of all doubts and seditious language.
Therefore Parliament declares King Richard the rightful King, by inheritance and by law.
Therefore, at the request and by assent of the Three Estates of this Realm, that is to say, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons of this Land, assembled in this present Parliament, by authority of the same, be it pronounced, decreed, and declared that our said Sovereign Lord the King was, and is, truly and undoubted King of this Realm of England, with all things thereunto within the same Realm, and without it, united, annexed and belonging, as well by right of Consanguinity and Inheritance, as by lawful Election, Consecration and Coronation.
And Parliament declares that the King’s children are his rightful heirs.
And over this, that, at the request, and by the assent and authority above said, be it ordained, enacted and established, that the said Crown and Royal Dignity of this Realm, and the Inheritance of the same, and other things thereunto within this same Realm, or without it, unite, annexed and now belonging, rest and abide in the person of our said Sovereign Lord the King, during his Life, and, after his Decease, in his heirs of his Body begotten.
And especially that the King’s son Edward (of Middleham) is his heir apparent, and will succeed him on the King’s death.
And especially, at the request, and by assent and authority above said, be it ordained, enacted, pronounced, decreed and declared, that the High and Excellent Prince Edward, Son of our said Sovereign Lord the King, be Heir Apparent of the same our Sovereign Lord the King, to succeed to him in the above said Crown and Royal Dignity, with all things as is aforesaid thereunto unite, annexed and belonging to have them after the Decease of our said Sovereign Lord the King, to him and his heirs of his Body lawfully begotten.