“the Son of Justice and of Grace may shyne uppon us, to the comforte and gladnesse of all true Englishmen.”
Titulus Regius (The King’s Title) is the name given to one of the first Acts of Paliament passed by Richard III in the first year of his reign.
It asserts that the Act had, in fact, been given the royal assent the previous year, but was being restated by a fully constituted Parliament to ensure its validity.
The contents are supposed to be a petition by the common people to persuade Richard, then Duke of Gloucester, to take the throne following the death of Edward IV. We now consider Edward V to have been monarch during this first half of 1483, but then the situation was more confused.
The purpose of the Titulus Regius is to assert and strengthen Richard’s right to the throne, through two means. First, to suggest that Richard and his children were the rightful monarchs through both inheritance and popular appeal; and second, to establish the illegitimacy of his brother Edward IV’s line. Specifically, it asserts that the marriage of Edward to Elizabeth Woodville (named Elizabeth Grey, taking the name from her first marriage) was not valid - first, because Edward was already married; second, because it was not performed legally; and third because Elizabeth’s mother Jacquetta had ensnared Edward through witchcraft. The attainder of George Duke of Clarence is highlighted to give authority to Parliament’s ability to do such a thing.
Thus Titulus Regius puts in Law that King Richard’s charge Prince Edward (one of the ‘Princes in the Tower’) could have no legitimate claim to the throne; further, it declares Elizabeth of York - the daughter of Elizabeth Woodville and Edward IV - to be a bastard. At the time of the supposed petition, young Prince Edward was alive; by the time it was read at Parliament he was almost certainly dead.
The Act specifically nominates Richard’s son Edward of Middleham as his heir.
As well as Titulus Regius, there is a further Statute from the same Parliament stripping Elizabeth Woodville of all grants of lands and property made to her by Parliament. Elizabeth Woodville was still alive, though her mother Jacquetta of Luxembourg was not.
The contrived optimism of Titulus Regius was shortlived. Within months Richard’s son Edward died, leaving the King no heir; the following year Richard himself would also be dead, killed at the Battle of Bosworth by Henry VII.
Henry quickly set about reversing many of Richard III’s Acts. He writes his own Titulus Regius, and then sets about restituting his family and friends who had suffered under Yorkist rule. Henry VI and his wife Margeret of Anjou, and their son Edward of Westminster, all now dead, have their reputations restored. Similarly, Henry VI’s half-brother Jasper Tudor, and Henry Beaufort (who had been executed some twenty years earlier) are repudiated.
Henry also passes an Act to restore all titles and honours to his mother-in-law Elizabeth Woodville, and relieve her of any debts incurred by Richard III’s attainder.
Finally, and most famously, Henry not only annuls Richard III’s Titulus Regius, but orders that the original be destroyed, and that all copies be similarly destroyed on pain of imprisonment and fine. Clearly it was so painful to Henry that he wished to expunge it from history.
Rotuli Parliamentorum; ut et Petitiones, Et Placita in Parliamento. vol. 6. Corrected from the Originals in the Rolls Chapel.
The Statutes at Large of England and of Great Britain from Magna Carta to the Union of the Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland. vol. 2.