Richard III Research and Discussion Archive

Stillington's Confession

2018-01-27 19:29:08
Nance Crawford
In my view, the question of Stillington's veracity is a non-starter. My reasoning is thoroughly expressed in "The Other Woman," an essay in "KING'S GAMES, The Commentaries," discussing the overwhelming influence of the Church at the time. If Stillington swore to the truth, he would have been believed. There was no need for physical proof or witnesses. Edward's trust in him, from the beginning of the reign, was unwavering until the mess with Clarence - and then his punishment was to be confined to the Tower (more annoying for loss of freedom than lack of discomfort for a churchman of such standing). His comparatively short stay in the Tower does leave open the mystery of Who Knew What, When, but that's what makes it all even more fascinating. No rational person would dare to suspect a man of his position and power in both Church and State, of lying about such an important matter when the future of the country was at stake. In putting together the timelines in the book, it became apparent to me that, by that time, Stillington had "no dog in the fight" except his own ambition and a serious effort to clear his conscience. Edward had made him personally wealthy enough to, at his age, duck and cover by retreating into his religious duties. He was primarily a secular priest and was seldom present at either of his cathedrals. He spent more time at Wells dead than alive, although the elaborate tomb he had constructed for himself no longer exists. However, that does not mean that he would swear a false oath on the Trinity: forever is a long, long time to burn in Hell. The short excerpt from the play that is included at the end of "Commentaries" is a confrontation between Stillington and Richard regarding the precontract. I chose it not only because Stillington's reasoning for his confession (interupted by Buckingham, whom Richard insists must be included in the coversation) is the beginning of enlightenment for an uninformed reader or theatergoer, as well as an example of the quality of the manuscript. For me, it is the linchpin of the tragedy.