Richard was a lot of "lasts" as well. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, marked the end of the Middle Ages in England. Although perhaps having a play named after you written by none other than William Shakespeare can make up for his inglorious end...except for the fact that his body was found just a few years ago under a parking lot.
Richard legacy hasn't really stood the test of time. He is often portrayed as grotesque hunchback and many still believed he murdered his nephews to secure his place on the throne. Of course, not everyone agrees with this portrayal. Besides the aforementioned Society, Scottish mystery writer Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time features one of her famous characters digging through historical evidence to come to the conclusion that much of what we know of Richard is nothing but Tudor propaganda. On top of that, looking at his list of accomplishments, he did pass some laws that could be considered "modern", such as the creation of a court for those who could not afford representation, improved bail terms, the banning of restrictions on the printing and sale of books and the translations of laws from the traditional French to English.
So now that you have a taste of the historical Richard III, lets see what he is like in other corners of the multiverse. My first encounter with Richard was actually in Kim Newman's "Vampire Romance", which is set in his Anno Dracula universe. In that story Richard actually survived his death at Bosworth Field by becoming a vampire. Later, during the interwar period, Richard plots to take the throne again by first becoming the new King of the Vampires since Dracula has been exiled. Now that story falls completely under the alien space bat category, but you would be hard pressed to find a Richard story that isn't intentionally implausible, such as John Ford's The Dragon Waiting. While you have Richard winning the Battle of Bosworth Field and a religiously tolerant Byzantine Empire, you also have magic and, yes, even more vampires.
Neither of the stories above are that surprising really. For some reason fantasy dominates alternate histories set during or characters from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. For a Richard III story with a little science, even if its on the weird side, you can check out Andre Norton's time travel novel: Quest Crosstime (a.k.a. Crosstime Agent), which features a world where Richard III was victorious at the Battle of Bosworth Field, eventually leading to a North America divided between England and the Aztecs. So still not that plausible, but at least there is no magic.
The closest we come to a plausible Richard III alternate history without any magic or sci-fi, is oddly enough not from a book, but from television. I am speaking about The Black Adder, a BBC show from the 1980s that features Richard winning the Battle of Bosworth Field (of course) only to be unintentionally assassinated by his nephew Edmund and succeeded by Richard IV, one of the Princes in the Tower. There are issues with this history, since Richard IV would have been two at the time and the show portrays him as much older and he is eventually overthrown by Henry Tudor, who rewrites history so that everyone will remember Richard III as a monster, while completely omitting Richard IV from the history books altogether. This make The Black Adder more of a secret history than an alternate history, but considering this show was mostly a comedy, we can forgive it for its lack of plausibility.
If there is one thing these alternate histories have in common its that Richard III's big turning point was the Battle of Bosworth Field. Most of the time he will be victorious or at the very least survive and try again to take the throne (even if it takes a few centuries). Except for one exception, most of the stories above appear to adopt the modern view on Richard: that he wasn't as bad as history and fiction remember him, at least compared to a lot of monarchs and nobles of the time and many of his alleged crimes may just be a case of the victor writing the history. If that's the case, perhaps a longer reign for Richard III may not have been a bad thing for England, but I frankly do not know enough about the era to give that argument any justice.
What do you guys think about a longer reign for Richard III? Also, was there any books, stories, shows, etc. that I missed? Let us know in the comments.
* * *
Matt Mitrovich is the founder and editor of Alternate History Weekly Update, a blogger on Amazing Stories and a Sidewise Awards for Alternate History judge. When not writing he works as an attorney, enjoys life with his beautiful wife Alana and prepares for the day when travel between parallel universes becomes a reality. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.