What does Loyaulte Me Lie mean? Loyaulte Me Lie means ‘Loyalty Binds Me’ and it was the personal motto of King Richard III of England.
Some might consider the motto ‘Loyalty Binds Me’ to be somewhat ironic in hindsight. After all, wasn’t this the King of England who had his nephews, Edward V and his brother Richard, put to death in The Tower? Richard’s story is so mired in partisan history that even this dreadful murder is called into question today.
What isn’t in any doubt is that Richard lived up to his motto prior to 1483. He was a loyal supporter of his brother Edward IV, supporting him on the battlefield and following him into exile in Flanders. Even during his reign, contemporary historian, John Rous described him as a “good lord” with a “great heart” who punished “oppressors of the commons”.
Richard was also deeply affected by the death of his son Edward and his wife Anne Neville, who both passed away in quick succession.
The loyalty to his brother Edward was in marked contrast to his other brother George, Duke of Clarence. During the rebellion of Warwick against Edward, which lead to the return of Lancastrian Henry VI to the throne in 1470, George was to betray his brothers and side with Warwick. Whilst George did eventually switch sides again, it was Richard who wholeheartedly assisted Edward to reclaim the throne in 1471, fighting alongside his brother at both Barnet (where Warwick was killed) and Tewkesbury.
George was later convicted of treason and executed on the orders of Edward IV, although William Shakespeare did his best to pin the blame on Richard in his play, The Tragedie of King Richard the third:
I’ll in, to urge his (Edward IV’s) hatred more to Clarence
With lies well steeled with weighty arguments;
And, if I fail not in my deep intent
Clarence hath not another day to live
(Act 1, Scene 1, II)
Richard’s experiences in the Wars of the Roses and with the family power struggle of his brothers may have shaped his later actions. It could be argued that Richard was showing a wider loyalty to the Yorkist cause and to England as a whole when he seizes power as King. Richard would have known that having a child King was a recipe for instability, and therefore bloody warfare, and it could be seen that it was this that he was trying to avoid with his takeover of the throne.
Richard’s friendships and loyalty to his favourites was even mocked during his reign. In July 1484, William Collingbourne, a disgruntled Wiltshire landowner pinned the famous note to the door of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London stating ‘the catte, the ratte and Lovell our dogge rulyth all Englande under a hogge’. Collingbourne referred to Richard (the hogge) and his supporters William Catesby (the catte), Richard Ratclifffe (the ratte) and Francis Lovell (our dogge). His mockery was to cost him dearly – he was arrested, found guilty of treason and executed.
As with all historical figures, considering them and their action from the modern day is difficult. We have a different moral code which distorts our views and applies our values to decisions taken in the past when such values did not exist. Additionally regarding Richard III, we have the vision of history portrayed by the victorious Tudors distorting events and a lack of unbiased sources to contend with. Not to mention the great Shakespeare and his beautiful and yet somewhat partisan tales!
What is clear is that, in a large part, Richard III lived up to his motto ‘Loyaulte Me Lie’ or ‘Loyalty Binds Me’ in respect of his brother, the cause of York and England.
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Richard III Society: ‘Richard III & his World‘
Hanham, Alison: ‘Richard III and his early historians‘