London: There is no evidence for Shakespeare's depiction of King Richard III as a murdering psychopath but he may have been a control freak, UK psychologists claim.
Researchers from the University of Leicester, which recently discovered the remains of the 15th-Cen King under a car park, have made an analysis of the monarch's character based on the consensus among historians relating to his experiences and actions.
Professor Mark Lansdale, Head of the University's School of Psychology, and forensic psychologist Dr Julian Boon found that, while there was no evidence for Shakespeare's depiction of Richard III as a psychopath, he may have had "intolerance to uncertainty syndrome" — which may have manifested in control freak tendencies.
The analysis aims to humanise Richard — to flesh out the bones and get to the character of the man who became one of the most controversial kings in English history.
Firstly, researchers examined one of the most persistent and critical depictions of Richard's personality — the suggestion that he was a murdering psychopath.
This reputation, portrayed most famously in William Shakespeare's play, does not seem to have any basis in the facts available about his life.
He showed little signs of the traits psychologists would use to identify psychopaths today - including narcissism, deviousness, callousness, recklessness and lack of empathy in close relationships.
However, the academics speculate that Richard may have exhibited a common psychological syndrome known as an intolerance to uncertainty.
"This syndrome is associated with a need to seek security following an insecure childhood, as Richard had," Lansdale said.
"In varying degrees, it is associated with a number of positive aspects of personality including a strong sense of right and wrong, piety, loyalty to trusted colleagues, and a belief in legal processes — all exhibited by Richard," Lansdale said in a statement.
"On the negative side it is also associated with fatalism, a tendency to disproportionate responses when loyalty is betrayed and a general sense of 'control freakery' that can, in extreme cases, emerge as very authoritarian or possibly priggish. We believe this is an interesting perspective on Richard's character," he said.
In addition, the pair examined how his disability — evident in the curvature of the spine of the King's remains — may have had an impact on his — and specifically on the way he interacted with people who he did not know well.
In medieval times, deformation was often taken as a visible indication of a twisted soul. As a result, it is possible that this would have made him cautious in all his interactions with others.