August 1483. Richard is frolicking in the moors with Anne when a messenger shuffles up.
Richard: Have you news, man?
Messenger: Oh, I suppose so. Your brother the king is dead.
Richard: No! NO! Anne, we must get to London as soon as possible to save the country from the evil Woodvilles!
Messenger: Don't bother. He died back in April. His son is already crowned and there's not a thing you can do about it. Us Woodvilles are in charge. (Cackles gleefully for a few minutes, then abruptly stops) Oh, but there is one thing you can do.
Richard (miserably): What?
Messenger: The Queen Mum will let you keep all of your castles, but she wants you to rename them. Got that? So from now, this will be known as Middlewood. Sheriff Hutton will be known as Sheriff Bessie.
Richard: NOOOOOO! (Runs off into moors and disappears forever, thereby depriving future generations of perfectly good subjects to blog about).
But seriously, is there truth to this story that Elizabeth Woodville and her family deliberately failed to let Richard know of his brother's death? I haven't found a contemporary source for it. The Croyland Chronicler, who most historians agree was a person highly placed at court, reports the controversy over the size of the escort the new king and his relations were to have, notes that Richard wrote cordial, reassuring letters to the queen after he learned of Edward's death, and states that Richard traveled to York to publicly mourn his brother. In all of this, he doesn't indicate who told Richard of his brother's death, but he doesn't suggest that anyone had been derelict in giving Gloucester the news or that it had come from an unexpected quarter. Mancini, whose account is by no means favorable to the Woodvilles, reports that there were conflicting opinions among the king's councilors as to what role Gloucester was to play in the minority government, and he writes that Hastings reported these deliberations to Richard and urged him to come to London quickly. As with Croyland, however, nothing in Mancini's account gives the impression that there had been any delay in notifying Richard of his brother's death or any impropriety in the way he was notified.
Based on these sources, the logical conclusion is that whether or not Elizabeth Woodville personally sent Richard the news (and it's not at all clear to me why she, as opposed to someone from the king's household like William Hastings, the king's chamberlain, would have been expected to do so), Richard learned of his brother's death via conventional means and within a reasonable time. Indeed, in their chronology of events in The Coronation of Richard III: The Extant Documents, Anne F. Sutton and P. W. Hammond--both associated with the Richard III Society--indicate, based on Mancinci, Croyland, and other contemporary sources, that Richard in Yorkshire probably received the news of Edward IV's death at about the same time--April 14--that the future Edward V and his household, which of course included Elizabeth's brother Anthony Woodville, received the news in Wales.
None of this would be of much importance in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, except that the unfounded notion that Elizabeth & Co. tried to conceal the king's death from Richard has made it into nonfiction as well as fiction, giving it a certain respectability and staying power. Elizabeth Jenkins in The Princes in the Tower twice states that no one told Richard of the king's death until Hastings broke the news, and Paul Murray Kendall, in whose eyes Elizabeth Woodville combines all of the worst qualifies of Imelda Marcos, Cruella de Vil, and Britney Spears, also writes that no official word ever came from Westminster to Richard. Bertram Fields in his book Royal Blood likewise accuses the queen and her kin of delay, and a quick surf on the Internet produces several Ricardian sites that make similar allegations. Especially with regard to the latter, it's disheartening to note how some--by no means all or even most--of those dedicated to reassessing Richard's reputation should be so cavalier about besmirching those of his contemporaries.