"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Richard the Third or why I won't curtsey to the Royal Family

Our house has 'gone Richard the Third mad'. I admit to my geekiness and my countdown on Monday morning until the time when the results of the tests on the skeleton discovered in the car park in    Leicester would be announced was really quite sad. But when I posted about this on Facebook I was gratified to find that a great many others were joining me in my geekiness and were equally excited.

Even Other Half and his comrades who were at Transport House on Monday were apparently checking their 'phones every few minutes to find out the latest news.

So given that we all like and mystery and a solution, why all the excitement? Well a 500 year old gap between mystery and solution of the question 'Was Richard really a hunchback?' is obviously a starter although the far more important 'Did he really kill/order the murder of the 'little princes'?' obviously cannot be solved via the discovery of his skeleton and until the invention of a time travel machine I don't suppose it ever will. But for me, I think the discovery signifies more than that.

Go back nearly 450 years and what did Kingship really mean? It meant that the strongest in battle achieved the crown, basically. OK, so there had to be the implied inheritance issues that B descended from A, or A's father or whomever - but when the cards were down it became a question of who could get the most followers on their side [sounds a bit like the battle for a political party leadership today, doesn't it]

And on the inheritance issue - well legitimaticy and kinship needn't stand in one's way. Richard the third wanted to succeed to the throne of his brother Edward the Fourth on his death, he didn't let obstacles like their brothers and sisters born in between them stand in their way. No - he just declared them illegitimate - thus accusing his mother as being serially unfaithful to their father [although funnily enough  true to their father when Richard - the youngest of the family - was conceived] And the fact that Edward the Fourth had children to suceed him didn't deter Richard either. He just declared the marriage between Edward and the children's mother invalid - thus the children became illegitimate too and fortuitously the new heir was Richard.

The boys were probably murdered just to make sure that support could not be raised in their names and the discovery of two skeletons of young boys in the Tower of London in 1674 seems to confirm this.

Richard was King for two years before being killed at Bosworth Field in 1485 and Henry the Seventh aceeding to the throne and founding the Tudor dynasty.

Perhaps this very potted version of the way we have planted the seeds of our present royal family tree explains why I don't actually subscribe to the whole 'Aren't they wonderful' point of view. Simply because someone managed to raise more followers than someone else and was thus able to kill that someone else and declare himself king [Henry the Seventh] doesn't make him a God inspired better than the common man type of bloke. It actually just makes him a bit like the type of man who ruled the East End in the 1950s and 1960s. [If you tell anyone I said that I could end up in the Tower of London. So be careful] And his descendants, although very rich and having interesting ancestors - should we have to curtsey to them? I think not.

And it also doesn't explain why I was so excited on Monday morning. Maybe because I love mysteries and history. Or just because I am truly a geek. You decide. Meanwhile I will be watching Shakespeare's Richard the Third and reading Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time  Whatever the rights and wrongs of Richard the Third, he inspired some great literature and non-fiction books!

This blog is dedicated to Dick, who was the first one to crack the Richard the Third rhyming slang joke.....

Above: The earliest surviving portrait of Richard (c. 1520, after a lost original), formerly belonging to the Paston family  (Society of Antiquaries, London)

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