Friday, 14 September 2012

Of Kings and things

I've been following the search for Richard III's body in Leicester avidly. On and off over 30 years and when I've had the time I've been a member of the Ricardians. I've always felt Richard was much maligned by Henry Beaufort who deposed and killed him at Bosworth and then became Henry VII, the first Tudor King, despite not having a smidgen of claim to the throne other than having a pushy mother who was known around the English Court and to visiting foreign dignitaries as a 'lady of contriving bosom'. Then along comes Shakespeare in the time of Elizabeth I , old miserly Henry's grand-daughter and seeking to curry favour with the crown and no doubt make a bob or two, writes that scurrilous parcel of lies about the last Plantaganet, Richard III. No details about how he'd ruled fairly, been the first King to introduce bail into law and been a brave and honorable warrior on the battlefield since he was 15. Nope Shakespeare, a smear and spin merchant that would have been envied by politicians' bagmen today set out to destroy Richard's reputation by any lie and unfounded rumour he could lay his hands on. The gorier the better. Well now they think they've found Richard's body, there's a chance to revisit the Henry and Richard squabble that ended in an arrow in Richard's back and then a blow to the back of the head that finished him off. And look again at how truth can be distorted by the written word. And given the papers released on Hillsborough yesterday that's clearly as true today as it was then. Henry, of course, was too scared to enter into battle, Richard was, after all, famous and feared for his skills on the battlefield. Henry prudently watched from the sidelines and the chances are that the cowardly blows that finished Richard from behind his back came from traitorous cheshiremen led by the Stanley brothers who were supposed to have fought for Richard but shiftily changed sides during the battle. They did it of course for money and the hope of greater power and influence. And they achieved that in the short term although William Stanley was eventually put to death by his ungrateful King Henry for treason or some such thing. Seems like poetic justice. David Cameron could probably learn lessons from this salutary tale because it seems to me some of his lot are also thinking about jumping ship and throwing their lot in with a new potential leader who can increase their access to power and influence for longer. We might be 500 years further on but not much has changed about human nature and what drives it. Anyway, if it does turn out that they have found King Richard III's body under that Leicester car park I hope he will be given a suitably grand re-interment in a grave next to Henry VII draped with the White Rose of York & Richard's White Boar standards that Henry worked so hard during his lifetime to discredit. It is said that Henry VII set aside an adequate sum of money for Richard's funeral but then squirrelled it away and never spent it. It was a sop to his conscience. It must still be about somewhere, probably locked away in Treasury books. Should be worth a bit by now so maybe that could be used to cover costs.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. I am fascinated by History and you have a crisp, punchy style of prose. Will return to blog again. Hospitable Scots Bachelor