Friday, August 8, 2014

"Out History the Historians! or Saving Richard III"

The Flag of Yorkshire Saints.
The flag takes its colors from the shield of the arms of two local Yorkshire saints. Wilfrid (blue) and William (gold). William was martyred in 1154 via poisoning and so a Christian cross is present. Maybe it is time to fly this Flag
once more over Richard III. He certainly spent most of his youth riding beneath its banner.
Since he is to be buried in Leicester, maybe this should be draped over his sarcophagus?
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

     There has been a very nice response from the public to my last posting about Richard III. Thank you each and everyone who took the time to read, let alone comment. As most of you know I am the founder and editor of Modern Medievalist on Facebook. I posted the article on my page, and one of my readers brought something to my attention, that had slipped my grasp. We who are outraged at what has been done to Richard III and the terrible foisting off of propaganda have been focused on the slights and injuries he has been subject to, instead of focusing on what can be done instead.

    What can be done? Can we remove him from durance vile? Doubtful at best. Even if someone of the stature of HM the Queen should take an interest, Her Majesty is not above the law. But that doesn't mean that nothing can be done. In fact quite the opposite can be done actually. A friend living in Scotland said, we needed to "Out History the Historians." -I rather liked that sentiment. And since Leicester has been determined to set the bar of excellence so very low, I don't think it is a goal that cannot be achieved.

      As my reader put it, and I am paraphrasing her reply here, "Take over a failed chip shop or storefront that is as close to the Leicester Historical Center and create a time sensitive display of what a Royal Sarcophagus should look like, create a chapel within the shop, showing the general public what a Monarch of England should have as his final resting place. Bring in experts in Art, Armour, Weapons, Clothing and Textiles. Create a board to oversee the "counter historical center," take the monies earned and fold it back into the center until it outshines in authenticity that horrid place. I would visit the current center for five minutes. Something that is truly sensitive and 
historically accurate? I would spend hours in."

     I think the Ricardian Supporters have been going about this not necessarily the wrong way, I just think and I am including myself in this, that we have been blinded by not seeing the forest for the trees in front of us. It is time to beat the blighters at their own game!-(Sorry about that couldn't help myself there.)

    My lovely dainty great aunt from Texas used to say, "Something is only as special as we make it out to be." As I have aged in this life, I have found that to be so very true. Where does that leave us then? I have made inquiries with the fine folks at Kickstart. This idea of building a counter historical center is not even a full 24 hours old. However I believe it has merit. The people who believe history has once again suffered a sever miscarriage of justice can once more have an opportunity to create something worth celebrating.

     I am American and as such have been dismissed out of hand because of my birth, but this is our shared history, as I have ancestors who fought in the War of the Roses and regardless of York or Lancaster it is our heritage and our right as descendants of those who fought, to see that it is treated with respect and dignity. So it is time to gird up our loins and be prepared to fight a different campaign, while taking the high road. If the Ricardians of the world work together they can steal a march on those who are only interested in profit for profit's sake.

    One expert who also happens to be an American did a great deal of work and effort preparing a presentation of what historical arms and armour would have looked like at the time of the Battle of Bosworth. I leave his name out as of this writing as I have not consulted to see if I have his permission to use his name. Regardless his presentation and more importantly his scholarly reputation, and expertise were cast aside in favor of a Carling-(c) Lager Can propped up in the corner. (I hope the Carling Beer Company will forgive what I consider an unfavorable comparison.) 

You be the judge... Suit of Armour with
Christmas Eve Party Crown?

Or can of Lager beer? Which would you prefer representing your monarch? The sweat shop horror or the can of beer? Since crass commercialism is in play I would go for
the beer can.

     I would be ashamed to hold my head up in public, when it was discovered that the entire team of experts who had been assembled to undertake the expedition to retrieve Richard III revolted. Or when it was discovered that Plagiarism is no longer a crime so long as it relates to historical documents. I am referring of course to the moving quote York wrote about the loss of their king, that was used in the Leicester center that gave the impression of being written by the city of Leicester. 
    I digress... One of my readers informed me he had made several inquiries into what a cast bronze effigy, wearing historical arms and armour would cost, and startling enough, it would have cost less than what the Kleenex-(c) Tissue Box Dispenser is costing the subjects of the crown. I know many of Britain's armour smiths would gladly create something to show what a real suit or harness would look like. To tell the truth the artistic endeavors would in all likelihood pour in from all over the globe.

    Lastly there is a chance to once more celebrate what English history is all about. Hold a festive tournament in his honor the week before the anniversary of the battle of Bosworth. Make it a big deal! Celebrate with all the pomp and circumstances that only the British people can do. Invite every single reenactment house that participates in the various War of the Roses events. Have them conduct archery competitions, dismounted combat exhibitions, with marches and drills.Let the reenactors show interpretive displays, have them line up before the Jousters and parade before them in the list, with their flags and banners flying! Make the weekend, the premier Medieval History weekend on the calendar. Let them show that although Leicester might have his body, they do not posses his Honor or his future! Let the reenactors and jousters shout, "Out History the Historians!"

     Eventually I would see monies being sent north to York. Let the center support York Minister as Richard III did in his lifetime. Establish an endowment for college bound youth who wish to study history. If all of these things can be done for Leicester, then a healthy bit of competition should eventually make those in Leicester either sit up and take notice or come to their senses and allow the King to be interred in neutral ground with the proper rights. I would suspect if anyone in authority asked nicely, Pope Francis just might hop on a commercial flight and hail a cab to perform a high mass... or at least give a showing for a Catholic Monarch.

-DS Baker

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Richard III Sold! To The Highest Bidder!

Apparently the Richard III Enthusiasts
have begun their protests against
injustices and perceived slights.
Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field. He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. His defeat at Bosworth Field, the last decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, symbolizes the end of the Middle Ages in England.
Portrait courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery-England.

     I have been following events in England, that have surrounded the search for, and the discovery of Richard III for the better part of two years.  As a self labeled medievalist, I had hoped the discovery would have been handled with taste and decorum. Sadly it seems I overestimated the rapacious greed in Leicester.

    Before going into combat at Bosworth, The Duke of Norfolk found a note tacked to the door of his lodging which said:

"Jacky of Norfolk, be not too bold,
For Dickon thy master is bought and sold."
    The Stanley's under the leadership of Sir William Stanley, later made Baron Stanley and Henry 4th Earl of Northumberland, abandoned the King, causing him to fall into despair. Upon hearing of the Duke of Norfolk's death, he bravely or foolishly lead an impromptu cavalry charge aimed at Henry VII, in hopes of ending the conflict.

    Sadly he was not successful and was rumored to have died shouting, "Treason!"  There is even a fable meeting with a seeress who prophesied where his spurs struck so should his head. Crossing the river into Bosworth, Richard III supposedly struck his spurs on one of the stone supports on the bridge he was riding over. When he was being carried back dead, his head allegedly struck the same stone support, and was split open.

     Regardless of the who or why, his skeleton bears witness his betrayal by those he thought loyal in the numerous and grievous wounds he suffered at the hands of his enemies.

    It is now at this point, where I personally thought the stench of betrayal would finally be lifted from his mortal remains and he would be allowed his moment in history to at least be re-examined by those who were not his mortal enemies. I was mistaken, sadly mistaken.

    I guess we come down to the gristle that is stuck in the back molar, which causes slow agony as pressure mounts. Bad teeth. I think that is an apt analogy for what is happening in England today. Standing where once was a car park, there is now a historical center dedicated to Richard III. It is brand new, built in stone to replicate the architecture of the period, it straddles the once muddy hole he had been unceremoniously shoveled into.

    Everything about the new center is a nightmare of purloined quotes, cheap knock off armour from an Indian sweat shop, and a shiny crown that looks like it is fresh from the Burger King-(c) Extra Value Meal.

    The proposed original design entrance had a throne that would have been covered in vast amounts of blood, which in turn would have spilled to the ground, where there would have been bloody words spelled out.-Thank goodness saner heads and a modicum of decorum prevailed in the end. It is one thing to realize that an estimated 50,000 to as high as 80,000 Crown Subjects died during the War of the Roses... there is a fine balance that needs to be struck in recounting history and then there is shlock value.

    Let's discuss the proposed Tomb: Saying that it is a Danish Modern Kleenex Dispenser is being kind. One wit said it looked like a new fancy bicycle rack that would keep your bike upright.

     Instead of giving Richard III the last English monarch to die in combat a tomb that might have been contemporaneous to his time, and his exploits, they have gotten the Kleenex box approved. I am going to post pictures of several tombs that are actually contemporaries of Richard's time line give and take less than a hundred years.

    Władysław III (31 October 1424 – 10 November 1444), also known as Władysław of Varna was King of Poland from 1434, and King of Hungary from 1440, until his death at the Battle of Varna.
Wladyslaw III was a contemporary of Richard III of England. His armour pictured above would have not been out of fashion at Bosworth. 

     The tomb of Mary of Burgundy (13 February 1457 – 27 March 1482). As the only child of Charles the Bold (1433-1477), Mary was heiress presumptive to a vast and wealthy domain, made up of the Duchy of Burgundy, the Free County of Burgundy, and the majority of the Low Countries. She married Archduke Maximilian of Austria who became her co-ruler. 

    The 25-year-old Duchess died due to a fall from her horse on 27 March 1482 near Wijnendale Castle. She loved riding, and was falconing with Maximilian when her horse tripped, threw her, and then landed on top of her, breaking her back. She died several days later, and is buried in the Church of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk) in Bruges, Belgium. The tomb was commissioned by her husband at the workshop of Jan Borman who made the design and who sculpted the statue of Mary based on her death mask

     And here is what is euphemistically called the Danish Modern Kleenex Dispenser chosen for the last monarch of England to die in combat fighting for his crown, his throne and ultimately for his people. Designed by Messrs Van Heyningen & Howard.

     Here is a vintage Lucite Kleenex (c) Tissue Box Cover. I think you can tell Messrs Van Heyningen & Howard did a real stretch of their mental muscles when searching for inspiration.
    At the end of the day, the money people will have ensured that they have created a steady revenue stream for themselves and for the Cathedral property. In the coming years, there will be a new chair in history funded by the revenues generated by the crass display of his plastic bones. Closely followed by graduate students, and the next thing you know one or two lucky individuals and the entire history department at Leicester will have been funded into perpetuity.

    Which is in my mind the reason why the University and the Cathedral fought so vigorously. It is not about preserving history. It is not about documenting a slain monarch. And it is most definitely not about separating Tudor propaganda from reality. Nor is it about doing the right thing and repairing the King to either York or Westminster.

    Lastly the Richard III Society has announced for Leicester Cathedral and Leicester University that there will be a simple re-internment ceremony. Stating and I am paraphrasing here, that his Catholic rights were given to him when they unceremoniously shoveled his brutalized corpse into a muddy hole.

    Once again the supposed experts have been making assumptions as to what rites were performed, or what actually happened when he was buried. Their refusal to at least have a high mass for Richard III smacks of Protestant Bias and Discrimination against letting Catholic Priests back into a building they once owned and operated. The Pope and the Catholic Church have made several open handed overtures, attempting to reconcile the two doctrines. Again, I think it has less to do with faith or doctrine as it does the twin evils of power and money.

    Sadly I leave you with the best piece of written propaganda ever conceived to slander another. Too bad it still seems appropriate:

 “My conscience hath a thousand several tongues, 
And every tongue brings in a several tale,
And every tale condemns me for a villain.
Perjury, perjury, in the high'st degree;
Murder, stern murder in the dir'st degree,
Throng to the bar, crying all, 'Guilty!, guilty!” 
― William Shakespeare, Richard III

I am just sadden to see such a magnificent opportunity to celebrate history and the unique aspect of being "English" squandered by those who are only too willing to drag Richard III through the quagmire of discrimination, filthy lucre, and to continue to perpetuate lies and pass them off as truth. I guess the power players took their cues from Goebbels-Continue to tell a lie and sooner or later people will believe it. Best of luck with your Historical Inaccuracy Center.

-DS  Baker.