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.

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