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History and cultural history (I)

As we have observed before, Shakespeare’s plays tend to be historically inaccurate but they make good cultural history for his own lifetime. As an example, we took King Lear (probably written 1605-6), in which Cordelia was executed for political reasons, something that almost never happened to women before 1536, in England or Scotland.

Similarly, the parts of Henry VI were (according to Malone) written in 1591-2. A famous scene, set in the early 1450s, shows the Dukes of York and Somerset selecting white and red roses from a garden as their badges. Most people doubt that this scene ever actually occurred but now one has spoken.

Dr. David Starkey has now confidently predicted that the red rose made no appearance before 1460 or possibly even 1485, promising to contribute substantially to the Fotheringhay Church appeal if his statement could be disproven. So who has evidence?

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8 thoughts on “History and cultural history (I)

  1. hoodedman1 on said:

    David Starkey may be known as an ’eminent historian’ but alas, he gets things wrong just like the rest of us mere mortals… although, unlike most of us, he seems unable to admit it. I cannot tell you if he is wrong on this issue, although I suspect he may be, but I was quite bemused to read today that in 2004 he was still spouting the old line that the ‘Saxons committed genocide on native Britons’. Genetics and archaeology don’t support such an extreme view anymore, but I expect we’ll be a long time waiting for a retraction…


  2. I can clarify that it is contemporary documentary evidence or painting prior to 1460 that the red rose was used as a symbol of the Lancastrians (found my notes from the lecture).


  3. He is probably right here, although the Church Appeal must hope he is wrong.
    Perhaps the lecture notes could be posted here? 😉


  4. sighthound6 on said:

    I seem to recall quite recently reading that there was evidence of the red rose being used. Personally, I am wary of being dogmatic about such issues as these people had a whole host of ‘logos’ that they used at times, and unless you have examined every document and artefact, there is a danger of being made to look silly. For example, few people today are aware that Edmund of Langley used the ostrich feather normally associated with the Prince of Wales alone – but he did.


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