murreyandblue

A great WordPress.com site

TO BELIEVE – OR NOT TO BELIEVE – THAT IS THE QUESTION

Most Ricardians have spent many years honing their beliefs and building up a knowledgeable sympathy and regard for the character and actions of Richard III during his lamentably shot life-time.

But even passionate supporters often disagree. Endless arguments (usually amicable I’m pleased to add) continue between supporters. Whether Richard had a wild romantic love affair with his wife Anne Neville, or just a friendly political arrangement, is a major disagreement. Some accept that Richard probably did design and order the murder of Edward IV’s two sons. Others strongly object to such an idea and have a certain amount of logic to back up their theories. But they are all theories, one way or the other. The death of Hastings is a point that arouses considerable emotion. Did Richard suffer a temper tantrum and send Hastings off to the block with little reason (and suffer for it in the end as he would have benefited from Hasting’s backing during Bosworth) – or was Hastings caught in major treasonous behaviour, and Richard simply reacted as he had to in order to keep the peace as was his duty as Protector and Defender of the Realm and High Constable of the Realm. Another argument which often surprises me, concerns the last cavalry charge at Bosworth – was this a well orchestrated and pre-planned manoeuvre, or was it a tempestuous and emotional last-minute decision on seeing that the battle was turning against him? I have even heard some people believing that it was a suicidal action, since he was distraught after losing his wife and child.

So if we Ricardians can’t agree, then why should it surprise us that others strongly believe Richard was some kind of manipulative monster? Well, for a start – it isn’t logical and doesn’t fit with contemporary pre-Tudor sources. But who cares about logic these days?

A statement by the avid anti-Ricardian Desmond Seward recently amused me. He said, without apparent shame, that it was much more fun to believe in the monster. What an amazing character, he crowed, this creature of utter evil – and what darkly delicious deeds which we can write about. How much more interesting, he insisted, to think of the villain than some boring paragon of virtue. He more or less admitted that his chosen attitude was inspired simply by a juvenile desire for a good adventurous romp.

Shakespeare has certainly influenced many. That charismatic villain is truly irresistible. Lovers of drama just don’t care whether it is fiction or fact. It’s simply a wonderful story. On the other hand, an acceptance of Thomas More’s odd scraps of ‘history’, is less a matter of belief than of pure ignorance, since no one who has genuinely studied those pages could actually take them as serious documentation. But the wicked scheming murderer who duped the whole of England until the shining Tudor heroes came along to save the world, honestly does make an appealing story. As long as you remember it is utter fiction. But that’s the crux of it. Who cares about truth these days?

I doubt many ardent anti-Richardians have ever actually studied the subject at all. They have picked up snippets and read the gossip – just as they do with the daily newspapers and T.V., preferring the scandal rather than the boring old political debates. It’s all to do with what celebrities wore yesterday – who is cheating on who – who is about to get a divorce – and so on. The more negative, the better! Most of them probably know it’s all rubbish – but that’s what they want to read and it’s what they want to devour. It makes their own boring lives seem a little less grindingly slow.

Those who have studied and still get it all wrong (Hicks and Weir) seem to feel a genuine antipathy which is harder to understand. For them, hating Richard almost becomes a passion. I find that sad. I would sooner be an ardent lover than an ardent hater. Hating someone who died over 500 years ago seems a rather unpleasant indication of anyone’s character.

But I also find many anti-Ricardians are actually inspired by a ‘holier-than-thou’ irritation with the Ricardians themselves. These set out to prove us idiots, simply because they can’t stand all our conviction and devotion. I know some authors who claim a considerable interest in Richard III, but who write frequent articles complaining voraciously and exclusively about the antics of Ricardians – yet hardly ever even bother writing about Richard himself. There’s something about determined and emotional support that makes others want to show a determined anti-support. To oppose, purely for the sport of opposition, appears to attract some people. Think of those who get drunk and immediately start a fight. If I get drunk (well, when I was young it happened sometimes) I wanted cuddles, smiles and sleep. Others want to punch you in the face. Anti-Ricardians don’t need to get drunk. They just have that sort of personality with a perverse desire to prove the opposite (even when they can’t prove anything at all.)

Maybe that’s just humanity. Sad, but true. Personally I find such a host of evidence supporting Richard’s compassion, loyalty and righteous behaviour, that I cannot imagine anyone with a serious and intelligent interest not eventually coming out strongly on Richard’s side. I came to my own conclusions based on lengthy study and deliberation – not on a whim of perversity.

But we are also hampered by a lack of contemporary documentation. And thanks to the Tudor victory there are far more later chronicles condemning Richard than supporting him. If only there was a more even playing field then perhaps there would be more understanding. Yet – surprisingly – the one very genuine and strongly worded document we do have from the period – Titulus Regius – is frequently discounted and disbelieved. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Advertisements

Single Post Navigation

8 thoughts on “TO BELIEVE – OR NOT TO BELIEVE – THAT IS THE QUESTION

  1. Jasmine on said:

    The Ricardian community itself is not above factionalism and ‘holier than thou’ attitudes – one has only to look at the factions which support particular burial places to see gossip, distortion of facts and willful disregard for due process, to say nothing of attributing the basest of reasons for particular events, actions or statements.

    Personally I have been shocked at the degree to which people feel free to criticise, not in a rational manner, but in the most savage of terms, any action of which they disapprove. As for the allegations of criminal conspiracy involving everyone from the Queen down to the people working on the ground, these are nothing short of libelous.

    Glass houses and stones come to mind, when reading criticisms of anti-Ricardians.

    Like

  2. Nice blog. I recently came across a book by Desmond Seward in my home and was amused to see he seemed to hate everyone involved in The Hundred Years War – including Henry V and, unbelievably, Joan of Arc. So, obviously, Richard is in good company.

    Personally, I could not imagine spending time researching and writing about a long-dead figure in history who I hated from the outset.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Mary Miller on said:

    I do not understand the vitriol, especially by someone who claims to be a historian. I have had the privilege of meeting two wonderful historians, Dr. Charles Ross, author of “Richard III” (not my favorite bio, by the way) and Dr. Ralph Griffiths, author of “The Oxford Illustrated Guide to the British Monarchy”. Neither one was an apologist for Richard, or even a Ricardian, but both wrote rationally about Richard and interacted with Ricardians at the meetings I met them at. Colin Richmond, on the other hand, delighted in poking at Ricardians. At the conference I attended he gleefully attacked Richard III.
    I don’t read Seward anymore.

    Like

  4. I suppose some of these authors think this will help sell books. What amuses me is some of the anti-Ricardian writers have no trouble using a gorgeous soft-focus photo of the reconstructed head to sell books – obviously, hoping to snare some unsuspecting Ricardians into purchasing it. Me, I just bought the cover.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Iris on said:

    “Glass houses and stones come to mind, when reading criticisms of anti-Ricardians” – Well, clerics supporting the theory that the earth was still and flat with the sun going around it and the Inquisition comdemning Galileo despite the evidence come to mind when reading criticisms of Ricardians.

    The only groundbreaking discoveries in the last century (e.g. his remains the Tudorites insisted had been thrown in the river Soar, the marriage negotiations with the Portoguese royal family, etc.) have been made by Ricardians, quite unsurprisingly. After all, if you set out to prove Richard was a villain, why bother to find out evidence that will disprove your theory? You’d rather hide evidence, wouldn’t you? At least Tudorites are so happy with sitting on their old stances, they should hopefully also be so lazy as to not perpetuate their old well known tradition and leave the last few untouched archives and graves alone.

    As for people literally hating anyone, let alone someone who died over 500 years ago, what about the apparently unemployed trolls spending their vast amount of free time setting up fake Ricardian facebook groups to try and turn the newly converted or potentially convertible ones to the old faith? Well, unlike Richard, I do wish them all a VERY long life, since it seems to be so sick and miserable that they truly deserve it

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Iris, you are on fire! Yes, it’s sad that people set up fake Ricardian pages in hope of drawing in new people to turn them against him.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. sighthound6 on said:

    At the risk of sounding patronising (for which I apologise in advance) I think we have to accept that for many people the Shakespeare/More version of Richard III is their favourite Fairy Tale. And you know how children object if a word of a Fairy Tale is changed! We are all a bit like that, if we’re honest, we all have our favourite ‘versions’ of history.

    For a comparison, see the Shakespeare portrayal of Henry V as a Hero King. Many people look at him like that. The truth is Henry V had some notably negative qualities – Ian Mortimer goes so far as to accuse him of tyranny. But the Henry V claque would get very heated if you pointed them out. Shakespeare’s Hero King is the Authorised Version.

    Henry VIII is another one – but I won’t go there!

    Like

  8. I understand the fairy tale aspect to Richard the Third. I can only compare it to Americans if they were told that Benedict Arnold was a good guy and a patriot. He wasn’t, of course, but I can imagine the outrage.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: