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At last, Richard gets a smidgeon of the Renaissance credit he’s due….

A man of the reign of Richard III A woman of the reign of richard III

English Costume from William I to George IV by Dion Clayton Calthrop, published 1937.

I have just received this book, and of course turned immediately to the reign of Richard III. Dismay promptly ensued. Hump-backed Richard! Oh, natch. Then: “The axe of the executioner soiled many white shirts, and dreadful forebodings fluttered the dovecots of high-hennined ladies.” Really? Sez who?

Richard’s death, predictably, means the burial of winter, while Henry VII’s reign heralds the first day of spring. Oh, my, how things had changed when the Tudors’ very own ‘Winter King’ finally turned up his blunt toes. Off we went again, declaring that the winter years were over and a new spring had begun. Erm, with Henry VIII? If ever dovecotes should have been fluttering with dreadful foreboding, this was the time. My, my, we never did learn, it seems.

But not even this biased tome can condemn Richard entirely, although it must have galled the author to concede it:

“It is in the reign of Richard III that we get, for the men, a hint of the peculiar magnificence of the first years of the 16th century; we get the first flush of those wonderful patterns which are used by Memling and Holbein, those variations of the pineapple pattern, and of that peculiar convention which is traceable in the outline of the [hrumph!] Tudor rose.”

So Henry doesn’t get the credit. And about time too! The first buds of the Renaissance did not appear after Bosworth, but before it, when Richard was king!  What a wonderfully enlightened realm England would have been if the last Plantagenet had been given the chance to prove it.

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4 thoughts on “At last, Richard gets a smidgeon of the Renaissance credit he’s due….

  1. Perhaps not entirely fair on Calthrop, who was, after all, a theatre professional writing about what costumes should look like in different periods and bearing in mind most of what was represented on stage was Shakespearean.

    I found this book some time ago as I happen to know another Calthrop, a relation of this one, who decorated the very room I am typing this from. They are also both related to Boucicault, who wrote London Providential and other plays.

    I have often looked on lists of who was on which side in the Wars of the Roses for Calthrops, just so I can have a go at my friend if they turned out to be Lancastrians.

    You will realise that the anti-warhorse device, the calthrop, is also something to do with the family and is part of their crest.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. sighthound6 on said:

    I think the Calthrops were a Norfolk family. One appears in that great novel ‘The Heron’s Catch’ by Susan Curran, and vastly under-appreciated work about the mid fifteenth century. By the way, I think the Renaissance can be traced in England to as far back as the 1390s – art and literature were just developing nicely when people decided to have half a century of war and civil war instead.

    Liked by 1 person

    • viscountessw on said:

      Yes, the Court of Richard II was quite something. Glorious in so many ways. Then he was usurped and eliminated by Henry IV. Hmm. Yet another King Richard done to death and supplanted by a Lancastrian Henry who had no right to the throne. History does repeat itself.


  3. mairemartello on said:

    Maybe the first calthrop I’d like to step on!


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