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Feuding and fighting.

I am currently reading a book about the reconstruction of the Welsh Highland Railway. For those who don’t know, this was a narrow gauge line that lay completely derelict (all track lifted) for more than 70 years. Eventually, after a hideously complex and titanic struggle against the odds, it was rebuilt and you can now ride on it. And a very nice ride it is too, all the way from Caernarfon to Porthmadog.

So what has this to do with Yorkist England? you may reasonably ask. Well, the first few chapters of the book describe the ongoing feud between two factions who wanted to own the railway. They were all railway enthusiasts, naturally, and they all wanted the railway to reopen, but both sides had their own views as to how it could be done. And, boy, did they squabble! Actually squabble doesn’t cover it – it was a long saga of bitterness and outright hatred that still leaves scars to this day. A number of ‘powerful personalities’ were engaged on both sides, and no one was willing to give an inch. Occasionally there was an attempt to bring the two sides together, but the conferences grew as heated as those you might find in a stalemated civil war. There was no loveday here! Only at the very end, when one side had clearly lost through courts and public enquries and ministerial decisions, was a sort of agreement reached.

I can’t help but see a parallel to the matter of Richard III. We are all history enthusiasts, and we all have the same objective – historical truth. The only difficulty is that, unlike the reopening of a railway, ‘historical truth’ is not a tangible end. Certainly not when we have a fair bit of evidence, but virtually nothing in the way of proof. Sadly, the discovery of Richard’s body seems to have acted as a catalyst in terms of deepening the bitterness and intensity of the debate around him.

I am a long standing Ricardian. I make no bones about it. I am biased in Richard’s favour. I wish everyone in the debate would be equally frank, instead of pretending to be independent thinkers, free from bias, and with no particular agenda. If you think Henry VII was in the right, why not just say so?

I am frankly sick of the level of abuse aimed at me, and people like me. For example:

1. That all my ideas on Richard are based on reading novels. This may be true of some Ricardians, but certainly not all. Indeed, I can think of some who very pointedly do not read novels at all. Most of us, believe it or not, read factual history books all the time. Including those with which we disagree, in whole or part. To suggest otherwise is downright insulting. The accusation is particularly annoying because it is clear that many of the anti-Richards are heavily influenced by ‘popular history’ which is almost invariably overly dependent on the fictions of More and Shakespeare. Like fiction, ‘popular history’ is a useful introduction for newcomers, but nothing matches the reading of serious history texts and original sources.

2. The suggestion that the likes of me secretly want to go to bed with Richard. Poor Philippa Langley has had this thrown at her left, right and centre. It is absurd, and one wonders how the anti-Richards would care to be characterised as the Brides (or Grooms) of Henry VII, or perhaps more aptly, of Anthony Woodville? One suspects that all hell would break loose.

3. The intellectual arrogance of people who appear to know what happened in 1483-1485. How, were they there in a previous life? Were they, perhaps, Lady Rivers? They claim to know things that even fringe members of Richard III’s own court would not have known for certain! Most Ricardians, if pushed, will admit the possibility that Richard did away with the boys, or that Edward IV did not marry Eleanor Talbot. The anti-Richard brigade are rarely willing to concede the converse. It is as if they have some secret store of knowledge that contains the absolute historical truth.

4. The homophobic abuse aimed at a particular distinguished historian who dares to differ from the ‘party line’.  We Ricardians may have our faults, but I honestly don’t recall any of us stooping to such a low, even though there is at least one very large and prominent target on the ‘other side’.

This is written more in sorrow than in anger. I don’t expect peace to break out any time soon, especially as people on both sides seem to want to confine themselves to echo chambers. I just hope that the general tone of debate takes an upward turn.

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22 thoughts on “Feuding and fighting.

  1. Kalina on said:

    :)))))…very fine post, thank you. To bed Richard…interesting but impossible, as well as Anthony Woodville, what,s a pity…. But to hate Richard with all heart and soul and to write historical fiction about him all the time – like he would be alive and dangerous for us – it is not only possible but quite real. My main “favourite” is Ms Alison Weir who is very active on the field of a slander of Richard like he would be her fiance who jilted her

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I don’t know, I often think the accusation of wanting to bed Richard could be just as well leveled at some of the biggest haters of Richard III – there’s something curious about that level of obsession, especially when it includes obsession with issues such as who Richard did or did not sleep with, whether he loved his wife, who he did or did not want to sleep with, or even what he was like in bed. Which may also all be connected to issue no. 1. I suspect that some of the anti-Ricardians may be just a bit too much in love with Shakespeare’s Richard, and the positively portrayed Richard of some historical novels is a disappointment in comparison. I certainly get that impression from a certain author of historical fiction and non-fiction/blogger who has such a problem with pro-Ricardian historical fiction that she always rants about them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kalina on said:

      “what he was like in bed.”

      Yes, indeed! Mr Weir knows very well that Richard had a weak sexual impulse because he had a scoliosis!!!

      Liked by 2 people

      • LOL! Not according to his handwriting! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Doesn’t Weir also claim that he had a bunch of bastard children (something like 7 or 8?!) and she also used to claim that he was sleeping with Elizabeth of York (though she apparently has changed her mind since)? So what’s with that? At least make your slander consistent!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Kalina on said:

        :)))))))))

        Like

      • Oooooh, evidence!

        Like

      • hoodedman1 on said:

        Does she really? Good grief. It’s a spinal condition, and in the thoracic area…it’s not going to affect his libido or ability. I know people with scoliosis and they are no different from anyone else in that regard.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, Weir managed to insult 1% of the population, no small feat! Imagine what it would be like if she wrote something like that about a living person with scoliosis; if she was, say, claiming that Usain Bolt or Rebecca Romijn or Sarah Michelle Gellar must be lousy in bed due to their ‘deformity’. She would be publicly condemned by the media and would have to issue apologies, and rightly so!

        Liked by 2 people

      • Kalina on said:

        I am a personal “enemy” of Ms Weir but I have to say that she sees Richard,s lack of sexual impulse in other way: his scoliosis made him very shy and backed away. After her Richard had an inferiority complex:))))

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      • hoodedman1 on said:

        Her thought processes must be very odd. She believed he was grossly deformed before he was found (as far as I can gather) and yet still thought at the time he had 7 or 8 kids plus was having a fling with EOY. Now he’s suddenly shy and repressed, afraid of rejection. Well, still not shy enough to refrain from getting a girl or two pregnant most likely before he was 20. I am sure he probably wished he had a straight spine but when there were so many really horrendous disfigurements that could happen from untreated wounds, birth defects, illness in the Middle Ages, it was a relatively benign thing that he could hide most of the time. It didn’t stop him fighting, riding and looking after his estates; I doubt it stopped him overmuch in the bedroom either. I don’t think he was bothered by his appearance overmuch, I am sure he wasn’t weepinng into his hands because he considered himself too unattractive to get a woman!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Iris on said:

    Well, at least Ricardians do look for evidence while the “opposing party” has been deliberately hiding it, when not destroying it, for the past 5 centuries, starting from the Titulus Regius. All major findings in this century (the discovery of Richard’s remains, the Portoguese negotiations, the papal dispensation, the entry in the archive of the College of Arms pointing to Buckingham for the fates of the boys in the Tower, etc.) have been made by Ricardians and unsurprisingly so: why should anyone want to investigate a dead man’s life if they think he was an a…e?

    And I do hope this research will not stop and will bring up new evidence, whatever the outcome. All documents emerged so far have corroborated the idea of a better man than his enemies depicted him, so I do not expect a change in this trend, but even if it were not so, I’d rather have an ugly truth than unsubstantiated speculations on either side.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Speaking of that manuscript that points to Buckingham, could you tell me some more information about this or point me to some articles about it? I’ve seen that mentioned before, it shows up in Wikipedia and various articles, but everyone just says that there is a manuscript in College of Arms that says the boys were put to death “by the vise of the Duke of Buckingham” and that “there is some debate whether that means ‘devise’ or ‘advice'” – and that’s it, no more information.

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      • Kalina on said:

        Devise…advise…I have a problem with this mention. Children were seen yet in September 1483. Richard was in Royal Progress and Duke Buckingham already prepared a rebellion. Is it possible that he was still “advisor” of King?

        Like

      • Well, to me that interpretation that this is supposed to mean “Richard III ordered them murdered at the advice of the Duke of Buckingham” defies common sense, because if that’s what they meant, why not write it like that? Why would you completely omit the crucial fact that their uncle, the king, was responsible for the murder?

        I am more interested to know more about what kind of document it is, who may have written that and when. Of course, the fact that this is written in a document by someone doesn’t mean they actually knew what happened, but I’d like to get an idea why this person may have thought this happened and wrote it down, without further explanation, was that something that was believed in certain circles at least, etc. – in other words, more info about the source itself.

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      • Kalina on said:

        Interesting is also the all contex of this phrase

        Like

  4. hoodedman1 on said:

    The mooted idea that ‘we only read novels’ is completely erroneous of course, and, as you say, offensive, considering how many of Richard’s supporters actually do have academic or other qualifications that preclude simply reading fiction.
    The ‘wanting to go to bed with Richard’ accusation probably comes from the fact that many people, when viewing the reconstruction did say that he must have been a reasonably attractive man. This was evident in the earliest portraits too, but some, like Weir, suggested he was painted to minimise his ‘deformities’ by people who were ‘scared’ of him. I am sure certain factions would have been jumping with joy if he had turned out to be very plain indeed, and were a bit miffed and seeking for more ‘dirt’ to fling.
    No source of course is 100% guaranteed to be the truth, and if we don’t at least examine possibilities in history, it will stagnate and we will often never view the reality of situations at all, or even seek for a view other than that we’ve been given. Many, many historical ‘facts’ have vanished over the years when proven by science or research to be untrue.
    As for the saintliness slur, constantly used, it is amusing because, if it is true in any wise, I have seen ‘a saintly veneer’ applied to Anthony Woodville, seemingly because he jousted a lot and wrote poetry and was pious. Pious enough to filch from monks and nuns, apparently (he was sorry though, and mentioned it in his will) showing, not, in myy opinion, that he was an evil man…just a typical medieval man increasing his estates in the sometimes dubious way they often did. Unfortunately, the ‘other side’ cannot grant Richard the same and for all their pretensions, judge him in a thoroughly modern way whilst ignoring the ‘flaws’ of their own heroes.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wonder how Weir and others used to explain the lack of mention of any deformities by the writer of Croyland Chronicle continuation, or by Mancini (surely his sources, while giving him gossip and dirt on Richard and others, would not have missed the opportunity to mention that the king was visibly deformed?), not to mention the lack of deformities in Von Poppelau’s physical description of Richard. Even Rous, writing shortly after Richard’s death and making him an Antichrist figure who spent two years in his mother’s womb and was born with shoulder length hair and teeth, only had to say that Richard was small and had a right shoulder higher than the left. Richard must have been really formidable if he was able to scare not only foreigners*- those reporting hostile gossip as much as those who liked him – but also people writing shortly after his death and in the early years of the reign of Henry VII – so much that people “dared” to talk about his many deformities only decades after his death!

      * as opposed to, say, French king Charles VIII, who was not scary enough for the Venetian ambassador not to describe him to his government in Venice as “small and ill-formed in person, with an ugly face, large lusterless eyes which seem to be short-sighted, an enormous aquiline nose, and thick lips which are continuously parted. He stutters and has a nervous twitching of the hands which is unpleasant to watch. In my opinion… he is not of much account either physically or mentally.” The same ambassador noted that the queen, Anne of Brittany, had one leg shorter than the other and was walking with a visible limp.

      People who rely on logic and common sense were able to conclude that the legend of Richard’s hunchback, withered arm etc. was unfounded far before his skeleton was found.

      Liked by 1 person

      • bloodofcherries on said:

        Actually Ms Weir’s opinion of Richard’s physicality didn’t change after the discovery of his remains, on the contrary. Because of the scoliosis she’s now even more convinced that he was grossly deformed and in constant pain and that this could have led to emotional or psychological problems. I attended her talk in Leicester during the reinterment week and when it was pointed out to her at the Q&A that the scientific analysis had concluded that he was neither deformed nor in pain she admitted she hadn’t kept up with the research, but still insisted that she was right.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Kalina on said:

    I recommend the article on “History to day”:

    http://www.historytoday.com/anne-e-bailey/richard-iii-medieval-relic

    It is very interesting for me as a foreigner. Do English people really see the Richard,s reburial and him personally?

    Like

  6. Iris on said:

    Interesting, but the sentence “As is well known, Richard was given full Catholic obsequies at his first funeral” is unsubstantiated, and the opposite might be the case. Evidence of the excavation suggests it was a hasty burial and Polydor Vergil wrote Richard was buried “sine ullo funere honere”, without any funeral honour. I’d expect a member of the Faculty of History of the University of Oxford to know these basics and not dismiss what was the admirable attempt to give the last Plantagenet king a dignified burial he did NOT get the first time as a display of general hysteria

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  7. white lily on said:

    I have never understood the impulse to belittle a reasonable argument by suggesting that someone has a hidden motive (whether that is to “bed” Richard, or to suggest that someone has some ancient, dull axe to grind). Either way, it’s called an Ad Hominem attack and it poisons a good faith argument. Whenever I read something that sounds like the author is resorting to Ad Hominem, I tend to discount it entirely. My eyes just glaze over it, and while I might digest the evidence they provide, if they feel the need to couch it in those terms, they’ve lost the argument.

    I get a feeling that there are much broader powers that be that underlie this proposition. For instance, there are academic departments that are led by certain individuals who exude power because of their place. Or in the “popular press”, there are writers that have staked out a position and they cannot go back on them for reasons that would cause questions to be raised about their previous writings. In sum, this is the premise of human exploration, and it takes people who are willing to engage – rather than to shout down, or personally smear – in an effort to come to a consensus. Perhaps that consensus is: “We Don’t Know”. History offers up plenty of examples where we can all agree “we don’t know”. Why isn’t that good enough?

    Liked by 1 person

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