Part I of a review of Terry Breverton’s RICHARD III: THE KING IN THE CAR PARK….
Part I of a review by Myrna Smith, Ricardian Reading Editor
The second paragraph of the preface to this book brings up politics, citing Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher, whose death “was generally regretted by those in the south of England, but not in many other parts of the country…..There will never be a factual biography of Mrs. Hilda Margaret Thatcher [Never? Even in 500 years?] because our opinions and experience alter both writers and their audiences.” But what has this to do with Richard III, his life and times? Is there some mystery about Mrs. Thatcher?
In the third paragraph, racism is brought up, in the cases of Patrice Lumumba and the concentration camps during the Boer Wars, and Bishop Stubbs “Stubbs glamorized the barbarian Angles, Saxons and Jutes in their genocide of the Christian Britons…” Wait a bit. Isn’t this, if not racism, an extreme form of ethnocentrism? How dare he imply that Christianity is better than the worship of Thor and Odin? Isn’t that bigotry? And why is Breverton concerned about the Boers, who were Germanic and (naturally) white, and bigots into the bargain? He also takes a swipe at the progenitor of the current Royal family, a “minor princeling from Hanover, a country the size of the Isle of Wight.” Hmm…sizeism! If size confers moral superiority, has he looked at the relative sizes of England and Wales?
Mr. Breverton, incidentally, sometimes uses “Britain” and “British” to refer to what is now Great Britain, sometimes to mean England and the English, and sometimes to apply to Wales and the Welsh only. No worries; one can usually tell by the context.
In paragraph four, the author brings up militarism, and Mr. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Who? Oh, he means Tony Blair. Note to aspiring political pundits: You get Brownie points for using politician’s full names, especially if they are multiple (George Herbert Walker Bush), alliterative (Hubert Horatio Humphrey), or at all odd-sounding (Margaret Hilda Thatcher). I mean, isn’t there something screamingly funny about being named Hilda, even if you never use that name? Not to mention that it is Germanic.
In para number five, he attacks historical novelists. “A major problem is that historical novelists often stray from fact [doesn’t all fiction?] to form a hypothesis [a hypothesis is a scientific term, and can be tested by experimentation. A novel has a plot – usually – not a hypothesis.] which will in turn sell more books.” …which is a Bad Thing. Didn’t he write this book to sell? And didn’t he sell a copy of it to the Richard III Society Library? He disapproves of much non-fiction writing as well. “When a non-fiction writer resorts to derogatory adjectives…describing one king, say Henry VII while his protagonist Richard III is a heroic warrior….one has to beware. The more adjectives there are…the more it usually betrays its author’s biases.” I’ll tell you what betrays Breverton’s biases. “..facts are disguised and stage-managed for the benefits of the corporation instead of the state.” Ah yes. ‘Everything for the state.’ Wonder who said that? Perhaps he meant to say “people,” but slips of the tongue often betray one’s true viewpoint.
In the next paragraph, he gets personal. “Even with a track record of writing over forth well-received non-fiction books…it is increasingly difficult for this author to be published.” He admits this is not all attributable to conspiracy. There are fewer people who enjoy reading nowadays. Another self-revealing remark and an example of the argumentum ad oppressum: I don’t get published because I’m being discriminated against. Maybe it’s just because he is not that polished a writer. Given a little time and about 1 ½ pages of MS., I think I can back that up.
Next he goes after the Church: “We seem to be returning to medieval times, with tourists (pilgrims) being attracted to pay to see holy relics, thus giving the Church and its environment an additional income stream.” (Money is the root of all evil, you know.) in the next sentence, with apparently no realization that he is writing of another Church, he goes on: “Roman Catholicism in Richard’s day allowed one to go to Heaven if one confessed to one’s sins and endowed the Church with money and/or estates.” Though not a Catholic, I believe this misrepresents Catholic doctrine. For one thing, it omits any mention of penance.
Next (I’ve lost count of the paragraphs) he excoriates Thomas Penn, the author of The Winter King, about Henry VII. The way Breverton goes after Penn, Michael Hicks, et al. one would think they were wild-eyed Ricardians. They are not, but they do not overmuch admire Henry VII,”…there is a case to be made for Henry VII being the wisest and greatest king of England.” Yet he assures us he can be even-handed and dispassionate.
All this and we have only arrived at the beginning of the Introduction! Only 176 pages to go. That’s the good news.
Need I go on? I’m prepared to take up my lance and do battle for the cause. Just for the cause of puncturing the Breverton ego, if nothing else.