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Archive for the month “February, 2016”

Richard the football inspiration….?

Richard the Football Hero

Before I write another word, let me say that this post is meant to be light-hearted, and has nothing whatsoever to do with any ill-feeling about Leicester versus York.  I think the photograph is amusing and, as someone has posted on my Facebook page, how on  earth is he going to keep that hat on during the match?

So, here goes. A lot has been written recently about Richard’s galvanising effect upon the Leicester City football team, but it seems that Sportsgrid has caught him in the act! Here he is, photographed wearing the team colours. What a scoop!

How Richard III Has Leicester City On The Verge Of One Of The Greatest Upsets In Sports History

In another way, there may be something in this. This time last year, Leicester City were still in a relegation place but now lead by two points with eleven matches remaining. Is he an unofficial attack coach in an era when too many teams still rely on the pike wall?

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John Ashdown-Hill and the myths about Richard….

John Ashdown-Hill

http://www.chelmsfordweeklynews.co.uk/news/colchester/14304947.Top_Five_picks_for_this_year_s_Essex_Book_Festival/

For those who can get to Wivenhoe Library on March 2, one of the picks is John Ashdown-Hill’s The Mythology of Richard III:-

John Ashdown-Hill: The Mythology of Richard III, Wivenhoe Library, High Street, Wivenhoe, Wednesday, March 2, 7pm. £7, £5 concessions. THE Essex-based historian was one those responsible for finding the lost remains of Richard III under a Leicester car park in 2012. In his latest book he unravels the web of myths of a king who according to Shakespeare was a hunchback tyrant that killed his own nephews.the web of myths of a king who according to Shakespeare was a hunchback tyrant that killed his own nephews.

Appeal for Richard III event photographs….

Coffin about to leave for Leicester

If you have some photographs you took when Richard was taken to Leicester for reinterment, or any other shots taken at that time (and which might help to build a portrait of the king), there is to be display of such work at the present exhibition in the King Richard III Visitor Centre. To read more:

http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/Appeal-Richard-III-event-photographs-create-new/story-28752088-detail/story.html

Submissions by March 14th!

 

An oft-forgotten version of Shakespeare’s Richard III….

Vinnie's Richard

We all know the famous performances/interpretations of Shakespeare’s brilliant but almost totally untrue work on Richard III, but here’s another ‘Richard’ that often slips the memory. Vincent Price is known for his horror roles, especially Poe, but is not so famous for his Richard. I am prepared to be corrected, and to be told that his is the finest  of all time!

Vincent’s performance is to be found on a new collection of his films, reviewed at http://www.fangoria.com/new/the-vincent-price-collection-iii-blu-ray-review/, from which I’ve taken the following extract:

The second title on the set veers closer to horror, but despite its many murders and apparitions, TOWER OF LONDON (the Corman version, not the Basil Rathbone production that also featured Price) veers closer to the historical fiction of Shakespeare’s RICHARD III than Corman’s Poe films. Here, Price gives his most diverse performance of the set as the murderous, power-hungry Richard III, presented in a clear, beautiful HD transfer pulled from a fine grain film print.

I will not comment, because I have not seen it, but Vincent Price was always a gifted and entertaining presence. He’s a sad loss, and I still like to watch his films. That voice was unique.

(This collection of Vincent Price performances is also reviewed at http://www.thedigitalbits.com/item/vincent-price-collection-iii-bd)

Would Richard use vellum? Or paper?….

An argument has arisen for and against using vellum for recording our laws, as stored on the amazingly full shelves of the Act Room. Paper is indeed more perishable. Just imagine having the Magna Carta on paper! How insignificant it would appear. Not insignificant in content, of course, but all the same…

I have seen the magnificent charter that Richard III granted to the City of Gloucester. It is quite exquisite, and so vivid and crisp after all this time that it might have been signed and sealed only a few years ago. If it had been on paper, it would certainly not look the same.

So, vellum or paper? In the long run, given that vellum lasts 5,000 years or more, I guess the vellum has my vote. I know there are all sorts of reasons and sensibilities against it, but I’m still in favour of its continued use. It would have been used for the Lindisfarne Gospels, Domesday Book, Magna Carta, Edward I’s Treason Acts, de Heretico Comburendo, Titulus Regius, Richard’s bail laws and Henry VIII’s attainder against the insane Viscountess Rochford.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/12156813/Vellum-should-be-saved-in-a-bid-to-safeguard-our-great-traditions-says-minister.html?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter

Act Room, Houses of Parliament

So who is right?

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-3298555/You-DON-T-need-degree-enjoy-Shakespeare-says-furious-Antony-Sher.html

An animated Richard….?

FAIRYDark_Castle_Light_by_xEmBeRx

Oh, the perils of a single word, because it can completely colour one’s interpretation of an article. Ignoring all the porkies about Richard, if you were to read the following, what would you think?

“Animated portrayal of Shakespeare’s darkest villain, Richard Duke of Gloucester. In his unquenchable thirst for the Throne, Richard destroys his friends and family, including the innocent Princes in the Tower.”

The word in question, of course, is ‘animated’. For a moment I had a vision of the Disney treatment, with cute creatures and perhaps the odd comically evil spider hanging from a dark beam. But no, the article is about Anthony Sher’s 1994 portrayal of Shakespeare’s version of Richard III. ‘Animated’ in a different context. http://www.bfi.org.uk/films-tv-people/4ce2b7dd2c0d4

Unless . . . did Sher do a cartoon version as well . . .? If so, it passed me by somewhere.

Oh, and the real Richard was NOTHING like Shakespeare’s version, of course, but that’s another story….

Insurrection: Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace

insurrectionAn intriguing new book by historian Susan Loughlin is about to be published by The History Press on April 4th of this year (2016) detailing an event in world history that has perhaps gone unnoticed by some historians and those who run with the history blogs and bloggers.

 

Doc-grantham

Susan at The Angel and Royal Inn in Grantham outside the door of the room where Richard 3 signed Buckingham’s death warrant.

 

 

I first “met” Susan Loughlin  on the popular Facebook group “Ricardian” administered by author Stephen Lark that has over 1,000 members and counting.  (I’m one of the 7 moderators of that group.)  Susan has always brought her serious and knowledgeable input to issues relating to King Richard the Third and is known for her spunky attitude towards historians and others who dare to hand out misinformation about this much maligned king.  But her new book is not about Richard but relates the story of  Henry VIII and a popular rebellion that occurred in 1536 when 30,000 men took up arms against the king during the dissolution of the monasteries.  Her book “Insurrection:  Henry VIII, Thomas Cromwell and the Pilgrimage of Grace” is available for pre-order at Amazon.com and will be available in the USA/Canada in June/July:

http://www.amazon.com/insurrection-Henry-Thomas-Cromwell-Pilgrimage/dp/0750967331/ref

 

I was lucky enough to interview Susan this past month.  Here are some of her thoughts on her life, her new book and Ricardian issues.

Susie, can you tell us something about where you were born and grew up?

I was born in London, the daughter of Irish immigrants and grew up in the northern suburbs of the city.  I was educated at primary and secondary schools in Muswell Hill and Finchley.

Tell us something about your education.

I am grateful to the wonderful teachers I was fortunate enough to have – in particular, Mr. Steven Lilly, who encouraged my curiosity and love of the Humanities.  I vividly recall being taught the ‘traditional’ version of the Wars of the Roses at secondary school and recently had a conversation about this with my old school friend, Lydia.  We both remember being unconvinced by the narrative we were told with regard to Richard III.

I received eight O Levels and three A Levels (including one in History) and obtained a place in three UK universities to study History.  However, I decided to go to work for a year and deferred my places.  I then got used to a regular salary:  I took driving lessons, holidays, and in particular, a wonderful trip to California.  I remained working and changed careers to work in Local Government in London.  I also studied for my professional qualification whilst working and spent a number of years delivering front-line services in the London Borough of Barnet; the second largest borough.  Of course, Barnet was the site of one of the most prominent battles of the Wars of the Roses.  There are many roads in the area which bear testimony to this:  Gloucester Road, Warwick Road, Plantagenet Road, York Road, Lancaster Road and Woodville Road!  In addition, the local County Court sessions were held in a building named Kingmaker House!

When I relocated to Ireland, I decided to embark upon my study of History at the National University of Ireland, Galway.  This institution began life by Royal charter in the reign of Queen Victoria and was originally known as Queen’s University, Galway – a sister to the institutions in Belfast, Dublin and Cork.  Following the establishment of the Irish Republic, Galway became known as University College of Galway and most recently, the National University of Ireland, Galway.

I decided to pursue my passion for History, Classical Civilizations and Political Science.  It would have been tempting to take a pragmatic approach and opt for a potentially safe and lucrative path, such as Law, but I decided to pursue my own interests, for my own pleasure.  Academia is incredibly competitive and most people do not enter it in expectation of materialistic dividends.  It is, in fact, a labour of love.

I studied many different modules of History, including Irish, European, and English.  My A Level included Early Modern history, so I was drawn, in particular, to these subjects.  I was fortunate enough to study under many fine lecturers, including Professor Steven Ellis, a Tudor expert and the head of both the History department and the School of Humanities.  I am grateful for being endowed with the title University Scholar during my BA degree and graduated with First Class honours in both History and Political Science.  I then began studying for my research PhD, under the direction of Professor Ellis and obtained a scholarship and the title Galway Doctoral Research Fellow.

And here I was so proud of my little BA!  But I’m so happy to hear you defend the study of History and other areas of intellect when so many of people think University’s raison d’etre is to end up in a well-paying job.  That attitude is one of my pet peeves.

Please tell us what made you a Ricardian?

As I mentioned, I remember being taught the standard version of events regarding Richard III, the Battle of Bosworth and how Henry VII reunited the Houses of Lancaster and York.  However, like my school friend, I had misgivings with regard to the portrayal of Richard III.  He just appeared like a pantomime villain character and actually reminded me of the cartoon character ‘Dick Dastardly’ from ‘Wacky Races’!  Something just didn’t sit right and I was left with a lingering curiosity about the man.  I met a friend at work, who had actually studied Richard’s reign for both her BA and MA.  She was utterly convinced that the king was a victim of a Tudor smear campaign.

When I started studying Henry VIII in depth, I realized what a deeply insecure individual he was.  His father’s ‘claim’ to the throne was, at best, flimsy and by all accounts, Henry VII was extremely paranoid.  This trait was evidently passed on to his son.  Henry VIII was totally obsessed with securing the Tudor dynasty by providing a male heir; something which eluded him until the birth of Prince Edward in 1537.  It occurred to me that only interlopers would be insecure and systematic in their attempt to conceal the truth and justify their own positions.  It is well known how Henry VII behaved in eradicating Plantagenet claimants; a task completed by his son with the obscene execution of the sixty-seven year old Countess of Salisbury, Margaret Pole.  (Margaret’s son, Reginald, was in exile on the continent and managed to avoid capture, despite Henry having assassins in pursuit of him.)

That has got to be one of the more grisly of Henry VIII’s many grisly acts!  There is a paucity of evidence for Richard’s reign – why is  this?

The contemporary accounts which do exist are contradictory and flawed.  It is not the place for a discussion of the sources here but I would recommend Annette Carson’s Richard III:  The Maligned King, The History Press, Stroud, 2013, pp. 330-348  for a succinct appraisal.  What I would add, however, is that it is simply preposterous to any serious historian to accept either Thomas More’s The History of King Richard III or Shakespeare’s play, The Tragedy of King Richard III (written in 1592) as sources.  More was born in 1478 and, as such, was five years old when Richard was crowned.  In addition, his mentor had been John Morton.  The same Morton who had conspired against Richard and was Archbishop of Canterbury by Henry VII in 1486.

More’s work was never finished.  Why was this?

I find it incredulous that one of the leading Humanist scholars of the day (a frequent correspondent of Erasmus) should have included such demonstrably ludicrous ‘facts’ as Richard being born after a two year gestation, with a full set of teeth.  My own view is that Thomas More was, to use a London colloquialism, ‘having a laugh’.

A central tenet of my own personality is contempt for injustice.  Given the lack of credible sources and blatant Tudor propaganda, I believe Richard III has been vilified, without the evidence to support such claims.

Let me be clear, I do not hold a romanticized view of the man nor perceive him as a knight in shining armour.  He was not a saint.  Far from it.  But let us place him in the context of his times and not project our own values onto him.  Let us not assume to know him or his thoughts from small crumbs of evidence.  He was a medieval magnate and king.  He did things that were necessary to survive and protect his own interests.  Did he love Anne Neville or marry for land and wealth?  Frankly, I do not care!  We cannot speculate about his mind-set.  We cannot extrapolate grandiose theories from what little we have.  He was not a Lollard; neither was he a Renaissance prince.  He was simply a prince of the blood, forced into a situation where he had, I believe, no option but to accept the crown offered to him by the Three Estates of the Realm.  What was the alternative?  I leave you to ponder that.

I will!

Richard III is a ‘victim’ of injustice – caused not only by Tudor propaganda but the chaotic set of circumstances that his brother, King Edward IV bequeathed to him.

Yes, Edward certainly left a mess.  Given your Ricardian bona fides, how did you turn to the subject of Henry the 8th and the dissolution of the monasteries?

My university did not offer a module on The Wars of the Roses, so, as discussed above, I studied English, Irish and European Early Modern History.  Professor Ellis is a specialist in peripheral Tudor regions and administration and also in the religious aspects of Henry VIII’s reign.  We decided that I would research the Pilgrimage of Grace – it combined a study of the North of England and the Henrician religious experiment.

Let’s talk about your new book.  Perhaps because I’m American, I do not know much about the pushback of 30,000 men against Henry’s very famous actions.  Can you tell us a little about these men and what they did or did not accomplish?

That’s interesting, Maire, because I was completely unaware of the Pilgrimage of Grace until I studied it as an undergraduate under Professor Ellis.  It had obviously been ‘air-brushed’ out of conventional, general, Whig interpretations of the English Reformation.  Hence, only those in academia or with an avid and thorough knowledge of the reign of Henry VIII would be familiar with it.  And I shudder when I think of the inaccurate portrayal of the event in the TV series, ‘The Tudors’!

Essentially, the Pilgrimage was the largest popular rising against a Tudor monarch and had the potential to threaten Henry’s throne.  30,000 men, of all social orders took up arms against the king in the autumn of 1536.  Their intentions were abundantly clear – they wished for a return to the ‘old ways’ of religious worship, for the monasteries to stand and for Princess Mary’s reinstatement as Henry’s heir.

The Pilgrims succeeded in so far as the king was forced to agree to a truce in order to cease hostilities and a copy of the rebels’ grievances were taken to him by two of the rebel leaders.  Henry was indignant and felt that his honour was much diminished and reluctantly agreed to consider their grievances and convene a parliament in York to discuss the issues.  He issued a pardon but it is apparent that he had no intention of honouring it – he only wished to stop the rising’s momentum.  When some disenchanted rebels realized that the King and Duke of Norfolk had been duplicitous, further risings ensued in 1537.  This afforded Henry the opportunity to seek retribution for the events of the previous autumn.

The Pilgrimage was a missed opportunity for religious conservatives and the book discusses the pitfalls that prevented the movement achieving its explicit aims.  One rebel, however, is particularly interesting, in that he did not fit the usual Pilgrim ‘profile’ and is something of an enigma.  Sir Francis Bigod was a Yorkshire gentleman and a known Evangelical.  His behavior has been somewhat a puzzle to historians.  In 1536, he was a staunch defender of King Henry’s religious innovations and expressed his desire to be a priest and preacher in a letter to Cromwell in April.  A few months earlier, he had reported the Abbot of Whitby for denying the Royal Supremacy.  Thus his involvement as one of the leaders of renewed rebellion in January 1537 is hard to reconcile with his previous behavior.  He even wrote a treatise denouncing the Royal Supremacy and arguing the king could not have ‘cure’ of his subjects’ souls.  Needless to say, he paid the price with his life.

The book also examines the punishment handed out by a vengeful monarch and explains why some former rebels managed successfully to rehabilitate themselves.  The links between retribution and reward are examined in a study of patronage and the governance of the region in the aftermath of the rebellion.

Another rising in the North was not attempted against until 1569, in the reign of Elizabeth, but this, I would suggest, illustrates the latent conservative nature of the inhabitants and a lingering resentment with changes imposed upon them by force and betrayal.  Historians Michael Bush and David Bownes have argued that if the Pilgrimage had succeeded the Anglican Church was ‘certain’ to return to Roman Catholicism and that the dissolutions would not have occurred (see Bush & Bownes, The Defeat of the Pilgrimage of Grace, University of Hull Press, 1999).  Had the Pilgrimage been successful, the course of English religious history, would arguably have been very different.

As always, English history fascinates and perplexes at the same time.  Thank you, Susie and congratulations on your new book. Read more…

Did Richard III Really Say That?

RICARDIAN LOONS

My morning ritual involves making a pot of coffee: I can’t function without it! Normally, I don’t connect Richard III with the process of brewing a pot of Joe, but today, I happened to reach for a coffee mug that I’d received as a gift upon graduating from law school in 1993. I laughed to myself, because it was emblazoned with the quote “Kill all the lawyers” and it attributed that statement to King Richard. My friends obviously had a wicked sense of humor in giving me the mug, but they didn’t know it was doubly relevant to me, both as a lawyer and a history buff with a fascination for that monarch.

Richard III mug Did Richard III hate lawyers?

Twenty years later, I was attending a continuing legal education course on advanced trial techniques, and – much to my surprise – the lecturer brought up the “Kill all the lawyers” quote.  …

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The life and death of Elizabeth of York…

Elizabeth_of_York_right_facing_portrait

ca. 1825 — This illustration was published in . — Image by © Stapleton Collection/Corbis

Here is a ‘potted’ history of this enigmatic lady. I say enigmatic because she and Henry VII were thought to have married and then fallen in love, but no one really knows. He was certainly devastated when she died in childbirth, but was it the devastation of heartbreak? We will never find out, I suspect, although it does seem likely that it was. Would she have been devastated if he had been the one to die? We’ll never know that either.

If love it was, she did not once express an opinion about the past…especially of her uncle, Richard III. I write this without recourse to the letter that Buck claimed to have seen, because that is yet another thing that will most likely never be proved. And the letter could be read in more than one way. Even so, the story has arisen that she was in love with Richard. If she was, it might indeed explain why she held her tongue about him.

There was nothing Henry would have appreciated more than for her to condemn Richard and his actions. But she didn’t. Nor did her siblings, or even her mother. That I know of, anyway. So, why didn’t she make her feelings known? Especially if she and Henry had fallen in love? We will never know, but I have always found it a curious point. Perhaps Buck’s letter should be taken at face value after all…?

Anyway, here is a link to the article that made me think again about the enigma of Elizabeth of York

The Life and Death of Elizabeth of York

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