The Madness of King Richard III
A while back, Sunday, December 3rd, 2017, to be exact, I was looking through The New York Times Book Review section when I came across playwright Alan Bennett’s new book called “Keeping On Keeping On.” It was a mildly interesting review of his diary (ODD SPOILER ALERT: he once shared the same doctor as Sylvia Plath) until I got to this: “He’s so upset at what the Richard III Society has done to an old church that he rips down their banner and ‘would have burned it, had I had a match.'” Brow knitted, I wondered: what have those wild-eyed, tweedy academic types been up to this time??
Well, a brief Google search provided a hint in yet another book review, this time from the London Review of Books. In published excerpts from 2014, Bennett dismisses the significance of finding Richard the Third’s remains although admitting that the reconstructed head looks astonishingly like his famed portrait. Comparing Ricardians to those who believe Edward DeVere was a genius while William Shakespeare nothing more than the dim-bulb son of a rural glove-maker, he goes on to say this:
“Just east of Leeds and not far from Towton and its bloody battlefield is Lead Church, a medieval cell of a chapel which possibly served as a refuge or a dressing station after the battle in 1461. I have known the chapel since I was a boy when I used to go out there on my bike. It stands in the middle of a field, the grass grazed by sheep right up to the south door and has latterly been in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust. It was untouched as late as 2000 when it figured in an article I wrote for The World of Interiors. However, calling there a few years ago we found that the grass outside the south door had been replaced or supplemented by a patio not even in York stone but in some fake composition. Inside, draped in front of the altar was a gaudy banner advertising the Richard III Society. This I rolled up and had I had the means would have destroyed. I wrote to the CCT, who generally do a decent job but was told the patio had been there for many years. It hadn’t and I suspect the culprits were the Richard III Society, who see the church as a Yorkist site…”
According to Mr. Bennett, not only have Ricardians managed to rehabilitate the name of the last Yorkist king but apparently have gone into the concrete, paving and masonry business! Of course, he offers no proof that the Society had anything to do with building a bad-taste deck on the back of a medieval church but when it comes to the world of denialists, I suppose any insult will do.* Luckily for them, while we Ricardian hard hats may be expert at mixing concrete along with our metaphors, we no longer prepare “Chicago overcoats” or cement shoes for those who have differing opinions…
*The website of St. Mary Lead reports only that it received a grant from The Richard the Third Society for renovations. It says nothing about the Society directing or instructing or approving the work.