Richard and the invisible snake….?
I must have read about this before, but it feels new somehow. Supposedly, the man in blue (see below) is Richard of Gloucester/Richard III. The illustration is part of the Coventry Tapestry, which is housed in St Mary’s Guild Hall, and which is still in the place for which it was created. I wasn’t sure if the kneeling king on the bottom left was EIV or HVII (the latter didn’t seem likely, as the figure is alive, and Richard certainly wasn’t when Henry became king).
Then it was pointed out to me that the king was most probably HVI. This prompted me to look into it a little more, and I came upon the following from the Coventry Telegraph
“Coventry Tapestry reveals car park king
“A figure depicted in the magnificent 500 year old tapestry at St. Mary’s Guildhall could well be one of the earliest depictions of King Richard III, whose remains, discovered in 2012 beneath a Leicester car park, were recently confirmed as those of the controversial English monarch.
“The tapestry’s highly detailed design includes seventy five individual characters, including angels, saints, apostles, and noble members of a royal court, arranged around a central image of the Virgin Mary. Whilst no contemporary records exist as to the exact identity of many of the characters, certain clues have been observed that strongly suggest that Richard is amongst them.
[See illustrations below for the footnotes in the text.]
“Firstly, the figure is shown carrying a coin ¹ in his right hand, used elsewhere in art of the time to represent a ‘Judas’ character with a history of treachery for personal gain, whilst in his left hand the figure was originally depicted holding a snake ² – another emblem of evil and deviousness – which at a later date was removed leaving a distinctive outline.
“By way of further evidence, the figure bears a striking resemblance to two of the earliest, and most trusted, portraits of King Richard III in the collection of the Royal Society of Antiquaries, from eye colour and hair curls, right down to slightly deformed hands and misshapen shoulders ³. Intriguingly, it has been proposed that one of these portraits was painted by Sir Thomas More, who may have been familiar with the tapestry as he came to Coventry on several occasions to visit his sister who lived in the city.
“Whilst Richard III had died a few years before the dating of the tapestry, it is thought that the tapestry depicts an earlier period, that of King Henry VI – who is also shown on the tapestry – when Richard was Richard of Gloucester. Henry VI was revered for many years after his death, with miracles even recorded in his name, and he was fondly remembered in Coventry where he chose to base himself and his royal court for a period during the Wars of the Roses. Under the new Tudor monarchy of Henry VII it was politically wise to maintain, and even encourage, adoration of the much-loved Henry VI. Moreover, showing such respect for the old Lancastrian King Henry, gave the Tudor monarch a chance to boost his image, tarnished by his weak claim to the throne and the manner in which he seized it from the Yorkist Richard III in battle.
“There were suspicions that Richard was linked to the death of King Henry VI in 1471, and placing Richard in the tapestry with symbols of dastardly deeds may have been a subtle piece of propaganda, with those behind the tapestry not only remembering their favourite king, but also pleasing the new Tudor monarchy by presenting Richard as the baddie in this wonderful woven story.”