The Strange Reluctance to Accept Facts

Much of history is simply interpretation. You can interpret events, and facts, in various ways. Often there is no absolute truth and the interpretation depends on the standpoint of the historian. For example, a passionate Welsh nationalist is likely to see the events of 1282 in a rather different light to the interpretation of an English traditionalist historian who believes Edward I was a great king.

However, there are cases where absolute, established facts are disregarded. For example, people still pedal the myth that Richard III was planning to marry his niece, despite the established fact (known since at least 1983 to my certain knowledge) that Portuguese marriages were planned for both of them. It is almost as if the two proposed Portuguese marriages are not ‘sexy’ enough.

Another case is the peculiar belief held in some quarters that the marriage between Richard II and Anne of Bohemia was ‘chaste’. (Presumably, because they had no children, and this can only be because they never had sex.) There is, however, evidence that Anne had at least one miscarriage – it seems unlikely she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. In addition, in the very last year of her life, she was taking potions to promote fertility. Even in the 14th Century, people were not naive enough to do this while not having sex as well!

Why people persist in believing these myths I really don’t know, but they do.

4 comments

  1. Richard’s Portuguese marriage approach has always been known in Portugal, in connection with the history around their much-loved Holy Princess Joana who would have been his likely bride. It became more widely known there with publication of archives in the 1960s, and this was the route by which Arthur Kincaid acquired information about the proposed marriage which he published in his first edition of Sir George Buc(k)’s defence of Richard III (1979) page 306. Unfortunately most historians, including Ricardians, always dismissed Buc(k) because they were ignorant of his original book – which Arthur published for the first time 360 years after it was written. They only knew a rehashed travesty of the MS which was published in 1646 by a relative, George Buck Esq who stole it after poor Sir George Buc died. So they didn’t bother to read the real thing published by Arthur Kincaid, OR his revelatory introduction and notes to the text. Being one of the few who DID read Kincaid’s edition and took it seriously, I researched the matter of the marriage and found some scholarly articles in journals published by the Richard III Society in the 1980s. To the best of my knowledge my book ‘The Maligned King’ was the first popular history book to bring to a wide audience the full story of Richard’s marriage approaches to Portugal and Spain, illustrated with a full-colour portrait of Princess Joana – she of the flaming red hair! – still almost unknown at the time (2008). With my assistance John Ashdown-Hill followed up the story in ‘The Last Days of Richard III’ (2010), and there’s a credit to me buried somewhere in one of his endnotes. Basically, I doubt whether the facts of the matter were generally known at all before ‘The Maligned King’. As a P.S. I am currently working with Arthur Kincaid to publish a revised edition of Sir George Buc’s defence of Richard which should be in print by the end of 2022. Stand by for more news! (And there’s more about Princess Joana and her ‘Three Kings’ on my website.)

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  2. It’s because it’s psychologically hard to walk away from a long held position. So when facts inconvenient to that position are presented, as opposed to merely contrary opinions that can be easily discounted, a person is inclined to ignore them and turn a blind eye. This is not confined to attitudes to history but is endemic in human discourse and we see it every day in politics. Nevertheless, even if Richard and his queen were having sex it does not necessarily mean they had a close and loving relationship – all kings need heirs and the imperative to produce at least one was very clear; so even if one or both protagonists were disinclined to that level of physical intimacy they would have both had strong motives to get the deed done. This is one of those issues where the truth can only be guessed at and when that is the case inevitably folk will submit a range of theories, some far fetched and biased.

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