Courtesy of the Mortimer History Society:
Having heard that Leicester Cathedral were staging a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III inside the Cathedral itself, feet from where Richard is buried, I felt I had to do something to protest. It is not that I object to Leicester putting plays on in the Cathedral, although some do. Nor do I hate Shakespeare’s Richard III per se – it is true that he would not be anywhere near as famous without Shakespeare, although perhaps many would feel it preferable if he were less well known and less vilified. And Shakespeare was, of course, a genius, a fact which serves Richard ill because the plays, including the Bard’s Richard III, will never stop being performed. We must try to ensure that any future production of it will incorporate a disclaimer stating that it is fiction and giving a summary of the true Richard.
But it is quite a different matter to stage the play beside Richard’s tomb. So, I started a petition and was lucky enough to be interviewed about it on my local radio station, BBC Essex. Here is the transcript of the interview (there is a link at the bottom to BBC iPlayer, but it will be there only until the end of May 2017):
Dave Monk: Now you may be familiar with the incredible story about Richard III. Now the king was killed following his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth, fought in 1485. His remains were found recently, unearthed beneath a Leicester car park. Well, they now reside in Leicester Cathedral, but a bit of a row has broken out because a production company wants to stage a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III right there. And funnily enough (he said, name-dropping) I was with the Duke of Gloucester this afternoon, who’s all part of that, of course, because he was Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Critics say it is disrespectful and insensitive as the play portrays Richard in a bad light. Oh, yes it does. Well, Essex author, Joanne Larner, from Rayleigh, is behind the petition calling for the performance to be stopped. And I’d like to know why that is. Joanne, great to have you on. Why have you set this up?
Joanne: Well, it’s just, I thought it was such, a…I was so disappointed. I’ve visited the Cathedral several times and I even was there for the reinterment and I thought they did it really well and they promised to treat Richard’s remains with dignity and honour and I’m so disappointed and saddened and completely disgusted now that they’re doing this because it is almost as if they are dancing on his grave, in a way and I don’t think they are keeping their side of the bargain of treating his remains with dignity and honour.
Dave: Because, let’s face it, Rich – sorry, Shakespeare’s Richard III, Richard was the bad guy. He was a scheming, nasty hunchback, a nasty king, and that’s how he was portrayed and we have no idea whether that’s the truth or not, have we?
Joanne: Oh yes we do!
Dave: Oh go on, then.
Joanne: Well. we think that that portrayal was partly Tudor propaganda – Shakespeare was writing in Tudor times and Tudor had to defame Richard’s character to justify his own taking of the throne. And also, I think as well that Shakespeare may have been doing a satire on a politician of his day, Robert Cecil, who was a hunchback and who was very unpopular. And so, it might not even necessarily be solely about Richard. But, in any case it’s fiction, it isn’t history and the real Richard actually did a lot of good things. I could give you some examples if you’d like to know some of the good things he did.
Dave: Yeah, I’d really like to know, yes.
Joanne: Well, he tried to stamp out corruption of the juries. He was only king for two years, as you know, and he only had one Parliament, but he did all this. He brought in a primitive form of legal aid for the poor, he encouraged reading and learning, he exempted books from taxes – that’s not the action of a tyrant, they usually discourage learning and reading. He had his laws made in English for the first time, so that more people could understand them, he was known before his brother died to be just, loyal and courageous. He was the last English king to die in battle, defending his country and his crown.
Dave: Well, let’s face it we’ve got to always remember, that it’s the victors who write the history books.
Joanne: Exactly, yes.
Dave: You’ve always got to keep that in mind, haven’t you? Why your fascination?
Joanne: Well, I only got interested, actually, after they found him and I saw the documentary and it absolutely fascinated me. And especially the lady, Philippa Langley, who was so passionate about him and I thought, well, how can someone be so passionate about someone who’s been dead five hundred years? And it made me research him and find out about him and I was so inspired that I’ve actually written three novels about him now.
Dave: Pretty good going, isn’t it, really?
Joanne: Mmm, and I’m just as passionate as she is. So – there’s a lot of us and we all feel really strongly about him.
Dave: So, if it is, I mean you say it’s fiction, if Shakespeare’s Richard III is just fiction, why the big deal? Why the big problem?
Joanne: Well, simply because it portrays him in such a bad light. He’s portrayed as an evil hunchbacked tyrant who murdered his way to the throne and to perform that play literally feet from his grave, I think is just terrible.
Dave: How’s the petition going so far? Have you got much support?
Joanne: Well, it’s only been on for a few days, we’ve already over seven hundred, but obviously the more, the merrier, so anybody else who’d like to sign, I’d really welcome it. You know, it you feel as outraged as I do. I mean, I know Leicester Cathedral do have to make money and they’ve put on other plays there which some people don’t like but I understand that, you know, that they can’t, they don’t charge an entrance fee to the Cathedral, and they’ve put on Richard III before, so they say, but that was before Richard was there. And it’s this juxtaposition of that play and that place that’s the problem.
Dave: Oh alright, Joanne, thank you very much. Joanne Larner, Essex author, from Rayleigh and she is behind that petition to get that performance of Richard III stopped.
Since the interview, we have reached well over a thousand signatures – please add yours by clicking the picture of his tomb below.
Clcik here for link to hear interview – starts near the end of the programme, about 2:45-46
Review by Elke Paxson
Sunnes And Roses – it’s finally here, the new album by The Legendary Ten Seconds. This new one focuses on the history and some of the events and people during the War of The Roses. Like the music of the 3 CDs about Richard III, this is a unique and quite excellent mix of English Folk with a touch of Medieval music and a hint of Rock.
The new album starts off with a song commemorating the battle of Towton, the biggest battle ever fought on English soil and the battle that brought Edward IV to the throne. Quite fitting – the song has a powerful intro with the sound of cannons. It moves on with a forceful rhythm and it has a really rich sound to it.
List of the Dead – this one has a foot tapping rhythm and it’s needed as the lyrics tell of the many battles, the long list of the dead through the many years of the “Cousins’ War”. Quite superbly done.
The Jewel – is a really pretty song. It tells the story of the stunning “Jewel of Middleham” found in 1985 by Ted Seaton. There is a beautiful trumpet intro before a number of other instruments are added – acoustic guitar, percussion, strings and tambourine.
Good King Richard – this is a very nice and rousing duet with Camilla Joyce and Gentian Dyer. It’s going back and forth between accusations and King Richard’s side – very well done with great musical sound and sound effects! Love the song.
Sunnes And Roses – an excellent instrumental. The guitar picking is just outstanding!! It has a very memorable sound!
Battle In The Mist – is a haunting an engaging song about the Battle of Barnet. It’s a good story and its instrumentation and the rhythm come together quite nicely.
Richard of York – this song is about the pretender Perkin Warbeck or was he…. Love the beautiful guitar intro of this song. The harmonies, strings and the guitar sound make it so very beautiful.
King’s Daughter – the second instrumental on this album. This is a really pretty combination of a love song with a fine medieval touch to it.
Middleham Castle on Christmas Eve – one of my all-time favourite songs. It brings everything together – beautiful lyrics that combine the past with the present, the instruments, the sound of the percussions, the harmonies. Fantastic.
A Warwick – the title tells the colourful story of the Kingmaker, the powerful Earl of Warwick. The song moves along nicely and has a swift beat to it.
Souvente Me Souvene – Remember me often, is another instrumental and also the motto of Harry Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham.
Autumn Rain – and speaking of Buckingham….this one is also about him or rather about the “washed out” October rebellion of 1483 that he was subsequently beheaded for. The song is pretty neat and the sound effects are quite fitting.
A Herald’s Lament – a sad song for sure, but it’s not a slow song as you might expect. It tells the story of a herald’s return to an unknown place – perhaps the city elders of York or King Richard’s mother Cecily.
Tewkesbury Medieval Fair – Time to go back in time yet again. This is a really nice song about the annual medieval fair in Tewkesbury. The way it presented it’s easy to imagine yourself being there.
Ian Churchward and The Legendary Ten Seconds have produced another tremendous album full of expertly written songs, fabulous music with a rich sound that brings history to life in a very profound way. ENJOY!
For anyone who might be interested in this fabulous new album, it is available on Amazon.com, at CDbaby.com for download and it should be available in CD format from the Richard III Society by the 31st of January 2017.
There is an announcement in The Millstone community newspaper for Mississippi Mills and The Area, of a lecture on March 31st on whether or not Richard III was a villain. It sounds as if it will be interesting:
Look very carefully, I will say this only once. There IS a little article in among all the darned adverts!
Helen Cox is to give a talk on whether Richard was a hero or a villain. It is always difficult where he is concerned, because whenever he is described as the boy’s uncle, the uninitated (and set-in-concrete traditionalists) envisage a much older, untrustworthy man, who’d been around the royal block a good few times and knew how to bend every rule in sight. An undoubtedly wicked man. Something along the lines of the troublesome uncles around the boy-king Richard II. John of Gaunt was not wicked, but was always suspected of planning to steal the throne for himself. Shakespeare depicts Richard III as this stereotype.
But Richard III didn’t fit the criteria, because he was honourable, and apart from anything else he was a young man. Yet because of the Bard and the repulsive Tudors, it is the sterotype of him that always surges to the fore.
Once upon a time, back in the Middle Ages, a large, thriving Welsh city existed between Monmouth and the village of Trellech. Its size was astounding for the day—it had 10,000 inhabitants (for comparison London had 40,000.) Another 10,000 souls may have lived in a shanty town along its edges.
What makes Trellech’s size particularly startling is that it reached this number in a mere 25 years, meaning that vast numbers of people must have been flooding into the area. This was undoubtedly something to do with the powerful de Clare lords, who held the local lands and used Trellech for smelting iron for their personal army.
Then…something happened. It possibly began with a devastating raid over poaching deer, which destroyed a large portion of the town. Then the Black Death roared in during the 1300’s, causing the population to drop dramatically. More trouble followed in the early 15th century when Owain Glyndwr was on the rampage in those debatable borderlands. By the time of the Civil War, the city had been completely abandoned, and soon nature reclaimed what was once its own, and grass grew over the walls of once mighty Trellech.
By modern times, it was mainly known through a few medieval documents and in local legend, its precise location lost and subject to much speculation, with many believing it was sited under the modern village of Trellech.
No one seemed terribly interested in definitively locating it and finding out if it was as extensive and important as claimed, although some earlier surveys were indicative. But then an enthusiastic young archaeologist, intrigued by the story of the lost city, decided to use his life savings to buy the fields where folklore said Trellech stood.
And it turned out, when the trenches were dug, that legend, this time, was correct.
The project is ongoing, so if anyone is in the area and wishes to join in this summer, there are details in the second link.
Besides the archaeological site of the city, the nearby village of Trellech is itself worth a visit, with its Holy Well dedicated to saint Anne, the Grade I Church of Saint Nicholas, a castle motte called the Tump, a 16th C pub, and three enormous Bronze Age standing stones (Harold’s Stones) which are aligned on the Midwinter sunset.
The Tower of London is holding an event of interest to Ricardians. Between December 27 and 31, you will be able to enter King Richard III’s court as it celebrates Christmas 1484.
Court intrigue and plotting takes place amidst the pageantry, glorious costumes, and revels, all under the eye of the traditional Lord of Misrule.
Events begin at 11 A.M. with the King’s Arrival, then progress to ‘Court and Conspiracy’ at 11:30 and 14:30, and ‘The Hunt’ at 1:30 and 15:30.
It is nice to see Richard’s reign getting some recognition, although we do not yet know how fair a view the entertainment will take. It is too easy (or should that be lazy?) for someone au fait only with Shakespeare or bad documentaries to imagine that such a short time was spent in nothing but warfare and misery, with the Tower a sinister symbol (which it was generally not, being a royal palace, not just a place of imprisonment). Richard liked a good party!