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Terry Jones’ opinion of Richard III….

RIII - Royal Collection

I am a great fan of Terry Jones’ writing/opinions when it comes to medieval history, and today just happens to be Terry’s birthday.

That he supports King Richard II I already knew, but I did not know he also thinks highly of King Richard III. What I write below is taken from a book, which itself was originally inspired by the television series Terry Jones’ Medieval Lives, produced by Oxford Films and Television for BBC Television and first broadcast on BBC2 in 2004. It was first published in hardback 2004, and in paperback in 2005.

So, it has to be emphasised that Jones’ opinions were expressed before Richard’s remains were discovered in Leicester. Before so much more had been discovered about that much-wronged king. Jones was a Ricardian at least as far back as 2004. And please do not think that anything in the following paragraphs is my opinion, I merely take from Jones’ writing in order to convey his view of Richard III. So the comments about the bones displayed in the Tower, and Richard’s second coronation in York are his views. The illustrations are my additions. Please buy the book, it’s well worth reading.

Book cover

Toward the end of the book, when he reaches the matter of Richard III, he expresses his view by launching straight in that the king we all know (from Shakespeare) is very different from the actual man who sat on the throne between 1483-5. Jones refers to the Bard’s character of Richard III as a ‘cardboard cut-out’, to be ‘booed and hissed’, but points out that this creation was written when the Tudors were on the throne. Tudor propaganda is to blame for the wilful and cruel destruction of the real Richard III. An extraordinary effort was made to create the story that Richard plotted to seize the throne of England and then ruled as a brutal tyrant.

R384RS

Anthony Sher as ~Shakespeare’s Richard III

Medieval kings ruled by consent, which mostly meant the consent of the nobility of southern and central England, with the earls

In the north being gradually edged aside, which eventually led to the Wars of the Roses, which had ended with Edward IV defeating the northern nobility.

Edward chose his brother Richard to govern in the north, and Richard duly arrived in 1476 with 5000 men. This might have been deemed a threat by the city fathers, but according to their records: ‘After greetings were exchanged, the duke addressed the civic officials within Bootham Bar, saying that he was sent by the king to support the rule of law and peace.’

And so he did, devoting himself to the minutiae of government and justice. He heard pleas on quite small matters:

‘Right and mighty prince and our full tender and especial good lord, we your humble servants, havnyg a singler confidence in your high and noble lordship afore any other, besecheth your highnesse. . .concerning the reformation of certain fish traps. . . In 1482 the York gave him gifts, ‘for the great labour, good and benevolent lordship that the right, high and might prince have at all times done for the well of the city.’ Richard was presented with: ‘6 pike, 6 tenches, 6 breme, 6 eels and 1 barrel of sturgeon’, a local speciality of spiced bread, and fourteen gallons of wine to wash it all down.’

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville

But the darkest story to damn Richard for posterity was the deaths of his two nephews, the sons of Edward IV. Edward, when dying, named his 12-year-old son, another Edward, as his successor. He also designated Richard as Lord Protector, the guard the kingdom and the boy himself until the latter was of age. Richard was in the north when the king died on 9 April 1483, and did not know what had happened. The little king-to-be was in the hands of his mother’s family, the ambitious Woodvilles, who had no intention of giving up power to Richard, Duke of Gloucester. Keeping him in the dark, they began to rush the boy to London, intending to have him crowned on 4 May, but Richard found out, and intercepted them. Outwitted them too. Taking charge of the boy, he escorted him to London, where the future king was installed in the royal apartments at the Tower. The coronation was rescheduled for 22 June, but on the 13th of the month, an extensive plot against Richard was exposed. This caused Richard to see that his younger nephew, another Richard, was placed in the Tower. The boys were thus together, and then the coronation was deferred until November.

Evil Richard with Edward V

This was because on 22 June, Dr Edward (sic) Shaa, brother of the mayor of London, declared to the citizens of London that Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville, which had taken place in secret, had been illegal because the king was precontracted to marry Lady Eleanor Talbot.

Richard of Gloucester had been a dutiful and loyal lieutenant for Edward IV, and had spent many years governing the north in his name. Richard was ‘popular, widely trusted, knew everyone and was a capable administrator’. Now he had learned that the children of the Woodville marriage were illegitimate. This meant that Richard himself was the rightful successor.

Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III

Everyone agreed with this, and he was acclaimed king on 26 June and crowned on 6 July. Then the princes seem to have vanished, and in due course Tudor spin would make it seem that Richard had them killed.

The Coronation Procession of Richard III, 1483

The Coronation of Richard III

King Louis the First and Last (see http://www.catherinehanley.co.uk/historical-background/king-louis-of-england), is generally regarded as not being a king of England because he had no coronation. However, the eldest son of Edward IV is counted as Edward V, even though he was never crowned and certainly did not rule. Jones believes this was entirely due to Henry Tudor, who had no ‘meaningful’ claim to the throne, but had seized it in 1485 when Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry, a usurper, saw how helpful it would be for him if Richard could be designated a regicide. That was why the boy Edward was recognized as a king, even though he never had been. And if anyone had a motive for killing the boys in the Tower, it was Henry Tudor!

‘The bones of two children are still on show in the Tower [sic], proof of Richard’s wicked deed. They were discovered in the seventeenth century, and examined in 1933, when they were said to be vital evidence of the crime. But no-one knows when they date from.’

Everything we know of Richard reveals him not to have been a tyrant. To quote Jones: ‘Almost the first thing he [Richard] did on becoming king was to pay off £200 he owed to York wine merchants. Now there’s a tyrant for you!’

RIII and Anne Neville

Next Richard, with his queen, Anne, rode north with his entire court, to stage a second coronation. The city of York was notified in advance by the king’s secretary:

‘Hang the streets thorough which the king’;s grace shall come with clothes of arrass, tapestry work and other, for there commen many southern lords and men of worship with them.’ 

The city put on a particularly lavish display, and all the city fathers, with the mayor, wore scarlet robes as they rode with the king and queen. York seemed to be made of cloth, and the monarchs stopped to watch ‘elaborate shows and displays’.

Of course, all this did not go down well with southern lords. It plunged still farther when Richard gave his northern friends plum places at court. That was why the unworthy outside, Henry Tudor, gained support. He had no real right to claim the throne, but he managed, through treachery, to kill Richard at Bosworth.

Henry Tudor is crowned at Bosworth

York was devastated. ‘King Richard late mercifully reigning upon us was through great treason of the Duke of Northfolk and many others that turned ayenst him, with many other lords and nobles of these north parts, piteously slain and murdred to the great heaviness of this city.’ 

The only reason we have been brainwashed into believing ill of Richard III is because the Tudors were clever and forceful when it came to spinning their side of events. Henry Tudor’s reign commenced shakily, so he invented a bogeyman.

When Richard was alive, writer John Rous wrote of him as ‘a mighty prince and especial good Lord’. Under the Tudors, Rous ‘portrayed him as akin to the Antichrist’: ‘Richard spent two whole years in his mother’s womb and came out with a full set of teeth’. Shakespeare also wrote under a Tudor monarch, and his sources were Tudor documents.

‘Propaganda, thy name is Henry.’

Richard III - reconstruction

Reconstruction of Richard III

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A question of age

Drifting in and out of various history groups on the net, a very strange thing has become apparent. There are some out there who truly believe  Richard III’s death was ‘the end of the Middle Ages’ and that he stood in the way of the wonderful, burgeoning Renaissance like some great big dinosaur with both feet firmly planted in the past.

Of course, by pretty much anyone’s standard, Henry Tudor was a ‘medieval king’ as much as Richard, and the Renaissance wasn’t halting for anyone–it was firmly on its way to England and had been for some years prior to Bosworth. Richard certainly was not stopping it.

But putting that aside, there has also been on occasion rather extraordinary comments to the effect of ‘Francis Lovell was a remainder of the ‘old guard’ too set in his ways to embark on the bright new course laid out by Henry Tudor’. This gives a wrong impression that somehow Henry Tudor was a uniquely inspired youth, while Lovell and Richard were  a pair of ancient  stick-in-the-muds, both figuratively and literally! I even read one blog where Henry at Bosworth is described as the ‘young Henry Tudor’, implying that Richard was much older than him, not a mere four years.

Hello, people! These guys were all young men, Tudor, Francis Lovell and Richard, with only a few years between them. No one was stuck in a rut, none of them were old enough to be.  I am pretty darn sure Lovell wasn’t, to paraphrase the familiar saying, an ‘old dog who can’t learn new tricks.’

I blame Shakespeare whose messing with dates ended up giving us a much older Richard than reality–and hence a bevy of middle-aged and sometimes older actors to play him, with the other figures in his life also being portrayed as much older than their true ages. (Edward and Buckingham are frequently portrayed as rather ancient.)

Added to this, The White Queen and The White Princess gave us, pretty much for the first time, a hunky young Henry with designer stubble (although, in fairness, The White Queen did, for once, also give us a  hunky Richard who was around the correct age.)

As far as age confusion, it happens a lot with Richard, but there was a bit of a turnaround at the Bosworth re-enactment this year, and I don’t mean the alternative battle where Richard won the day. The commentator slipped up, and told the crowd that  Henry was ‘an older man’ at the time of Bosworth. Oops!

hunkyhenry‘Hunky’ young  Henry VII ala the White Queen

SHAKYRRichard, played by old dude, with all the Shakespearean trimmings

HENRY.The real young Henry, drawing from life

 

RIII - Royal CollectionRichard, NPG, copy of lost original

How we went around the mulberry tree….

Mulberry tree

Well now, apart from the old nursery rhyme, “Here we go round the mulberry tree”, what else do we know about the history of mulberries in England, except that the colour “murrey” is a contraction of the name? Here is a link (that contains other links) to tell you all about it, including that Shakespeare had a black mulberry tree in his garden at Stratford. It was felled in 1756, which James Boswell described as “an act of ‘gothick barbarity’ by the then owner of New Place, the Reverend Francis Gastrell. Apparently tired of continual visits by tourists asking to see the tree, Gastrell chopped it down. Having provoked the ire of Stratford residents, Gastrell left the town.”

London Charterhouse in 1756Painting of London Charterhouse alms-house (on the left) and boys’ school (around the large quadrangle to the right) in 1756, by an unknown artist.  Preacher’s Court is the curved open space to the left (east). The area of trees to the north would be Pardon Churchyard, referred to in the Letters Patent when the alms-house and school were founded. Charterhouse Square is seen in the foreground and was the burial site for tens of thousands of victims of the Black Death in the 14th century.

 

I wonder …

Was the late Ronnie Barker a Ricardian?

He made something of a habit of referring to Richard’s family. In “The Two Ronnies”: His rhyming slang vicar spoke of “a small brown Richard III” (bird),
The pair did a Shakespeare scene mentioning as many television programmes as they could (eg “…the Tyrannies…” for themselves),
Peter Sellers guested once, impersonating Laurence Olivier as Shakespeare’s Richard, declaiming “A Hard Day’s Night”.
In his 1973 series, “Seven of One”, he created characters including:
The short-sighted removals man CLARENCE Sale
and the lecherous, flamboyant Welsh photographer PLANTAGENET Evans.

Geoffrey Wheeler has consulted Barker’s co-star Josephine Tewson who doesn’t think this was the case. Still, it remains a slight possibility.

The “naughty” corpse of Henry VI….

Ophelia's costume

The link below concerns an exhibition entitled ‘Costuming the Leading Ladies of Shakespeare: From Stratford to Orange County’ at UC Irvine’s Langson Library, West Peltason and Pereira drives, Irvine; www.lib.uci.edu/langson. The exhibition is there through to the end of September.

Several amusing anecdotes are described in the article, including one about Lady Anne’s apparent effect upon an on-stage corpse of her father-in-law, Henry VI!

 

Discovered in Norwich

Whilst visiting Norwich to see the Whitefriars plaque to Lady Eleanor Talbot, Richard’s sister-in-law, in Tomblands near the Cathedral, I happened to take lunch in a particular hostelry, the Glass House. It is principally named for the city’s stained glass industry and various panels, also commemorate the author Harriet Martineau, the rebel Robert Kett, Cotman and the other “Norwich School” artists.

The panel nearest the main door was this one (left). Sir Thomas, who bore the name of a North Norfolk village, served John of Gaunt, helped to implement Henry IV’s usurpation before joining Henry V as an archery commander at Harfleur and Azincourt, and eventually dying in 1428. The other pictures are of Sir Thomas,  Henry IV and the Upper Close at Norwich Cathedral. 

Why Shakespeare repeated the Tudors’ fake news….

Elizabeth l and ShakespeareAs Ricardians, we all know that Shakespeare toed the Tudor line. He repeated the falsehoods of More and the like, and labelled Richard III for all time as a deformed monster. But this article discusses the circumstances that compelled the Bard to write as he did. Well worth a read.

 

Snow at Tewkesbury, and a pile of bodies for Richard III….

Um - the battle of tewkesbury

Believe it or not, the above is supposedly the Battle of Tewkesbury. At least, it is according to the BBC website. Tewkesbury was in May. Silly author. The picture is of Towton, which took place in the middle of a snowstorm. The article itself is referring to Henry VI, Part 3 – first transmitted in the UK: 16 January 1983

Nothing daunted, I read on, and came to The Tragedy of Richard III – First transmitted in the UK: 23 January 1983. Oh dear. I now have to say Silly Beeb! Here we have a pyramid of bodies, topped by a cackling Margaret of Anjou!

Um - pile of bodies in BBC Richard III

Delightful, yes? Is there such a pile in the Bard’s original? I quote from the article:-

. . .The production is unusual amongst filmed Richards insofar as no one is killed on camera except Richard himself. This was very much a conscious choice on the part of Howell; “you see nobody killed; just people going away, being taken away – so much like today; they’re just removed. There’s a knock on the door and people are almost willing to go. There’s no way out of it. . .

. . .Somewhat controversially, the episode ended with Margaret sitting atop a pyramid of corpses (played by all of the major actors who had appeared throughout the tetralogy) cradling Richard’s dead body and laughing manically, an image Edward Burns refers to as “a blasphemous pietà.” Howell herself referred to it as a “reverse pietà,” and defended it by arguing that the tetralogy is bigger than Richard III, so to end by simply showing Richard’s death and Richmond’s coronation is to diminish the roles that have gone before; the vast amount of death that has preceded the end of Richard III cannot be ignored. R. Chris Hassel Jr. remarks of this scene that “our last taste is not the restoration of order and good governance, but of chaos and arbitrary violence.” Hugh M. Richmond says the scene gives the production a “cynical conclusion,” as “it leaves our impressions of the new King Henry VII’s reign strongly coloured by Margaret’s malevolent glee at the destruction of her enemies that Henry has accomplished for her.”. . .

Good grief. Did you get all that? No, nor me. Nor do I want to. Serious stuff though, right? Er, no. It sounds like a load of silly and affected directorial posturing, and not worth bothering with. Someone should have kicked the Beeb’s pants for broadcasting it. Bah!

 

 

Peter Benson portrayed Henry VII perfectly…as a weasel to end all weasels.

Peter Benson dies

The first time I actually remember Peter Benson as an actor was in the first series of Blackadder, when he hid in a four-poster bed as the craven, sneaky Henry Tudor, making copious notes as he eavesdropped on Edmund and his idiot cronies. Oh, and pretended to be a sheep when Edmund’s mother realized there was someone in  the canopied bed. Hilarious. And probably an exceedingly accurate portrayal of Tudor, who never once actually fought in a battle…and who kept a notebook in later years, in which he recording anything and everything anyone said!

I didn’t see him as Shakespeare’s Henry VI, but I do not doubt that he carried that king off to perfection as well. As perfectly as he did as Bernie in Heartbeat.  I loved him. He’ll be missed.

The following is part of this article:-

“Heartbeat actor Peter Benson, who played Bernie Scripps in the popular ITV series for 18 years, has died, his manager said.

“Benson died aged 75 on Thursday after a short illness.

“In the police drama set in the 1960s, he played a funeral director who got into disastrous money-making schemes. He appeared in all 18 series from 1992.

“Benson also played Henry VII in BBC comedy Blackadder, and appeared more recently in hospital drama, Casualty.

“As well as his TV work, he was also a skilled singer, dancer and theatre actor who portrayed the title role in Shakespeare’s Henry VI in a BBC television adaption of the play in 1983.

“Former Heartbeat co-star Steven Blakeley, who played PC Geoff Younger in the show, was among those to pay tribute.

“There would “never be another like you – talented, kind and gentle in equal measure”, said Blakeley.

“Lisa Kay, who played the character of Emma Bryden, wrote on Twitter: “He was always a total gentleman and great fun to work with. He was dearly loved and shall be missed terribly by his Heartbeat family.”

“And Fiona Dolman, who played PC Mike Bradley’s solicitor wife, Jackie, paid tribute to a “kind, funny, brilliant, gentle and deliciously sarcastic” man.”

 

 

The passing of Bernard Hepton….

Bernard Hepton as Cranmer

I always admired Bernard Hepton, who could be guaranteed to bring Class, capital “C”, to any production. His voice was smooth and creamy, and his understated approach always seemed to fit his role to perfection. I remember him in various historical roles, particularly Cranmer. But I didn’t know he was renowned for arranging film fights, including those of Olivier’s Richard III. It’s sad that he has gone

Read more here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/bernard-hepton-obituary-6xvj83qp5

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