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!
‘Hunky’ young Henry VII ala the White Queen
Richard, played by old dude, with all the Shakespearean trimmings
.The real young Henry, drawing from life
Richard, NPG, copy of lost original