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Who really won at Bosworth? (by Katherine Newman-Warren)

I think increasingly it is Richard who has ultimately gained the greater victory. Henry won temporal power and died in his bed but Richard has gained a kind of immortality that Henry could never hope to achieve and went down fighting as a warrior king with the symbols of his kingship on his body. If a king is a symbol for his people then Richard has become, for so many, the embodiment of courage against the odds, of survival and endurance and also of human frailty and loss. As Bishop Tim said the ‘Richard’ effect touches people around the world. They are prepared to embrace him in all his flawed complexity, knowing that his choices were hard and his options limited, understanding that he was born into a bloody civil war where personal tragedies were common place and strength was often manifested in the ability to stay alive long enough to grow to manhood. People see their own struggles and setbacks in his story. They can forgive him his mistakes and bad judgements because they recognize their own faults and failings in his but they are no longer willing to swallow distortions and lies without probing these arguments for the truth which is always a rainbow of motivations and a shifting sea of morality. Our reaction to his story dares us to be wise, to understand that moral judgement from the comfort of an armchair and a place of safety is rarely justifiable and that given the same pressures we might have done worse and likely no better than he managed. They understand the enormity of his grief at the loss of his child and what crushing responsibility he shouldered alone in the last year of his life and they will continue to remember him long after the media frenzy moves on to find fresh meat. The Director of the RSC said this week that without Shakespeare Richard would have neither the notoriety nor support that he has enjoyed and in one sense I can accept this. People don’t like injustice and in the modern world, they are disgusted by prejudice based on disability. Shakespeare’s Richard is persuasive and charismatic in a way that the real Richard was perhaps not, despite his Plantagenet bloodline, but he is without regret or remorse and I don’t believe that Richard didn’t agonise over his decisions or regret his mistakes. The anxiety of his piety suggests rather the opposite and makes him real and pitiable as we all are.

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