This month’s PT is filled with Shakespeare references and historical data about his great villain, Richard III, the humpbacked king and last of the Plantagenets. Why, one might ask.
It seems that last year they dug up some bones in a parking lot, yes a parking lot in Leicester, a major urban center in the English Midlands. After a year of DNA testing they were positively identified as those of the King, who ruled for two years in the late 1400s.
Much has been written about this king with books, plays and movies regaling his life, and death at Bosworth Field in 1485. If you followed English history, you will remember that he has a reputation of being a tyrant, evil, and killer of children (the legend of the two princes). This is based primarily on a number of accounts of the time written after his death.
It seems that the biographers were motivated to tell tales, many of them made up out of whole cloth, about the dead King by his successors. Queen Elizabeth I was, it seems particularly concerned that the history of Richard III was told in less than a factual manner, since it was her grandfather that killed him in battle.Remember that she was one of Shakespeare’s major patrons.
The Richard III Society is trying to reconstruct his true character and are finding that he was in fact a pretty nice guy. Oh he may have cut off a few heads but that was de regur in those days. Compared to Henry VIII he was a saint.
Researchers have also found, by checking the expense reports of some his Richards associates, that the King and his crew were no where near the tower of London when the two princes ‘disappeared.’ Hmmmmm.
It just goes to show that propaganda and revisionist history didn’t start in recent times. The leaders of England during the 15th and 16 centuries were very concerned about how their ancestors were reflected in the written word. Richard was to be depicted as a villain and murderer. It took only five hundred years for the truth to come out.