Sunday 22 March 2015

Richard III - whimsical historical nonsense

I suppose I am as much a history-geek as the next man. Possibly more so - in my line of work these days it's an occupational hazard. But maybe not as much as I thought I was: 

Earlier today I chanced upon some of the BBC's coverage of the re-burial of Richard III in Leicester. This seems to have been done in the manner of a 'rolling news' version of a Sunday afternoon nostalgia-fest. And I just don't get it. There seems to be a fascination with a whimsical obsession for 'days of yore' - of kings and queens, knights and heralds - and an awful lot of bollocks. 

Despite the best efforts of the weirdos of the Richard III society who have taken up his cause with all the energy of a real campaign again a real miscarriage of justice, the best that can really be said of Richard of York was that he wasn't really any worse than any of the other self-serving gangsters-in-armour that made up the competing dynasties of medieval monarchy. And that, unsurprisingly given that history has generally been written by the winners, the rival Tudor gang used their premier hack (Will Shakespeare)  to create the pantomime villain we are all familiar with.

But does any of this really merit an afternoon of ceremonial with hushed commentaries and talk about rehabilitation and reconciliation ? It is hardly as if the British people have been irrevocably divided between rival camps of Yorkists and Lancastrians. The Wars Of The Roses saw some spectacularly bloody battles between factions of the ruling class for 40 odd years.  But despite this the lives of the common people were left almost completely untouched. The average peasant or yeoman in the fifteenth century regularly witnessed the toffs slaughtering each with an attitude of detached indifference, and probably just breathed a sigh of relief when they marched their retinues off to billets in some other hapless village. 

Now I know how they felt ...

1 comment:

ray said...

Spot on! I was begining to wonder if I was the only one who felt like this.