Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Monarchs as Monsters: Richard III and Henry VIII

From The Catholic Herald, comparing and contrasting Richard III and Henry VIII:

A car park in Leicester may be home to the last king of England to die in battle: Richard III. Last weekend archaeologists from the University of Leicester brought in heavy diggers to the city’s Greyfriars car park, which historians believe to be the site of the old Franciscan friary where the last Plantagenet was buried.

It’s an exciting time for fans of Richard III, of whom there are many, this king having societies all over the English-speaking world dedicated to softening his image. This is a little strange, considering that Gloucester was a usurper and probably had his young nephews, Edward V and his brother Richard, murdered in the Tower. . . .

Best of all for Ricardians, there came proof in 1973 that a “hunchback” had been drawn on to the famous painting in the National Portrait Gallery, no doubt part of the Tudor black propaganda. Certainly no contemporary account ever mentions any deformity, at a time when a disability would be the central feature of someone’s public persona. . . .

If Richard is rescued from a car park (a fate that has also befallen John Knox), the only questions are where he should be re-buried – would it be Westminster Abbey, where the majority of late medieval kings rest? – and whether this pious man would have a Catholic ceremony.

Even if Richard were responsible for the princes’ deaths he would be nothing like as big a villain as his great-nephew Henry VIII, who destroyed Greyfriars Abbey in Leicester in the worst episode of cultural vandalism in English history. Among the many jewels ruined was Battle Abbey, built by William the Conqueror during one of his brief spasms of guilt over the deaths of 7,000 men here in 1066.

The Dissolution of the Monasteries="the worst episode of cultural vandalism in English history": well put. The University of Leicester has a website with resources on "The Greyfriars Project". I've read Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time at least twice; the book has a neat premise of Inspector Alan Grant in hospital with a broken leg investigating the crime of the murder of the Princes in the Tower. She almost persuaded me, but I didn't like her dissing of Thomas More. Here's a re-evaluation of her historical mystery, from

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