August 19th, 2016

Richard III head

Following Richard

Do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

(Walt Whitman, Song of Myself)

Anyone who knows me reasonably well will know that, amongst other things, I'm a fairly extreme pacifist, and I'm rather anti-monarchy.

Those two things being borne in mind, it's probably something of a surprise that one of my (fairly) recent obsessions is with Richard III, who - leaving aside the most controversial issue about him - is best known for being a warrior king. Quite why I have this fascination with him - to the extent of joining the Richard III Society, I don't entirely know, although I suspect that at least part of it is down to the controversy - did he kill his nephews, the Princes in the Tower? - and if he didn't, is it possible that history has done him a disservice? Of course, the big problem is that there's no way of being entirely sure about the answer to the first question (mind you, I'm still not entirely sure whether they were killed; I'm not going to seriously suggest anything as radical as that proposed by Big Finish's Doctor Who audio The Kingmaker (go, buy it, listen to it, it's excellent and I'm not about to spoil it for you...), although...who knows? But...well, maybe they didn't die in the Tower? Maybe Perkin Warbeck was the real deal? Like I said, we'll never know, but it's one of those subjects - like the identity of Jack the Ripper or exactly who killed JFK - that because of the unknowability of it, becomes more and more intriguing.

As to the second question - yes, I'm fairly sure that history has been unfair to Richard III. Viewed through the lens of Tudor propaganda that led to Shakespeare's play, it's all too easy to think of Richard III as an evil cripple, but reading (or reading about) contemporary records of the man, it seems he was a far more sympathetic person, a good king.

So...I'm interested in the guy. I want to find out more about him. A favourite TV programme which I often rewatch is an episode of Fact or Fiction about him (presented by Tony Robinson), the aforementioned The Kingmaker is an audio drama to which I often return, and I've recently (at long last) started reading Sharon Kay Penman's The Sunne in Splendour. There will, no doubt, be more reading and TV watching to come.

A few weeks ago, I decided that this weekend, I'd attend the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre's anniversary weekend. Unlike last year, when I travelled up for one day (the Sunday) from home, and accordingly didn't arrive particularly early, this year I decided to stay in the local area (well, Leicester) and travel there for both days. And I decided that as I'm in Leicester I might as well visit Leicester Cathedral, where he's now buried. And while I'm at it, the King Richard III Visitor Centre, which after all is only across the way from the cathedral.

And...the plan sort of grew. I decided there are other places of "Ricardian" interest that I could visit. York, for one, has many sites of both general historical and specifically Richard III-related interest, as well as being not far from Middleham, where Richard grew up. And...I could also include Fotheringhay in what was now turning into my Richard III Roadtrip. Additionally, I've recently visited Ludlow Castle (I don't rule out a return visit), and I've decided that after returning home I'll pop down to the Tower of London. That leaves...well, Stony Stratford, but that's so near to where I live that it's probably a brief day trip...

So, for the next few days, I'll be - as the post title says - Following Richard. Paradoxically, my route takes in his life story in reverse order, starting at his tomb and ending at the place of his birth. This is not in any way deliberate and no great symbolism should be read into it. But anyway - here we go.

Loyalty Binds Me.