Friday, 23 May 2014

At last! Judgement on burial of Richard III

The High Court has reached a decision on the final resting place of Richard III.  It has been decided he should have a 'dignified burial' in Leicester Cathedral.   The Justice Secretary blasted  the 'Plantagenet Alliance' for wasting public money.  The Alliance had wanted Richard re-buried in York Minster.  I totally agree with the judgement - including the remark about wasting public money! 

To begin with, Leicester University had funded part of the search for Richard's remains.  They always intended to re-bury Richard in Leicester - with dignity and honour.  As far as I know, York didn't pay anything towards the search, and didn't voice an opinion on what would happen if the remains were found.  It was only after the discovery that the debate began.

Richard himself never intended to be buried in York.  He was preparing a tomb in St George's Chapel, Windsor, alongside his brother Edward IV.  His Queen, Anne Neville, was buried in Westminster Abbey - clearly Richard had no plans for a joint tomb, and today her burial place is marked with a simple plaque. 

With the Battle of Bosworth actually taking place in Leicester, surely Richard and Henry Tudor would have expected to be buried in Leicester, whichever one of them fell in battle.  Margaret of Anjou's son, Edward of Lancaster, fell at Tewkesbury, and is buried in the Abbey there.  Edward II is said to have died at Berkley Castle, and was buried in nearby Gloucester, and the same for Prince Arthur, who died at Ludlow and was buried in nearby Worcester Cathedral.

Most importantly - Richard was actually given a Christian burial and a tomb in Leicester - why remove remains that have lain in Leicester for 500 years, over some romanticised notion that Richard 'belongs' in York.

I find it somewhat ironic that all this fuss has been made, when the bones of Edward V and his brother Richard of York, were shown scant respect by Richard and buried in a chest under a staircase in the White Tower.  Though if Thomas More is to be believed, a priest was summoned to say prayers, and their resting place may have been a temporary measure.  Thankfully, after the bones were discovered, they were re-buried in Westminster Abbey.

If the remains of Piers Gaveston are ever found, I wonder where he would be re-buried............

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Oh dear, new book, old prejudices......

‘One of the best examples of the brutal and brainless athlete established on a throne’ – Thomas Federick Tout.  So begins the chapter on Edward II in Desmond Seward ‘The Demon Brood’, a history of the Plantagenets.  It might be a new book on the Plantagenets, but the same old bias regarding the reign of Edward II is present.
  The chapter on Edward is called ‘The Changeling’, and begins with the Battle of Bannockburn before delving into Edward’s character.  There isn’t a kind word for Edward.  He was ‘incapable of facing the world without a strong man at his side, invariably someone whom everybody else detested.’  Edward was a weakling all his life, terrified of his father with crippling self-esteem.   Later in the chapter, Seward says that Edward was ill-equipped to be king because of his panic attacks – erm, what panic attacks?  Edward is portrayed as some sort of shambling wreck.  Apparently even his beard hid his 'weak face'.  Huh? 
 Regarding Piers Gaveston, the old prejudices soon surface.  So we get the re-hashed story of Edward giving him the ‘royal’ title of Earl of Cornwall, which had been promised to his younger half-brother – not true.  Piers making off with all the wedding presents – again, not true.  Oh, and of course Edward jumping ship to race through the surf and embrace Piers in front of a horrified Isabella, Edward’s new wife.  He wrecked the Coronation banquet by burning the food and keeping Edward all to himself. 
 Seward  denies the relationship between Piers and Edward was that of lovers.  He sees Edward totally dependent on Piers because Piers had the ‘front’ and confidence he lacked.  And it’s here that the most distasteful description of Edward – and Piers – appears – Piers dominance ‘is the power of a strong mind over a weak one and the support he gave to a man who suffered from panic attacks – not unlike the reassurance given by an understanding male nurse to a mental defective’.  Yes, you read that right!  Worst of all, he says the chroniclers of the time thought Edward was mentally incompetent to rule.  Annoyingly, he quotes from various chronicles but uses ‘modernised English’ to do so, as if the reader couldn’t cope with the actual version.  He speeds through history without offering full explanations.  We’re not even told that Edward Ist banished Piers – just that Edward recalls him after his father’s death.  So no mention of exile number 1.  Exile number 2 is because Piers has been pilfering the royal coffers, and Edward dares not refuse his exile – without fully explaining Piers’ role in being sent to Ireland.  Exile number 3 is due to Piers giving the king bad advice and stopping the magnates from seeing the king.  The magnates also apparently demanded he take all his ‘hangers on’ with him.  On his return, Pembroke was sent to ‘capture’ Piers –  this is how it is written.  And then Piers gets sick and Edward leaves him at Scarborough, where he surrenders to Pembroke.  Piers’ fate takes only a paragraph.  It’s all written in a style I can only call ‘chatty’, as if someone is recounting a prĂ©cis of the daily news.  I can’t believe this is actually meant to be a ‘serious’ history book.  Another annoying aspect is quoting from Victorian historians - who have done an awful lot of damage to reputations and are hardly the most reliable sources. 
 I’ve given up reading the rest of Edward’s chapter, and not sure I’ll be able to bring myself to read any more of the book.   

Ok I read the last page of Edward's chapter - unsurprisingly it's the red hot poker story.