Because of the news from the archeological dig in Leicester I couldn’t let today past with out a blog about my favourite Plantagenet.
I first became aware of Richard III after reading a book called the Maligned King by Annette Carson. I don’t often read history books for fun, even though I am a bit of a geek, but this novel really caught me. I remember feeling excited and outraged in equal measure by the claims made by Carson. I even found myself hesitating to end the book, because I already knew all about the battle of Bosworth and the only way was tragedy. Having found this book interesting, I read a few others about Richard III, including one I’ve yet to finish (The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman – for the same reason – it’s all about to go to pot for him).
Full of verve, I began to attempt to write a few short stories/plays portraying his last days. I found it a little disheartening therefore, to find out a well known actor (a Mr Richard Armitage) and screenwriter (who is also involved in the archeological dig) have teamed up to write just such a play.
On the other hand, I am incredibly excited I’ll be able to finally watch a play/film about Richard III portraying him more accurately; as a proven soldier, an intelligent man with a mind for law and progress, a loving husband and father, a trusted Lord. Also of course, as a brutal, pragmatic, pious King, living in a time where life was short and bloody. How they will play the missing princes card will be intriguing to see.
The difficultly of trying to bring the past to life in the present, is to find ways to get the audience to understand the mindset of Englishmen living in a world that seems alien to us now – without it becoming a history lesson. Peoples morals and beliefs were so different then; what would seem barbaric or laughable to us now, would be see as fair, just and sensible back then.
Having only come to love all things Richard III in the last few years, it seems serendipitous that Leicester University decided to begin the search for his remains. When they began the dig I held out little hope anything would be found beyond a bit of pottery and a pin, but today, what a find!
An intact skeleton, found within the fallen walls of Grey Friars church. An adult male, with a clear wound to the back of the head consistent with a sharp blade, and an arrowhead in the spine. Not to mention a distinct twist in the spine (scoliosis) which would have made one shoulder slightly higher than the other. Not – I repeat Not evidence of a hunchback. (Let’s face it Shakespeare really took that idea and ran with it.)Of course there’s DNA testing to be done and who knows if that will reveal this really is Richard III, I do hope so. (And I do hope they’ve got that play written, would be a great bit of timing…. )
Here’s more info about the dig: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-19561018 and article from the New Scientist.