Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Richard III's final battle

For a king who died over 500 years ago, Richard III is getting a lot of attention.  For centuries, the bad boy of British monarchs has been pretty easy to sum up.  Jealous brother became jealous uncle who knocked out the rightful monarch to take the crown himself and then lost it in a fight with an upstart of a cousin.  Oh, and he had a hunchback, withered arm and really, really needed a horse when his big day out at Bosworth went really, really wrong.  That's the Tudor version of history and, just as that royal house shaped a lot of what we call modern Britain, so that version of Richard's story remained pretty much unchallenged.  And suddenly, this most beleaguered king is box office.

Richard III was king of England for just over two years but has cast a long, if predictable, shadow ever since
It helped that he was played by an easy on the eye actor in the BBC adaptation of The White Queen.  Aneurin Barnard's interpretation of a confused and concerned king in the making was an interesting spin but the most interesting part was that the adaptation made Richard look his real age.  For the last 500 years he's been represented as much older than he really was - this king died at the age of 32.  Giving him a youthful face does a lot to change the way we think about this king of England.
Richard III (Aneurin Barnard) in The White Queen - if only he'd hung on to that horse, who knows what might have happened in episode 10
But it's the remains of the king that have got everyone talking about him today.  A court in London will today consider where Richard III should be buried.  The discovery of his body, beneath a car park in Leicester, led to plans to inter him in that city's cathedral.  But descendants of the House of Plantagenet want him buried in York - they say it's what he would have wanted, having spent much of his life in the north of England.  They've won a judicial review and today a judge gets to re-open, if only for a few hours, the Wars of the Roses.  Richard III may have given battle in vain but his legacy keeps on growing.

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