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On Richard III and a Wintry Mix

410px-Royal_Arms_of_England_(1399-1603).svgIce covers my car— one of the risks of getting spring started in the garage. It looks like it hailed pellets the size of salt crystals, and they froze in place creating a bumpy armor on everything.

I’ll run the car engine for a while to melt enough for the drive to the warehouse.

It’s all good because the lettuce and radishes planted in the garden haven’t had moisture until now.

Richard III Cortege
Richard III Cortege

Yesterday began the procession of the remains of England’s King Richard III to his re-interment on Thursday in Leicester Cathedral. The story holds my attention like few others in the corporate media.

From the time his remains were found under a parking lot in 2012 until Leicester University packed them into a lead ossuary inside an oak coffin built by one of his descendents, the stories released provided one interesting bit after another of a part of history I knew only vaguely, and almost entirely through Shakespeare.

Shakespeare was in part an apologist for the Tudors who succeeded the last Plantagenet king. Leicester University’s DNA analysis and forensic study of the wounds incurred during the Battle of Bosworth Field revealed much about Richard, including identification of the blow that likely killed him—a sword or spike through the base of the skull that penetrated to the other side. While the video and photographs of scientists interacting with the old bones is pretty clinical, it told a new story of Richard unlike what we have come to believe—in my case from seeing performances of one of Shakespeare’s best plays multiple times. There are resonances in Shakespeare, but the emerging new story is more powerful.

There has already been a fight over the final resting place for Richard’s remains. The Plantagenet Alliance, a group formed by distant relatives, pressed to re-inter Richard III in York Minister. Even though a three-judge panel ruled in favor of Leicester Cathedral and said, “it was time for King Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest,” it seems unlikely we have hear the last dispute.

On Sunday, more than 35,000 people lined the route of the cortege, many in period clothing. There was a reenactment of the Battle of Bosworth Field. On Thursday, a statement from Queen Elizabeth will be read as part of the order of service, and Richard III will be laid to rest near where he died and, to many historians, brought the Middle Ages to an end.

Richard III Remains
Richard III Remains

There is a reality to history we often forget in our book-lined studies and very busy lives. The scribes, historians and writers who tell stories in our media have mostly good intentions, but are possessed of an inherent bias. They are in the business of writing.

“In a world where children are still not safe from starvation or bombs, should not the historian thrust himself and his writing in history, on behalf of goals in which he deeply believes?” asked Howard Zinn in his book The Politics of History. “Are we historians not humans first, and scholars because of that?”

This episode of discovery of Richard’s remains and their re-interment is very British. There is also a long back story that includes the search for Richard’s remains in Leicester. With their long line of kings and queens, a special interest arose, even if the monarchy becomes less relevant with each passing generation. Nonetheless, some shirttail relative of mine likely attended yesterday’s activities, although one wouldn’t know who it is by our very sketchy family tree going back to the Middle Ages.

We live here and now. Whatever intellectual curiosity was stimulated by these events, it is like the ice covering my car. A thick crust through which we must break and get on with our lives in society much closer than that famous death on Bosworth Field.