I don`t know what Richard III is more famous for nowadays, his supposed villainy, or being found in a car park under the letter “R”
While I have always enjoyed Shakespeare`s take on him, his intimate little asides to the audience, drawing everyone into his spider web of intrigue and by this, making everyone complicit, there has always been the real man standing patiently in the shadows, waiting for his one opportunity to stand in the spotlight and show us who he actually was.
After so much time, that`s probably not fully possible, after all, the Tudors expunged everything that showed Richard in a good light, they systematically trawled their way through evidence, eye witnesses and documentation. What emerged out the other side of the tunnel, was a blackened reputation with a bottled spider where a heart should have been.
Henry Tudor was basically an accountant; his mindset was a tidy one of ledgers, items added, subtracted, and brought to a total at the foot of the page. His thoughts placed a monetary value on everything that had a pulse; what they were worth to him, should he invest time on them, or simply subtract them and expunge them from the list?
He didn`t see living breathing people standing before him, he saw their financial worth to him, and could they be of use. If the negative sign pinged up, they were dismissed from the equation; how he did this depended on how dangerous to himself he perceived them to be.
We know barely enough about Richard, because Henry Tudor did the kind of efficient job of removing the real man from our gaze as only a super efficient accountant could do. So, we have to scratch around for historical tit-bits from numerous sources. Given the long stretch of time we are dealing with, such sources are questionable, particularly in the light of the Tudor onslaught on every scrap of pro-Ricardian evidence and eye witness statements there must have been.
So, we are ultimately left with a hole in a Leicester car park filled with the mortal remains of a king, about whom we have virtually no evidence of true worth about except from his enemies. And winners always get to write the history.
The death of Richard was one of those great turning points of history; of course, no one at the time knew this, but the years do move on remorselessly until we look back and see where the seeds were sown for such an event.
You could say that I am more than sympathetic to Richard; he has been judged and juried to such an extreme extent as to have seemingly wrung every last drop of historical liquid out of him, but still he comes back for more. It`s almost as if he is there in the wings watching the rich pageant progress across the stage, and willing us to persevere with him, to find more, because there must be more scraps on ancient parchments secreted away in boxes somewhere to shed light on this most contentious of monarchs.
Maybe the Tudors didn`t destroy everything.
In the meantime, we have a poem written by the Poet Laureate, Carol Anne Duffy, that sheds a little warmth and sunlight upon Richard`s blackened reputation.
At least it`s something, but there`s so much more to be done to bring Richard back from the shadows where Henry Tudor threw him, like he threw him into his hole in 1485.