What a day! I really should pick Nat Turner or Groucho Marx or Graham Greene. But I’m in a bit of a rush. You see I will be away from home for a couple of days. So I’ve been writing like a maniac. And I don’t feel up to putting in the time that all of these men deserve. But you can read about them in last year’s birthday post. Today, I’m going to do someone we don’t know a great deal about. You’ll see.
On this day in 1452, King Richard III was born. He is generally thought to have been a terrible guy. He killed his way to the throne. The thing about him is that it isn’t at all clear that he was any different in this way from any of the others. He was basically the end of the House of York. After him came Henry VII and the rest of the Tudors. So they had every reason to vilify him. In addition, we now know that Richard had very bad curvature of the spine. Given that royalty were supposedly blessed by God, you can imagine, the quicker the “freak” was forgotten and the more the legitimacy of his reign was called into question, the better.
Richard has the distinction of being the last English king to die in battle. He apparently fought bravely at the Battle of Bosworth Field against Henry Tudor. He had the advantage in terms of forces, but it seems that some of his key allies turned against him. According to tradition, his last words were cries of, “Treason!” I’m not one to glorify warriors, but I have generally thought that if kings aren’t warriors, what good are they? If they aren’t out fighting wars, they are busy oppressing their people. The exception, of course, is in the United Kingdom where they are tourist attractions.
Again, it isn’t that I think Richard was a good guy. I just don’t think we have any reason to think he was any more of a complete bastard than Henry VII. Or for that matter Bush the Younger or President Obama. They act differently, because it is a different time. But there is something very wrong with any many who wants such great power. I’m sure if they had lived in the 15th century, they would have been killing their rivals. (Although in Bush’s case, I’m pretty sure Jeb would have won that conflict.)
Happy birthday Richard III!