On this day in 1483, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester became King Richard III of England. I’ve long been fascinated by him because of the play, “If King Edward be as true and just, as I am subtle, false, and treacherous…” Who can’t help but love a hunchback with a shriveled arm who not only became the king of England but ended up being the last king to die the proper way: in battle. The problem is that Richard had no shriveled hand nor was he was a hunchback. He did, however, have distinct curvature of the spine. And it is hard not to think of him as Tyrion Lannister — although apparently Richard’s scoliosis did not occur until his adolescence.
The most recent research indicates that Richard’s deformity probably wasn’t big enough that the public would even have known. But certainly the aristocracy knew. I tend to think that the treachery that led to Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field was due primarily to his deformity. Let’s face it, even today, people rate beautiful people as smarter, kinder, and every other metric of goodness in comparison to ugly folk. And at that time, deformity was doubtless thought to indicate that God looked down on the sufferer.
None of this is to say that Richard was a saint. I’m sure he was just as vile as the other kings of that time. But I suspect much of his horrible legend is also due to the same distaste that led to his death. Still, it made a hell of a play — one of Shakespeare’s best. And I’ve come to think that no one has ever been as good as Ron Cook in the role:
Happy King Day, Richard; I hope you enjoyed it while it lasted!