Monday, September 02, 2013

Rewriting History

So much of history is written by the winners, or at least the people who were still standing after the dust settled. Richard III, the king who allegedly murdered his nephews in the Tower, was recently found under a car park in England and the tales his skeleton have to tell are of violent death and humiliation after he was dead and his armor stripped from his body. His clothing was likely also removed before humiliating the body, which is archaeology speak for desecrating the dead body of the king. 

I've been reading The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and I find the story of King Edward and the Wars of the Roses to be fascinating from the perspective of the characters, especially of Elizabeth of York who bore (at the point in the book where I left off) 8 children, mostly girls. Her son Edward, the first born, was taken from her to his own household when he was 3 years old and his guardian was Elizabeth's brother, Anthony, who was a devout man, a great poet, and a clever and successful knight, a man of violence and piety. The attributes that made him a good man of his times would have doomed him in modern times, unless he had grown up in 20th and 21st century America -- or the United Kingdom.

I imagine Anthony would have been a scholar, maybe a writer or a poet sitting around coffee houses reciting his poetry to a bongo band while a flute played in the background and smoking a clove cigarette while the audience snapped their fingers and nodded with approval. Or he might have been a priest, which was certainly the turn of his nature had not the times and his family dictated his actions.

Richard III, the infamous and last king of the Plantagenets, the last York to sit the throne of England, was the son of Elizabeth of York and King Edward who gained his throne by rebelling against the half wit, King Henry, and his vicious bride, Margaret d'Anjou. It is said she allowed her son, Edward of Westminster, to be the kind of child that some say become serial killers. In the late 15th century, his vicious nature did not go unremarked, but he was born during a time of civil strife, his father deposed, and his mother exiled to France so his excesses might have been seen as necessary for his time. After all, what can one expect of a child reared on the run and in and out of battles and battle preparations? It is said that King Henry was so far gone in piety and mental breakdown that Edward's biological father was very possibly Edmund Beaufort, 2nd Duke of Somerset. And you thought such pot boilers only happened in modern times.

I do often wonder what these people would have been like had they been born in the 20th century? Ours is a less blood thirsty time, although only superficially. We don't go around murdering half wit kings out of their minds while under arrest or vicious desecrate a corpse after it is dead -- well, in the movies certainly, but that's not real life.

Or is it?

Everyone wanted to be king -- or queen -- or pope -- and how you got there is less important than getting there. The riches, the balls, the infidelities and secrets and (some say) witchcraft are nothing compared to the deceit, the envy, the rest of the 7 deadly sins that go along with it.

King Edward, the Yorkist king by his own hand, was a lecher. The tradesmen and merchants said their daughters were not safe from him. Queen Elizabeth I (so that's how our Queen Elizabeth became Elizabeth II) was aware of her husband's wandering eye (and penis) and did not usually worry about him turning his attention to the others (hundreds of others) because Edward still loved her (and proved it often enough to get her with child about every 2 years). There was one woman who gave Elizabeth pause and that was Anne, but that is a subject for another time.

I find all this history and skulduggery quite fascinating. I think an updated version of the Wars of the Roses would be an interesting novel. Since historians and archaeologists have given us a different view of the times from skeletal remains and forensic science, a new twist could give the tale and the characters a very different life. Something to think about.

That is all. Disperse.

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