Tuesday, 27 August 2013


Well, it's that time of the year again, when all sense of respect, manners and decent human qualities appear to be thrown as caution to the wind. Well, it doesn't always have to be August the 22nd for there to be insults flying between the Tudorites and the Ricardians, but the anniversary of Bosworth seems to bring out the worse in everyone and if you're a little obsessed with either of these two men, or unhinged in some way,like the woman who recently showed herself up on someone's timeline, then all hell breaks out on that fabulous medium that we know and love - Facebook. It never ceases to amaze me how people in these FB groups go way over what I consider to be healthy in their quest to defend or promulgate their love for their idols to the extent that they will jump in on threads in groups that they don't normally post to make insulting, provocative and disrespectful remarks, even on people's own timelines which is very rude in my view. What is this about Henry and Richard that inspire such childish and awful behaviour in supposedly adult, intelligent people? Ok so we all have our own views of each man, but for goodness sake, they've been dead for more than 500 years! We only know them in the sense of what has been written about them and there has been a lot of differing opinions about them over the years.

For a long time, the Richard III Society and other organisations have done their best to reform his character, perhaps to the point of over compensating for Richard's previously maligning by Shakespeare and Moore et al. They have found rationales for his execution without trial of Will Hastings, his declaration his wife's mother being dead when she wasn't, and reasons why he couldn't have possibly killed his nephews, pointing the finger at either Buckingham or Margaret Beaufort. The Henrians on the other hand state that this airy fairytale Richard who could actually do no wrong was not quite the darling all the Ricardians were making him out to be and they too then came up with rationales. Little Margaret Beaufort couldn't have possibly have done it, after all she neither had the motive nor the means, did she. And of course, as far as they're concerned, Richard had all the motives and not only that, he wasn't a very nice chap for not giving Hastings a trial and where was the loyalty he was supposed to have shown his brother all his life when he stole the crown from his twelve year old nephew? And of course over the years there has been argument for and against these two chaps, counter-arguments follow and follow and we see the two factions going round in circles with their arguments with neither side capitulating to the other. None-the-less, I do believe there were a few little victories as some staunch Ricardians began to see the arguments that the Henrians were putting forth as actually holding some weight, including me. Having said that I've never considered myself a Ricardian in the sense that I'm a fully paid up Richard III Society member but from my twenties when I read the wonderful  The Sunne in Spleandour by the lovely Sharon Kay Penman and then went on to read other  non-fiction books about him to read the 'facts', I was fiercely pro-Richard. Nowadays, I'm not totally convinced that he didn't murder his nephews, either indirectly or directly. However nor can I be sure that it wasn't Margaret Beaufort. Anyway, I'm no longer under the impression that he was the Mills and Boon Richard who rescued his lady love from a Cinderella style scenario and had perfectly good reasons for all the bad things he did after his brother's death, though I am sure that he probably did in his eyes.

Now Henry, he was not a total good bean either, was he? He predated his reign from the day before
Bosworth so he could confiscate the lands of all those  who fought against him, thus disinheritng their children. Not really fair that, was it. He also had young Edward of Warwick executed, but at least he had a trial to which he pleaded guilty to plotting with Perkin Warbeck. It was also thought that he may have been a little simple and naive because he had been kept imprisoned for so long. His was a sad story.  Apparently he executed poor John of Gloucester, Richard's bastard son after giving him an annuity of £20 pounds a year. But as for his execution, the only source that sites it is a 17thc one, and even then the author doesn't directly name him, referring to him as a base-born son of Richard III. So we cannot be sure that Henry did indeed execute him. There are no records of John's death. But on the whole, Henry was an astute statesman, creating stability in the country and created prosperity and secured his crown through his enactments against livery and maintenance so that the barons would be unable to keep large numbers of retainers effectively forming private armies. Despite these qualities, he was said to have been rapacious in his financial dealings which enabled him to amass great wealth at the expense of others.

So here we have two very different men, one a warrior and one a statesman. Both were kings. The why's and the wherefores as to who deserved the crown more are as irrelevant today as a betamax recorder. It has happened; they happened. It's over. Why do people have to get at one another in such a ridiculously childish, irreverent manner. Ok so, you like Henry? I like Richard. Who cares? It's great to commemorate our idols lives but why does one party or the other feel the necessity to insult and goad and bitch at the other?

I was talking to a WOR re-enactor (he wanted to remain nameless) today and I asked him if there existed the same animosity in the society between the various factions and this is what he said: "There is *absolutely none*, that I've ever seen. You can't afford to hold grudges against people who are going to be swinging steel weaponry at you. Generally, you tend to be 'mates' within your own household/retinue but get on civilly (with the occasional bit of joshing or reminders of past embarrassments) with other groups."

As I am also a re-enactor and he asked me if the Saxons hated the Vikings and I said there is never any animosity between any of us, we share a love of history, despite which side we like to fight on, its never personal. Its history we portray, not long forgotten personal vendettas and enmities.

It seems that perhaps when people are on Facebook, sitting at the computer and looking at a screen, they lose all sense of propriety. I'll admit, I'm no saint, I'm not above the odd debate and I'm not above letting someone know if I think they've been downright malicious and nasty but a lot of these people I've noticed hide behind pictures of flowers or cartoons, it makes me wonder what they've got to hide. I've even seen people go onto Fan pages on FB and expect to have a serious historical debate! It's a fan page for goodness sake! This is so disrespectful to the author and the people who run it. It's the height of rudeness if you ask me. People should leave the historical debates to the serious historical debating groups and if you're brave enough to go into one of those then expect to be pounced on if your view is different from theirs. But some people thrive on this kind of debate and that's fine, I guess I'm a bit feint hearted when it comes to serious historical debate.

So,  what do I think of these two men? I have a lot to learn about Henry and have on my tbr list The Winter King which I am told is very good. I'm yet to find him vaguely interesting, inspiring or mildly amusing even. He appears to be very bland really but  one thing that I did hear about him was that he loved Elizabeth his wife and was desperately sad when she died. That touched me and maybe that's a good place to start.

 I still admire Richard and consider myself pro-him, but mostly I admire his skills and generalship as a soldier. It is this quality that interests me most and he was as I like to call him, a Bad Ass. In truth though, there were a lot of worse things done by other kings. Look at the brutal way Edward I behaved toward the Scottish and the Welsh, not to mention his own people. Anyway that's another blog, he he!

So just so you know, all this is my own work and if I have made any errors, they are mine and no one else's.


  1. Warrior or statesman in this case is an interesting question! I agree, there's far too much emphasis placed on these matters so long after the event but if history is your wont then it's too easy to get caught up in the argument. I live in Ireland. It's almost like some people still believe that Queen Elizabeth I is still on the throne... Ugh.

    1. Thanks for your comment Julian. I've a feeling that I've ruffled some feathers on both sides with this blog today. It seems some people are entirely missing my point. But hey ho, even Jesus couldn't please everybody.

  2. I don't think Richard was quite the general you think he was. The only battle he fought without his big brother to lead him, he lost. Henry, the statesman never lost a battle, and his expedition to France gained the treasury a handsome profit.

    1. Thanks for your comment Edward. I appreciate you taking the time to do so.

  3. Nicely balanced entry, thanks for writing this. Honestly, I've moved from shaking my head in wonder at the Facebook shenanigans over this to now simply feeling embarrassed for those caught up in provoking and sustaining the extreme Team Richard/Team Henry Medieval Middle School Mentality partisanship. History will never cease to fascinate, to be sure, but there are far healthier and more enjoyable ways to relate to the past than by picking sides in a war that's been over for some 500-odd years.

    1. Thanks Sue, I'm glad that you and Jools got the point that I was making. The nastiness I've seen on both sides has been astounding. It's almost like road rage!