Friday, September 12, 2014

Rous & More influenced by Mel Brooks? Perhaps.

(Think about "Young Frankenstein" for a few moments, then keep it percolating in the back of your brain while I take some time to get to the point. It does make sense. I promise.)

One of the things that I've found most interesting in researching my family tree is just how often oral history, which we are told by scholars cannot ever be proven & must, therefore, be considered false, turns out to have some truth to it, no matter how teeny-tiny that kernel of truth is. A couple of examples from my own family:

(1) We had long been bored to tears, um, I mean, told that our great great grandfather "rode for the Pony Express."  This particular family myth drove my mother insane as she tried in vain to track it down. Finally, she saw a reference somewhere that put her on the right path. Did you know that the Pony Express had a competitor? Called "Wells Fargo?" And guess who's great great grandfather drove a stage coach for Wells Fargo? Yeah. Him. How something so recent got confused is beyond me, unless it's easier to just say "Pony Express" so you don't have to bore the young ones to tears continually explain that there was another company doing the same thing.

(2) My father got in trouble in school for refusing to say that Paul Revere warned the Minute Men that the British were coming. He would instead say "William Dawes," which he learned from the family oral history that had been pounded into his head (while he was bored to tears).  Everyone thought he was crazy because he didn't know it was Paul Revere; he thought THEY were crazy because they didn't know it was William Dawes. (turns out, they were all correct, but this was in the ancient days before Google so no one had a smart phone to whip out & prove the other wrong.) Besides, as luck would have it, it turns out that one of my family's ancestors knew what time & where to meet up with his homies so they could blow holes in some Redcoats at Lexington & Concord because his farm was on guess who's route? Yup. William Dawes. Too bad Dawes didn't have a cousin who became a poet so his name could be remembered in a famous, but wildly historically inaccurate, poem schoolkids are still forced to memorize & are taught is proven fact. Would have made my dad's life much easier.  Not bitter, just sayin'....

These family stories are only half as old as the multitude told about Richard III, and already they were just as twisted & layered almost to the point that the truth could not be found. Imagine then, the amount of layers & twists & turns one must go through to uncover the underlying truth if there is one to stories about Richard III that have been kicking around for half a millenia.

One of the myths perpetuated about Richard is that he spent 2 years in his mother's womb. Well, obviously THAT didn't happen, but what DID happen? Turns out that Richard had an older brother, Thomas, who was born in either 1450 or 1451, & who died in infancy. Richard comes along around October 1452.  It isn't hard to see how people would think that Cecily was pregnant for 2 years' straight & since she only had 1 child to show for all that morning sickness, just shrug their shoulders & think she was pregnant with Richard for all that time. And the part about being born feet first---could he or Thomas have been breech babies? It happens. So it turns out after all, that there is a little bit of truth behind this particular myth.

As I was researching this little curiosity, I came across references to Richard's uneven shoulders. According to John Rous, who supposedly knew Richard, his right shoulder was higher than his left. BUT, Sir Thomas More (who's a saint & would never, ever lie even though he was 5 when Richard died & probably never met him) says Richard's left shoulder was higher.

"What hump?"

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