Monday, August 31, 2015

Just sayin'

I prefer to keep my blog about ideas & events surrounding Richard III, including any breakthroughs in archaeology or historical research. Unfortunately, not all blogs hold this view & actually encourage cyber-stalking, bullying, & harassment of people they deem "anti-Richard," whatever that means. All you have to do is read a particular blog's entries to figure out what type of blog it is.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Where's the Hump? Or, Richard III in Keevil Manor (UPDATE)

It never fails to amaze me how I come across the inspiration for another blog entry.  For example, this morning, a friend posted a link to her results from searching "Richard III" on the National Trust Collections website.  I did my own search, & discovered this rather striking, modern-looking portrait of Richard III.
In looking at the additional information, I discovered that it is dated to approximately 1650 & came into the National Trust from Keevil Manor in 1910.  It is now on display at Westwood Manor in Wiltshire, according to the National Trust website.

Apart from the rather 20th Century look this portrait has, what piqued my curiosity was  the lack of any deformity one would think would have been shown in a portrait of Richard III done centuries after his death.  If "Tudor propaganda" was so successful & so ingrained as we are practically beaten over the head to believe, where is the hump? And why would there be a portrait of Richard III in Keevil Manor? Where is Keevil Manor anyway?

So off I went in search of this information.  What I found was rather interesting & some familiar names crop up in it.  As it happens, Keevil Manor was owned by the Earls of Arundel. During the reigns of Henry VI, Edward IV, & Richard III, the Earl of Arundel was William Fitzalan.  He participated in Henry VI's "Loveday Council" in 1458, but his Yorkist loyalties were such that he had to be ordered by the king to stop footdragging & attend.  He fought at the Second Battle of St. Albans for the Yorkist side, and in 1483, served as "Pincerna" (cupbearer) at Richard's Coronation.  He is listed as a Bosworth Combatant on Richard's side as well, but that didn't prevent him from being "Pincerna" at Henry VII's coronation a few months later.  Keevil Manor itself was later sold in the 16th Century to Richard Lambert, husband of Alice Paston (!!).  The current manor dates from this time & is located about 13 miles southeast of Bath.

Although I didn't find an answer to satisfy my curiosity about this portrait, I'm quite happy with the results of my search.  I found a new-to-me portrait of Richard, learned a little bit more about one of the Yorkist supporters, & another museum to visit on a future trip to the U.K.    Plus, I have a lot of information to use while speculating why this portrait doesn't have a hump!

UPDATE: I came home this evening to do some more searching online to see what I could find out about this painting.  I came across a Trip Advisor review of Westwood Manor & looked through the photos posted there.  In the slideshow, I came across the photo below.  It appears that this portrait is part of a "Kings & Queens of England" series from the 17th Century, but that still doesn't explain to me how or why the "Tudor propaganda"-inspired hump wasn't included or how this portrait came to resemble Richard so closely.  Was it a copy from a now-lost original?

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Last Medieval King of England

History very rarely has bright line rules where you can say one historical era ended and another began.  Richard III is often called the last king from the Medieval time period in England, & some people seem to get upset by that.  The statement isn't exactly correct, but because we like to have bright line rules & definitive starting & stopping points, I think Richard gets the "honor" of being the last Medieval king because of the incredible number of changes that happened during the Renaissance & Reformation, most of which occurred after he died.  

For example, just a tantalizing seven years after Richard died, Columbus set sail for China & ended up wandering around the Caribbean.  And a couple of decades after that, Martin Luther did the equivalent of starting a petition on Change(dot)org: He nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg. (Some wet blankets are now pointing out he merely mailed them to the bishop, but that doesn't make a good story, does it?), precipitating Henry VIII to write a defense of the Catholic Church, for which he was awarded the title "Defender of the Faith." At this point, events happen like collapsing dominoes--it's impossible to keep up with all the changes and inventions happening, so in the interest of simplicity (and sanity), we end up with Richard III being the last medieval king & Henry VIII being the first Renaissance king. (Forgive me, but I get a big kick out of Henry VII being relegated to the status of historical place holder.)

Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400), The Canterbury Tales (Westminster: William Caxton, about 1483). PML 693, f. q6v. The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased with the Bennett Collection, 1902.
However, one of the hallmarks of the Renaissance, the printing press, was actually invented & in full use during the majority of Richard's life.  The credit is given to Johannes Gutenberg, who printed off 180 copies of the Bible in 1455, three years after Richard was born.  Books became more affordable and literacy spread beyond the nobility & upper classes.  In the context of England, the printing press was brought to England by William Caxton in 1476, when Ricard was 24.  Caxton set up his press at Westminster and began running off copies of Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales." (Interesting side note: Chaucer was married to the sister of Katherine Roet, mother of Joan Beaufort, whose mitochondrial DNA helped identify Richard's remains.)

Jacobus de Voragine (ca. 1229–1298).
The Golden Legend.
Translated and enlarged by William Caxton.
Westminster: William Caxton, [between 20 November 1483 and March 1484]. 
Bridwell Library | Perkins School of Theology | Southern Methodist University 

Richard was a bibliophile & owned several printed books.  Caxton even dedicated one book to Richard, according to the Richard III Society: "Order of Chivalry." Access to published material & the spread of learning was so important to Richard & his one Parliament, that an exemption to "anti-alien" legislation was made so that clergymen & scholars could still have access to & import publications printed abroad and in languages other than English. 

It is in a way unfortunate that Richard, a well-educated man who valued literacy & promoted & supported education & the printing press during his lifetime, is associated with the Middle Ages, a time period most people associate with superstition, plagues, & illiteracy.  But in a way, speculating on what Richard would have done & how he would have reacted to the changes that were just around the corner from 1485 is one of the reasons people are still fascinated by him 500 years on.

Note on the illustrations: I chose the Wife of Bath illustration because she went on pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, which I have also done. While her story is bawdy (Richard would probably have said "Merrie"), her tale has special meaning for me as it is one of the earliest mentions in the English language of this particular pilgrimage.  In Chaucer's time, the pilgrimage to Santiago was already over 500 years old.

The second illustration is from a book printed by Caxton during Richard's own reign. Both books were printed at Westminster.