The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Richard III, R. I. P.

Portrait of Richard III (1520)
Have you heard the news from the United Kingdom? Using DNA testing and other evidence, scientists from the University of Leicester have confirmed that the bones uncovered beneath the pavement of a Leicester parking lot in the English Midlands are indeed those of the last Plantagenet king of England, Richard III. A facial reconstruction, based on Richard's unearthed skull, is also remarkably similar to the king's portrait.

The king was buried not far from where he fell at the Battle of Bosworth (August 22, 1485), the final conflict of the War of the Roses. After the battle his victorious adversary, Henry Tudor (Henry VII), treated Richard's corpse rather shabbily, first stripping it naked and mutilating it, then binding it as if he were a criminal and parading it around on display for a few days. Franciscan friars finally buried the slain king it in a grave close to the altar of a nearby priory, one subsequently destroyed by Henry VIII during his brutal nationwide destruction of English monasteries. Read the full story of the discovery of Richard's bones here.

Since the victors generally become the authors of history, Richard III  has been regularly depicted as a monster, as an evil ruler who murdered his own relatives in his quest for the throne. Richard was even subsequently blamed for most of the troubles that afterwards befell the Tudor monarchs who followed him. And who can ignore William Shakespeare's version of a bloodthirsty Richard III? And yet there is almost no contemporary evidence supporting such claims which apparently have their roots solely in later Tudor propaganda. It would seem that the historians of the time, playing a kind of royal shell game, attributed to Richard all the vices and corruption of his Tudor successors, particularly those of Henry VII and his son, Henry VIII.
Facial Reconstruction based on unearthed skull of Richard III

Of course, another strike against Richard III was his religion. He was not only a Catholic, but reportedly a very pious Catholic. Everything we know about him, written before the Tudors came to power, describes him as a man of exceptional courage possessed of a strict moral code. In some respects it is Richard's Catholicism that best defines him. This is why many English Catholics are disturbed by the plans to give Richard the funeral he deserves but never had, but to conduct it in a post-Reformation cathedral using a Protestant funeral rite. This Catholic king, they protest, deserves to receive a Catholic funeral. I agree. Maybe I'll join the Richard III Society. Read more here.

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