Richard III discussion

Faulty Defences

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message 1: by Ikonopeiston (new)

Ikonopeiston (Ikon) | 385 comments

We Ricardians do our cause no good when we attempt to present Richard as the eidolon of a perfection more reminiscent of the romantic revisionism of more recent times than of 15th century reality.

In an effort to displace the calumnies of the immediately post-Plantagenet period, the pendulum was pushed to the other extreme, perhaps in the unstated hope that it would eventually settle on the truth - that Richard was a man of his times, acting in accordance with the customs and demands of his times. There is so much about him we can never know: was he in love with Anne Neville or just lusting for her lands, was he steadfastly loyal to Edward or in it for what he gained by a clever performance, why did he evidently prefer life on the northern frontier to the comfort and excitement of his brother's court, what were the reasons for his enmity toward the Woodville faction?

On the subject of what Potter has termed The Great Debate, I have expressed my opinion both here and in several other places.

We may speculate at our leisure and to our intellectual amusement, but it is all so much speculation until new evidence become available. (As it constantly does.) However, we must not lose sight of the actual man in our efforts to rehabilitate a reputation unjustly soiled by the self-serving pens of some who create and repeat lies. It would be a terrible error to emulate these people and create lies of our own. "The Ricardian", the journal of the Richard III Society, attempts not to rewrite history but to illuminate it; we should aspire to that standard as individuals.

message 2: by Susan (new)

Susan (boswellbaxter) | 418 comments Excellent point. One recent book (nonfiction, unfortunately) that attempts to defend Richard spends much of its pages in smearing the reputations of others--on the flimsiest of evidence, the Woodvilles and/or Hastings are accused of poisoning Edward IV, and the author even suggests that the 1483 deaths (hitherto not regarded as suspicious) of the elderly Earl of Essex and the young George Neville should be examined for possible Woodville involvement. The author completely lost credibility for me with that line of argument.

message 3: by Ikonopeiston (new)

Ikonopeiston (Ikon) | 385 comments Susan, do you happen to know the real colour of Elizabeth Woodville's eyes? Penman says they are green; Jarman opts for blue. Niggling little point but I am curious, being of the sight-hound persuasion. ;)

message 4: by Susan (new)

Susan (boswellbaxter) | 418 comments I don't think they're described anywhere. The most famous picture of her shows her with brown eyes, and the little hair you can see looks brown also. But manuscript illustrations show her as a golden blonde--I can't make out the eye color.

message 5: by MAP (new)

MAP | 181 comments It's hard to know hair color because those paintings have all gotten so dirty over the years. Edward IV is consistently described as a blonde, but that one painting I see over and over of him shows him with brown hair. But, it's also obvious it's an incredibly dirty portrait. A similar Richard III portrait has recently been cleaned, and you can see how bright the colors are and how much it changes everything. (Kind of like the Michaelangelo Sistine Chapel cleaning). I think if the Edward IV portrait were cleaned, it might show a better idea of his hair color.

Sorry, that was kind of off topic and so is this: it's apparently still up in the air what eye color Elizabeth I had.

Back on topic, I do think it's interesting that most people, past and present (and about historical as well as current topics), seem to feel that the only way to fix one person's reputation is to malign someone else's. The fact is, most people are complex, most people have done generous as well as selfish things, most people have/had friends as well as enemies, AND it's also important with historical figures to look at the time, context, and culture around them. To say "Oh, he's so nice because he did XYZ" when really XYZ is something expected of all nobles in those days (or whatever) is dumb. And to say "Ooooh, she's obviously such a mean person because she did ABC" when that was also a common behavior is unfair as well. One of my favorite monarchs is Elizabeth I, who was a huge fan of bear baiting. Do I agree with bear baiting? No, I think it's disgusting and cruel. Do I realize that Elizabeth was a product of her times and did not conceptualize things the way we do in the 21st century? I try to.

Blaaaaah I'll try to write less essays, more 3-5 word answers. :)

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