Your Richard III update

I have been avidly following the news about the discovery and identity of the remains of Richard III. I’ve been a sucker for Richard III ever since reading Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time--without going so far as to join the Richard III Society or anything (here’s the US R3 Society). I’m already mightily distracted from writing.

This month I attended a couple of events at the Folger, a fantastic resource in Washington DC that those of us who live here tend to take for granted. First, a lecture from the forensic and archaeological team, and then I saw the current production of Richard III which I highly recommend. Here are some interesting snippets from the lecture:

  • The team is doing further DNA analysis from tooth tartar (eew).
  • Richard III would probably have gone down in history, had the Tudors not taken over, as a just but fair king (the um, issue, of the two princes in the Tower would have been downplayed, just as the Tudors, and Shakespeare, propagandized Richard as a misshapen spawn of Satan).
  • Yes, he did have scoliosis. But he was also a seasoned warrior. The BBC (I think) is doing an experiment with a young man with the same degree of scoliosis teaching him horseback warfare, wearing armor, and so far so good. Expect a documentary or two.

Edmund Kean as Richard IIIIn the Regency, Richard III was one of Edmund Kean’s signature roles but he had a rival–Junius Brutus Booth, father of John Wilkes Booth. Booth’s London career was launched in 1817 in the title role of Richard III at Covent Garden, and thereafter Boothites and Keanites frequently quarreled in theaters. Booth and Kean seem to have both exploited the rivalry, often performing in the same plays.

battle2richardsBooth emigrated to the US in 1821 where he led a colorful life as an actor, and is buried in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore, where Betsy Bonaparte also lies.

Once again truth is stranger than fiction.

What’s your take on Richard III?

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7 Responses to Your Richard III update

  1. Elena Greene says:

    I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion, but now I know more–and have another book on my TBR list. Thanks, Janet!

  2. HJ says:

    But if you’ve read Daughter of Time you’ll know that if Henry Tudor hadn’t killed Richard III the princes would have survived, since it was Henry who murdered them not Richard. Given the start he had made (again detailed in Daughter of Time), Richard would have been an excellent king.

    As well as examining the tartar (which will help show Richard’s likely diet), they are going to sequence his DNA. This will show his eye and hair colour (none of the portraits of him is contemporary, so we don’t know these details) and identify his predisposition towards various illnesses. I wonder if he could have survived long enough as King to have another son to secure the succession and give him time to grow up and learn how to rule.

    I think it is Channel 4 which is doing the programme which will demonstrate the extent to which Richard’s scoliosis would or would not have impacted on his day to day life.

  3. Mary Walker says:

    Despite downloading everything on Richard III I had not heard of the scoliosis experiment. Fascinating! I too have scoliosis – not that different to the King and what I would say, living with it, is that you just get on with it. You develop a bloody minded attitude towards it and a determination to overcome it to the point of ignoring it.

    If anyone hears anymore on the screening of this programme, can you update us please? Thank you!

  4. I was also a Tey convert in my teens — go Richard (at least in recovered reputation)!

    Though, that said, Mark Rylance was a spectacularly nasty and fun Richard, recently on B’way.

  5. I also read Tey in my teens, and became a convert to poor Richard’s cause.

    But Mark Rylance recently made him such a spectacular villain that I howled — and loved the hatefest.

  6. Heidi Kneale says:

    I’ve also been following with interest the news of Richard III (mostly because I’m a fan of Richard Armitage, and he’s a very big fan of R3).

    I haven’t heard of the scoliosis experiment, but will go look that up, as it sounds fascinating.

    Makes for some good Alt-Hist stories, had Richard survived.

  7. What I love the most is all of the interest this current find has created for Richard III as I think he is one of those people we really don’t know the truth of yet. Someone murdered those little boys in the Tower and I would love to see that mystery solved. It is so intriguing and poignant at the same time.

    I must reread The Daughter of Time.

    And I love the information about Boothe and Kean! Great stuff, Janet. Thanks!

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