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To think that just because they have found the bones of Richard III, that doesn't automatically mean that he was actually A Really Bloody Nice Bloke?

(239 Posts)
BalloonSlayer Tue 05-Feb-13 08:31:00

Constant quotes from the Richard III Society:

"We're going to completely reassess Richard III, we're going to completely look at all the sources again, and hopefully there's going to be a new beginning for Richard as well." Why? It's a skeleton? Was it holding a signed confession from Henry VII of the murder of the Princes in the Tower?

Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, originator of the search, said on a Channel 4 documentary earlier: "It doesn't look like the face of a tyrant. I'm sorry but it doesn't. WTF?

Why does this change anything at all?

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:07:27

That's fascinating, cory, about the leper tombs.

I do think there is a medieval Catholic issue with some forms of disability - I do think that some people did think that sins showed on the body. Robert Mannyng (he wrote 'Handlyng Synne' around 1303-1317) is quite good on this. But what he talks about aren't problems people were born with, but things done to their bodies as punishments from God, which is a bit different.

There's also that link between kingliness and disability in that anointed kings were thought to be able to cure certain diseases by laying-on of hands, so I suppose that would make a link in people's minds.

cory Tue 05-Feb-13 11:08:52

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 10:54:25

"Pain was a fact of life; now it's something that we will go all out to minimise, even if this process interferes with everyday life. "

Very true.

And again, I think it is partly about the human need to adapt to and accept life as it is, but also (in the medieval period) about the fact that pain is perceived as doing something useful.

We think of it as something that gets in the way of the important things we ought to be doing: work, relationships, hobbies.

For a medieval Christian, the most important thing he or she ought to be doing is save his or her soul; there can be nothing else that is more important. They would have seen themselves as engaged in a spiritual war, where pain can be one of the weapons. So lying in bed in pain is not a waste of time: if you do it right, to the medieval Christian you are doing something important.

There are multiple handbooks about how to achieve a good death: again, something we try to minimise as much as we can, through sedatives and general sweeping under the carpet because it performs no useful purpose for us. But it did for them.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:09:20

Btw, not a Tudors person really, but I think some of the issues with disability in Tudor England might be because people were moving out of their parishes rather more. You could claim support from your own parish, but if you moved away, you couldn't. So if lots of people moved to big cities to try to get jobs, then their disabilities overtook them, you can see how people might start scapegoating disabled people, perhaps? A bit like benefit bashing now?

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 11:11:38

What a hoot it must have been.
Someone give that leper an X-box.....

Thank fuck for the renaissance.

Love medieval history.....from, as a PP said, a safe distance.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:12:33

cory - ohh, sorry, I am cross posting with you lots, but ... I just went to a talk last week by a woman called Amy Appleford. She was speaking on those books about good deaths, and she was saying how lots of the fifteenth-century ones seemed actually to be owned by very prosperous guildsmen in London. She had this fascinating theory about how these people, who were part of a corporate 'body' that was thriving, were also interested in the idea of the fragmented and suffering human body. She thinks maybe it is because these were people who were economically (and probably physically) very healthy, so they could 'afford' to spend their time thinking about disease and death and pain.

Interesting, I think?

Maybe it was similar with Richard - if you're king, you can perhaps afford the time to think about these things. I would love to know. I've not seen anything to link him to that but I will look now.

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 11:13:11

Argh....this is riveting, but I have to get some bloody work done.

BupcakesAndCunting Tue 05-Feb-13 11:13:38

Hi Cory grin

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:13:38

I'm meant to be working too. blush

cory Tue 05-Feb-13 11:13:47

I think there is a strong element of benefit bashing, LRD, coupled with the fact that the structures for supporting helpless people in a mutually positive way had collapsed with the dissolution of the monasteries. The money wasn't there any more, and the parish relief did not confer the same psychological benefits on the givers as the monastic alms system. The old system of monastic charity was in many ways a win-win situation, but it could only be maintained as long as people had faith in the system.

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 11:14:32

Also, these rich blokes could have afforded the newest treatments; could have taken themselves off for a few days to a leech spa and whatnot.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:15:22

grin at 'leech spa'.

cory - yes, that makes total sense.

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 11:16:52

Right....that's it.
Sack off all these 1930's comparisons.
We're revisiting Tudor times right now.

Ladies.....we have a new theory.

mummytime Tue 05-Feb-13 11:17:36

Some of the hardening of attitudes to beggars and disabled etc. during Tudor time; was a consequence of the dissolution of the monasteries.
Before the dissolution, then Monastries often looked after the sick, disabled, and poor (maybe biased towards the "deserving" poor). However when Henry VIII dissolved them, suddenly they all became a burden on individual towns and villages (and of course the King snatched the Monastries wealth, not giving it to towns for the care of their poor).

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 11:19:31

The monks also became a burden, as they had to leave and go begging.

cory Tue 05-Feb-13 11:20:03

I suppose one big difference from now is that medicine was so unscientific that it probably made little difference then if you could afford the best doctors or not.

Good food, reasonable living conditions, healthy exercise without over hard labour- yes, those would have made a difference. But a learned doctor from Bologna or Sorbonne humming and ha-ing over the juxtaposition of the stars and composition of the elements of the body as opposed to the local wise woman- probably not. Medical literature from those days makes scary reading.

Whereas now, whether you live in a part of the world where you can get to a doctor and can afford a doctor makes a huge difference.

minouminou Tue 05-Feb-13 11:22:08

Stop drawing me innnnnnnnn.......

Trills Tue 05-Feb-13 11:22:49


It means there will be a resurgence of interest in him. That's about it.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:24:31

They were very into putting stuff up your bum, IIRC. Lots of diagrammes of clyster pipes and so on. Nice!

I have heard someone suggest that it might be the reason Jane Seymour died, was basically that she had the 'best doctors' and they interfeared too much. She died of infection, and if you imagine people who knew nothing about sterilisation constantly examining you and trying to put their fingers up there ... it really wouldn't be good.

Trills Tue 05-Feb-13 11:32:34

If you like the idea of people being a teensy bit nuts and talking about Richard II as if he was their imaginary boyfriend (love that imagery) you might like this series of books, set in an alternate 1980s where people are really quite obsessed with books and historical figures and who Shakespeare really was.

BupcakesAndCunting Tue 05-Feb-13 11:32:35

"trying to put their fingers up there ... it really wouldn't be good."

Some quarters may beg to differ.


Bogeyface Tue 05-Feb-13 11:34:57

The Jane Seymour theory does have weight. Puerperal Fever was rife in lying in hospitals where doctors would routinely perform an autopsy on a woman who died of it and then examine another woman in labour or post birth, without washing in between.

The thought makes me shudder.

tiggytape Tue 05-Feb-13 11:36:50

That is interesting about the Catholic perception of physical disability (which Richard lived under) and the Protestant one (under which some Tudor works about him were later written). Anne Boleyn was said to have 6 fingers despite little / no direct evidence (from anyone who wasn't her enemy) to confirm this and this was also seen as an attempt to blacken her name.

In the case of Richard, his disability seems to have been emphasised after his death to discredit him (the Xrays of his portrait showed a prominent hump was added 60 years after his death). His skeleton confirms scoliosis which wouldn't have made him stooped at all but would mean one shoulder was higher.

It is also interesting that scoliosis is usually first noticed in adolescence so in terms of the deabte that disability at birth = saintly but acquired disability = sin, Richard's condition was something that struck him halfway through his life rather than something apparant at birth so maybe that affected how people judged him, if not when he was alive but in terms of how the Tudors judged him in retrospect.

LRDtheFeministDragon Tue 05-Feb-13 11:40:45

bupcakes shock


carlajean Tue 05-Feb-13 13:20:31

I came on this thread because all the talk of 'good' and 'bad' monarchs annoys me so much (makes me think of 1066 and All That). Just want to say thank you to everybody who's contributed such interesting and well-informed posts. I love MN.

Miggsie Tue 05-Feb-13 13:31:05

Please note Henry the 8th was NOT a protestant! He actually held the title "defender of the faith" from the Pope and KAtherine PArr (who was a protestant) almost got arrested for it, but toned her ardour down a bit and apologised to Henry, who then didn't arrest her.

His son and daughter Elizabeth were Protestants but he wasn't.

He was a very profligate moarch with some very canny advisors who decided to take the church's money as they were the richest places in the country at the time and were exempt from tax!

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