Posts Tagged ‘England’

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The world is going through convulsions currently about the just-released new movie Mary Queen of Scots, primarily because of the acting skills of the remarkable Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie, both of whom apparently light up the screen, and admiration for the lush staging of the story, both in terms of the gorgeous countryside and the recreation of medieval court life.

You can view the trailer for the movie below:

From Ronan’s powerful screen presence and mastery of a Scots accent to Robbie’s ineffably emotional performance, audiences seem set to love the film. Alex Hudson of Exclaim! wrote, “The real star here isn’t Mary at all, but Elizabeth — brilliantly played by Margot Robbie, who conveys a thin veneer of confidence disguising a deep well of neuroses.”

The danger, though, for all that both leading ladies’ offer masterful performances, is that people will mistake it for history, which it is not.

As Benjamin Lee in the Guardian said:

“Historians have already labelled the film problematic from Mary’s Scottish accent (apparently her real accent was French) to the film’s dramatic in-person confrontation between the two queens (apparently it never happened),” he writes.

But your annoyance with these deviations will depend on how you view the gap between history and historical drama and while there are some embellishments, they’re embellishments that have been added to previous adaptations and the primary facts appear relatively untainted, the truth shocking enough to propel the plot by itself.”

 

It’s an interesting point. Mary and Elizabeth never met, but a personal meeting between the two of them is pivotal to an understanding of the story. Does that really matter? Perhaps not. As one commenter pointed out in the comments for the trailer: “No one is watching this for educational purposes. Nobody’s gonna pay to watch a movie about (people) passive aggressively writing letters. ”

The same is true of one of the best films we have seen in recent years – certainly the finest leading performance – with Bohemian Rhapsody.

The film plays fast and loose with the chronology of events in Freddie Mercury’s life. For example, it appears to criticise Mercury for attempting solo albums, but ignores the fact his fellow Queen members were doing the same. It places the revelation of Mercury’s HIV infection as just before the seminal Live Aid performance, where band members confirm they knew a lot sooner than that.

See the trailer here – and see the film. We cannot recommend Rami Malek’s performance highly enough. It is utterly mesmerising and well deserves to win the Oscar for Best Actor.

 

Other noted movies to depart from strict historicity include recent efforts like Outlaw King (about Robert the Bruce), and the Darkest Hour (with Oscar-winning Gary Oldman as Churchill), and many others that are great movies, not so great history.

Churchill never rode the London Tube, for example, but the scene where he chats amiably to working class travelers is central to understanding his motivation to keep fighting the war with Hitler. Similarly, Churchill is portrayed as a hero for standing up to the defeatism of Chamberlain and Halifax, which he was, but ignores the vital role played by Labour Leader Clem Attlee, who was vital in bolstering support for Churchill.

The interesting question for all movie goers and critics is whether these mild changes to actual historicity really matter much, or whether compiling a compelling story is the higher priority, a story which contains within it deeper truths about the people and events concerned.

It will be interesting, in particular, to see what people make of Mary’s character in this film. Critics have argued that the film has strong feminist overtones, and it has certainly been promoted as such, portraying both Mary and Elizabeth, to a degree, as victims of the patriarchy in their society.

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Mary of Scotland in France

But that would surely be a case of too easily dismissing both women. They were both extremely strong-willed, eloquent, extremely well-educated, frequently sure of their personal direction, often capricious, sexually aggressive, charismatic and very often arrogant. Neither were especially merciful to those who opposed them.

Mary in particular undoubtedly endured bad luck. The early death of her first husband, Francis II of France, very possibly robbed her of a peaceful and contented future. (That she was deeply in love with Francis seems undoubted.) His death, and her subsequent return to Scotland, landed her in the middle of a deeply charged and volatile situation, riven with competing forces and religious tension, for which nothing could have adequately prepared her.

But she didn’t help herself. As history would have it, and with one eye on the English throne, she managed to annoy both her Catholic and her Protestant subjects.

Mary’s real downfall – which is often portrayed as due to her scheming (history being written by the victors, in this case Elizabeth’s advisor William Cecil) – was her obvious claim to be the rightful successor to Elizabeth, and as such her inevitable role as the lodestar of hope for English Catholics still smarting after the death of Mary Tudor and the accession of the protestant Elizabeth.

Even though Elizabeth would not name Mary as her heir – fearing being supplanted by her if her legitimacy was too strongly endorsed – she assured the Scottish envoy Maitland that she knew no one with a better claim than Mary. It is questionable, at least, whether Mary could ever have escaped her fate once landed in Scotland. She was simply too important – or too dangerous – for too many people.

What is certain, though, is that Mary’s own choice of male partners was largely the single most obvious factor in her undoing.

Mary made a fatal error in falling in love with and marrying Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, which infuriated Elizabeth who felt the marriage should not have gone ahead without her permission, as Darnley was both her cousin and an English subject.

Elizabeth felt especially threatened by the marriage, because as descendants of her aunt, both Mary and Darnley were claimants to the English throne and their children, if any, would inherit an even stronger, combined claim. In being ruled by her heart rather than her head Mary shows herself as much less circumspect than her cousin, who more than once put away from her men she clearly loved, but who were not suitable as husbands.

The marriage to Darnley, another Catholic, also prompted a Protestant rebellion. Thereafter Darnley’s dubious character and cack-handed meddling in politics led directly to Mary fleeing Scotland and her eventual death.

Similarly, her subsequent dalliance with and marriage to Lord Bothwell was also a disaster. Far from pacifying the Protestants, the marriage shocked Protestants and Catholics alike, with many people believing Mary had conspired with Bothwell to murder Darnley. Whether or not this was actually the case has intrigued historians, who do not agree on her guilt. What is certain is that Mary badly miscalculated the effect of her relationship with Bothwell on her long-term survival as Queen of Scots.

Elizabeth proved by far the more wily of the two Queens.

For many years, with Mary captive in England, she balanced what seems to have been genuine concern for Mary’s well-being with a desire to see her either restored to the Scots throne within a Protestant state, or simply to neuter her threat. But whatever she did, the Catholics of England – encouraged and abetted by Mary herself – simply wouldn’t settle down. Rebellions in her favour in the North of England, the Ridolfi plot, a plan to marry her to the Spaniard Don John of Austria who would then invade England from the Netherlands, (that one was directly down to the then Pope), the Throckmorton Plot, the William Parry plot and finally the Babington plot made it clear that Mary was actively plotting to replace Elizabeth, and her assassination. Indeed, it could be argued that with evidence repeatedly piling up Elizabeth was remarkably patient with her wayward cousin.

Mary’s eventual execution was inevitable. It was required to secure the realm.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that she does not deserve our sympathy, and her courage at her execution undoubtedly plays into the sympathetic view of her held by many people.

It is interesting to speculate what might have happened had she ever become Queen of England. When her son by Darnley, James I of England, succeeded Elizabeth, he came down hard on the English Catholics in a way that Mary probably would not have. James’s severity kept a lid on the ever-bubbling cauldron of religious strife in the country for 22 years, and it is arguable that Mary would not have been as successful, and may even have returned to the violent religiosity of her namesake, “Bloody” Mary Tudor.

But James’s son, Charles, who seems to have shared many emotional characteristics with his grandmother, clearly failed to manage the fault lines in English society, and he, too, paid with his head.

Nothing in Britain would ever be the same again. And the much-mooted union of Scotland and England would not actually occur until 1707.

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The Abbott government - looking very tired, very quickly.

The Abbott government – looking very tired, very quickly.

We are deeply disappointed that Head Boy Tony Abbott chose to make Sir Prince Phil the Greek an “Australian Knight” for his “contribution to charity in Australia”, made during the 60 years or so since he was plucked from minor European faux-royalty obscurity to enjoy a lifetime of shooting defenceless fauna and insulting people by marrying Her Maj.

Not, we hasten to add, because such an obviously ludicrous decision reduces still further Mr Abbott’s likelihood of holding onto the top job, which is already vanishingly unlikely in our view.

Rather, because if we’re going to hand out Imperial knighthoods – in itself a daft idea for a modern country on the other side of the planet, and supposedly no longer aping England in the 1950s – then there are so many other deserving candidates. We have limited ourselves to the obvious English candidates. Sort of.

Admiral Sir John-Luc Picard of Wagga Wagga? Make it so.

Admiral Sir John-Luc Picard of Wagga Wagga? Make it so. Engage!

Sir Captain John-Luc Picard

It is far too easily forgotten that if the Captain of the Enterprise had not leapt back in time at great risk to himself, Will Riker’s stay-pressed hairdo and Deanna Troi’s lop-sided top-heavy jumpsuit, then we would not be celebrating Australia Day at all. We would, in fact, not even be Australia. Rather we would be Colony 6 Adjunct 5 of Unimatrix 7 with Borg nannites for red blood cells and one of those weird eyes that shines out beams of green light for no apparent reason. Saving Earth from the Borg? That’s a hell of lot more impressive than teaching wayward teenagers to climb trees, or whatever it is that the Dook of Edinberg’s scheme actually does. PS Yes, we know John-Luc is French, but he’s a sort of Yorkshirefied version of French, and that’s OK.

Sir Phillip “Butterfingers” Tufnell

Phil-TufnellIn the not too distant past, England’s cricket team employed a decent slow bowler (and not half bad batsman, except when playing against Shane Warne) called Phil Tufnell, who has gone on to make himself popular as a TV and radio personality in the UK. His most dramatic career moments were when as a fielder for England in Australia he dropped more catches, racked up more misfields and generally made a doofus of himself so often that he endeared himself to Aussies countrywide. Retreating to the boundary after a bowling spell, Tufnell’s mood was scarcely lightened by an inspired sledge from somewhere among the braggarts, brawlers and boozers in the MCG crowd, although he can laugh about it now. “Oi, Tufnell! Lend us your brain, we’re building an idiot,” bellowed his latest admirer. We witnessed with our own eyes at the MCG a banner being unfurled that read “Hey Phil, chuck it to us, we’ll throw it back for you”, a commentary on his less than stellar long throws back to the wicket-keeper. And when he announced his retirement from Test cricket the Australian Tuffnell Academy of Fielding announced a national day of mourning. It seems only reasonable, if we’re handing out knighthoods for Poms, that this Phil rather than Phil Windsor belatedly gets his for keeping us more entertained than most of the rest of the cricketing world put together.

divaSir Makybe Diva

Makybe Diva is a British-bred, Australian-trained thoroughbred that became the first racehorse to win the famed Melbourne Cup on three occasions: 2003, 2004, and 2005. In 2005, she also won the Cox Plate. Makybe Diva is the highest stakes-earner in Australasian horse racing history, with winnings of more than A$14 million when she retired on 1 November 2005, and is one of only five horses to have won the Cup more than once in the long history of the event, which was first run in 1861, and the only mare among the list of multiple winners, and is one of only 14 female horses (11 mares and three fillies) to have won the Cup. Yes, of course, we know that this should really mean she should be Dame Makybe Diva, not Sir Makybe Diva, but we are stretching a point. We can’t think of anything more Australian than to make a horse a Knight, especially one that made plenty of punters a sizeable packet over the years, so there it is.

Sir Edward John “Eddie” Izzard of the Death Star

Eddie Izzard is an stand-up comedian, actor and writer. His comedy style takes the form of rambling, whimsical monologue and self-referential pantomime. He is also, in our opinion, responsible for the single funniest three minutes of stand up ever written,Eddie-Izzard to wit, “There must have been a canteen on the Death Star”, a bizarre envisioning of Darth Vader heading to the Death Star canteen for lunch between blowing up planets here and there on behalf of the Evil Empire.

It was brought brilliantly to life using Lego characters as seen in the following video, which has caused more joyous weeping around computer screens than just about anything else we can think of, and thus deserves a knighthood in and of itself. Interestingly, Izzard was actually born in Aden, so although he’s of English descent (and has also resided in Northern Ireland and Wales) he’s also sort of vaguely connected to the Middle East, making him spozzingly current and topical and wow. He also likes dressing up in women’s clothing, which would just be so annoying for our current cretinous Prime Minister that it makes him a perfect choice.

And last but not least:

skippySir Skippy

For a generation, Australians have been understood by the rest of the world as a fun-loving bunch of larrikins who can talk to kangaroos.

“What’s that, Skippy? Uncle Tony has fallen down a well? We need to go get Constable Bob to rescue him? What’s that, Skip? If we don’t get there soon he might die?

I’ve got bad news for you, Skip. Mum needs us home for tea. Here, have a knighthood instead.”

So what about you, Dear Reader?

Which English-ish person or animal should have received a knighthood before Prince Phillip?

Don’t hold back.

forgotten- irish slavesThey came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas. They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.

Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways. Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment. They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.

We don’t really need to go through all of the gory details, do we? We know all too well the atrocities of the African slave trade.

But, are we actually talking about African slavery?Fascinatingly, in this case, no.

King James II and Charles I led a continued effort to enslave the Irish. Britain’s famed revolutionary Oliver Cromwell furthered this practice of dehumanising one’s next door neighbour.

The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World. His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies. By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat. At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.

Ireland quickly became the biggest source of human livestock for English merchants. The majority of the early slaves to the New World were actually white.

From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves. Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade. Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic. This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children most of whom died. Britain’s solution to their penury was to auction them off as well.

During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.

In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia. Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder. In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.

Many people today will avoid calling the Irish slaves what they truly were: slaves. They’ll come up with terms like “Indentured Servants” to describe what occurred to the Irish, and it is true that some were, and were held under less onerous regimes than the slaves. However, in most cases from the 17th and 18th centuries, Irish slaves were nothing more than human cattle. They never became “free”, and they never returned home.

Meanwhile, the African slave trade was just beginning during this same period. And it is well recorded that ironically African slaves, not tainted with the stain of the hated Catholic theology and more expensive to purchase, were often treated far better than their Irish counterparts.

African slaves were very expensive during the late 1600s (50 Sterling). But Irish slaves came cheap (no more than 5 Sterling). If a planter whipped or branded or beat an Irish slave to death, it was never a crime. A death was a monetary setback, but far cheaper than killing a more expensive African.

The English masters quickly began breeding the Irish women for both their own personal pleasure and for greater profit. Children of slaves were themselves slaves, which increased the size of the master’s free workforce. Even if an Irish woman somehow obtained her freedom, her kids would remain slaves of her master. Thus, Irish moms, even with this new found emancipation, would seldom abandon their kids and would remain in servitude.

mulattoIn time, the English thought of a better way to use these women (in some cases, girls as young as 12) to increase their market share: the settlers began to breed Irish women and girls with African men to produce slaves with a distinct complexion. These new “mulatto” slaves brought a higher price than Irish livestock and, likewise, enabled the settlers to save money rather than purchase new African slaves. Some mulatto children obviously were born as a result of rape or consensual sex between owners and black slaves. Many more were the result of a deliberate breeding programme.

This practice of interbreeding Irish females with African men went on for several decades and was so widespread that, in 1681, legislation was passed “forbidding the practice of mating Irish slave women to African slave men for the purpose of producing slaves for sale.” In short, it was stopped only because it interfered with the profits of a large slave transport company.

England continued to ship tens of thousands of Irish slaves for more than a century. Records state that, after the 1798 Irish Rebellion, thousands of Irish slaves were sold to both America and Australia. There were horrible abuses of both African and Irish captives. One British ship even dumped 1,302 slaves into the Atlantic Ocean so that the crew would have plenty of food to eat.

It is hardly ever spoken about, but there is little question that the Irish experienced the horrors of slavery as much (if not more in the 17th Century) as Africans did. There is, also, very little question that those brown, tanned faces you witness in your travels to the West Indies are very likely a combination of African and Irish ancestry. In 1839, Britain finally decided on it’s own to end it’s participation in this highway to hell and stopped transporting slaves. While their decision did not stop pirates from doing what they desired, the new law slowly concluded at least this chapter of nightmarish Irish misery.

As we look ever more clearly at our past, Irish slavery is a subject worth remembering, not erasing from our memories. Or is their story to be one that their English pirates intended: to have the Irish story utterly and completely disappear as if it never happened?

None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal. These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and history books conveniently forgot. It is time they were remembered.

Thanks to an interesting article published by Ancestry.com, we now know that many of us have surnames passed down to us from ancestors in Britain.

Apparently, last names weren’t widely used until after the Norman conquest of England and Wales in 1066, but as the country’s population grew, people found it necessary to be more specific when they were talking about somebody else. Thus arose descriptions like Thomas the Baker, Norman son of Richard, Henry the Whitehead, Elizabeth of the Field, and Joan of York that, ultimately, led to many of our current surnames.

“Come and see the violence inherent in the system!”

They still name people after their profession in Wales. Our long lost but much loved cousin Roger, who started a life as the owner of a footwear business, was known universally as Roger the Shoe. Until he sold the shops and took up a smallholding, at which time he became, proudly, Roger the Pig.

Apparently there are perhaps 45,000 different English surnames, but most had their origins as one of these seven types.

Occupational

Occupational names identified people based on their job or position in society.

Calling a man “Thomas Carpenter” indicated that he worked with wood for a living, while someone named Knight bore a sword.

Other occupational names include Archer, Baker, Brewer, Butcher, Carter, Clark, Cooper, Cook, Dyer, Farmer, Faulkner, Fisher, Fuller, Gardener, Glover, Head, Hunt or Hunter, Judge, Mason, Page, Parker, Potter, Sawyer, Slater, Smith, Taylor, Thatcher, Turner, Weaver, Woodman, and Wright (or variations such as Cartwright and Wainwright) — and there are many more.

This kind of name also gave a clue about whom a servant worked for. Just adding an S to a name indicated a feudal relationship with someone else. So someone named Vickers might have been a servant to Mr. Vicker, and someone named Williams might either have served a William or been adopted by him.

From the obscure fact department: in medieval England, before the time of professional theater, craft guilds put on “mystery plays” (“mystery” meaning “miracle”), which told Bible stories and had a call-and-response style of singing. A participant’s surname — such as King, Lord, Virgin, or Death — may have reflected his or her role, which some people played for their whole life and then passed down to their eldest son.

Describing a personal characteristic

Some names, often adjectives, were based on nicknames that described a person. They may have described a person’s size (Short, Long, Little), coloring (Black, White, Green, or Red, which could also have evolved into “Reed”), or another character trait (Stern, Strong, Swift). Someone named Peacock might have been considered vain, and so on.

From an English place name

A last name may have pointed to where a person was born, lived, worked, or owned land. It might be from the name of a house, farm, hamlet, town, or county. Some examples: Bedford, Burton, Hamilton, Hampshire, Sutton. Writer Jack London’s ancestor, for example, probably hailed from London.

From the name of an estate

Those descended from landowners may have taken as their surname the name of their holdings, castle, manor, or estate, such as Ernle or Staunton. Windsor is a famous example — it was the surname George V adopted for the British royal family to replace their original German name Saxe-Coburg-Gotha during World War I, because they had a home at Windsor Castle. Another Royal anglicised his name from Battenberg (a small town in Germany) to Mountbatten for the same reason. The Queen’s current husband, Prince Philip, also adopted the name Mounbatten, even though he was originally Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. Quite a mouthful.

From a geographical feature of the landscape

Some examples are Bridge, Brooks, Bush, Camp, Fields, Forest, Greenwood, Grove, Hill, Knolles, Lake, Moore, Perry, Stone, Wold, Wood, and Woodruff. Author Margaret Atwood, for example, is probably descended from someone who lived “at the wood.”

Patronymic, matronymic, or ancestral

Patronymic surnames (those that come from a male given name) include Benson (“the son of Ben”), Davis, Dawson, Evans, Harris, Harrison, Jackson, Jones (which is Welsh for John), Nicholson, Richardson, Robinson, Rogers, Simpson, Stephenson, Thompson, Watson, and Wilson.

Matronymic ones, surnames derived from a female given name, include Molson (from Moll, for Mary), Madison (from Maud), Emmott (from Emma), and Marriott (from Mary).

Scottish clan names make up one distinct set of ancestral surnames. These include Armstrong, Cameron, Campbell, Crawford, Douglas, Forbes, Grant, Henderson, Hunter, MacDonald, and Stewart. Anyone with these names has Scottish heritage hiding in their history somewhere.

Signifying patronage

Some surnames honored a patron. Hickman was, literally, Hick’s man (Hick being a nickname for Richard). Kilpatrick was a follower of Patrick.

We have a coat of arms. Ner. Mind you, like "namign a star", we suspect everyone can have a coat of arms if they hunt on Google long enough ...

We have a coat of arms. Nyah nyah. It’s three eagle’s heads rampant, or something or other. Mind you, like “naming a star”, we suspect everyone can have a coat of arms if they hunt on Google long enough … We know more than a few people who own one square foot of Scotland and thus have a legal right to call themselves Laird. Which isn’t far from Lord. Which is only one step away from being bumped up to business class on international flights. Yes, we’re onto you.

And how the hell did we end up with the unusual name Yolland, Dear Reader, which we have been patiently spelling to people over the phone for half a lifetime?

Well, originally this was a West Country Saxon name something like “Attenoldelande” which means “lives at or nearby the cultivated land”. There is some record of a family seat in Lancashire, and there is a Yolland Wood in Devon, near Plymouth. And that’s about it.

So once upon a time, all the Yollands, Yoldelondes, Yelands, Yolandes, Yealands, Yellands, Yeolands, Yallands, Yellens and all the rest were … well, serfs, basically.

Although they may have been free tenant farmers under a Saxon lord. But more likely serfs.

Anyway, before we launch into more quotes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, we simply note that our lineage has been around a very long time, and we have mud under our fingernails.

So there.

Remains of Richard III

The royal remains. Now is the winter of our discontent made pretty bloody obvious for all to see. Getty.

A skeleton that lay undisturbed for 500 years and was found last year buried under a council car park in north England is that of reviled king Richard III, the last English king to die in battle.

The skeleton buried under a Leicester City Council car park was positively identified after five months of exhaustive research including DNA analysis and carbon dating – as well as research of centuries old historical records confirming conclusively the body was that of the king.

The poor old king – “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” – apparently didn’t go easy. He went down fighting – investigators from the University of Leicester revealed that the remains bore the marks of ten injuries inflicted shortly before his death. Researchers even know the weapon that was used to kill him – death was determined to have been with a blow to the base of the skull, consistent with a blow from a halberd consisting of an axe blade topped with a spike mounted on a long shaft. Ouch.

Yup, that's him. I'd know the old bastard anywhere.

Yup, that’s him. I’d know the old bastard anywhere.

Injuries to jaw and cheek after death were determined to have been “humiliation injuries” inflicted after death. Other wounds showed he had been stabbed in the back and the buttock, again after death and possibly as his body was being paraded, and concluded that his hands were tied when he was buried awkwardly in the pit below what was then a friary; no coffin or shroud or even clothes.

As a debate rages over what to now do with the 500-year-old king, it could literally unearth more buried skeletons with calls to now open up a sarcophagus at Westminster Abbey that supposedly contain the dead remains of his two child prince nephews.

With Richard’s DNA sequence information established, there is some interest to now test the bones of a set of children found in the Tower of London in 1674 which are said to have belonged to Richard’s two nephews whom he was supposed to have murdered to seize the crown.

Throughout history, Richard was painted as a murderous hunchback – thanks largely to Shakespeare’s portrayal of the king apparently at the behest of the Tudor kings who had earlier defeated Richard in the War of the Roses and wanted to discredit his memory – who killed his brother then his brother’s two sons.

The bones in the Tower were later moved into a white marble sarcophagus in Westminster Abbey with the inscription:

“These brothers being confined in the Tower of London and there stifled with pillows were privately and meanly buried by the order of their perfidious uncle Richard the Usurper”.

But various King Richard supporter societies claim the king did not kill his nephews and there was no proof the bones in Westminster Abbey were even those of the princes which history recorded were last seen in the Tower in 1483. DNA tests could show that and clear his name in history at least from this murder.

Indeed, historians now agree that Richard wasn’t by any means all bad – he established certain rights and freedoms which we would consider an important part of modern society today.

Richard was widely praised – and liked – for improving conditions in the north of England when he was in charge there before becoming King himself. In December 1483, Richard instituted what later became known as the Court of Requests, a court to which poor people who could not afford legal representation could apply for their grievances to be heard. He also introduced bail in January 1484, to protect suspected felons from imprisonment before trial and to protect their property from seizure during that time. He founded the College of Arms in 1484, he banned restrictions on the printing and sale of books, and he ordered the translation of the written Laws and Statutes from the traditional French into English. Not exactly the grasping baddie he is generally considered to be.

Basically, though, he was something of a stumbling, unlucky king. He only held the throne for a couple of years, during which he quite failed to conjoin enough of his noble supporters together to protect his reign, and he lost the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, a defining moment in the civil War of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster, despite being numerically superior to Henry Tudor, who duly went on to become Henry VII.

There is considerable evidence that key allies deserted him at the last moment. The traditional view of the cause of the King’s famous cries of “Treason!” before falling has been that during the battle Richard was abandoned by Baron Stanley (made Earl of Derby in October). Despite his apparent affiliation with Richard, Baron Stanley’s wife, Lady Margaret Beaufort, was Richard’s opponent, Henry Tudor’s, mother.

The switching of sides by the Stanleys severely depleted the strength of Richard’s army and had a material effect on the outcome of the battle. Also the death of John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, his close companion, appears to have had a demoralising effect on Richard and his men.

Perhaps in realisation of the implications of this, Richard then appears to have led a courageous impromptu cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks in an attempt to end the battle quickly by striking at Henry Tudor himself. Accounts note that Richard fought bravely and ably during this manoeuvre, unhorsing Sir John Cheney, a well-known jousting champion, killing Henry’s standard bearer Sir William Brandon and coming within a sword’s length of Henry himself before being finally surrounded by Sir William Stanley’s men and killed.

The Burgundian chronicler Jean Molinet says that a Welshman struck the death-blow with a halberd while Richard’s horse was stuck in the marshy ground. It was said that the blows were so violent that the king’s helmet was driven into his skull. The contemporary Welsh poet Guto’r Glyn implies that the leading Welsh Lancastrian Rhys ap Thomas, or one of his men, killed the king, writing that he “killed the boar, shaved his head”.

The discovery in 2013 of King Richard’s body clearly suggests the king had lost his helmet. The skull showed that a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull.

The battle was famously chronicled by Shakespeare, including the famous line Richard was supposed to have yelled after he fell from his mount in the middle of the battleground: “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” before he was killed.

The King was returned to Leicester tied to the pommel of his horse but then secretly buried in a small friary, to keep away from those who wanted to possibly destroy the body many suspected had murdered his brother and his two prince nephews to seize the throne. The friary was later levelled by the Tudor kings and lost in time.

A feud in England has now developed as to where King Richard should be buried. Possibilities include burying him at Westminster Abbey or Windsor Castle with the other kings; taking him back to York for burial; burying him at Leicester Cathedral, where he has been in its shadow for centuries; or a burial and grand ceremony at the Catholic Westminster Cathedral in London, because he was a Roman Catholic. It currently looks like Leicester Cathedral will win … and fair play, too. They have had a monument to the dead King in the cathedral for some years.

Lawrence Olivier as Richard III

History hasn’t been kind to Richard, especially since Larry Olivier made him one of the most detestable characters in cinema history. Shakespeare fashioned the knife, but Olivier delivered it perfectly. Al Pacino subsequently made he seem pretty unpleasant too.

Anyhow. Welcome back. Dickie.

The daily rate for a Leicester NCP car park is £18.50. Richard III has been there 192,649 days. He therefore owes £3,564,006.50 in parking fees. Presumably the crown can pay …

Meanwhile the Twittersphere has exploded with funny stuff. So far my favourite is one wag who opined: I promise I will buy any paper who runs the headline DICK HEAD FOUND IN CAR PARK. Gold.

(I am indebted to my old friend Peter Chegwyn for the maths and to News Ltd for the story, amongst others.)

Ok, it’s not an ad. But it’s very funny.

Oh, those crazy whacky British private schools …

No wonder there are traffic queues on the M4 to Gloucestershire. And one also has to love the para that reads: Mrs Tuck said there was “something special” about the nurturing spirit of an all girls’ school.

Well, yes.

(Look, don’t blame me, OK? I didn’t write it … I just fearlessly report the world’s lunacies.)

The other F*** Ups we’ve spotted this year, if you missed ’em.

The world’s stupidest billboard placement: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-gX

Not the holiday anyone would really want: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-hJ

Stores abusing innocent shoppers: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-j8

My personal favourite so far, the most embarrassingly badly worded headline in history: http://tinyurl.com/7enukvd

Oh, those crazy whacky country McDonalds eaters: http://tinyurl.com/83vgpng

And the most recent. The amazingly handy father: http://wp.me/p1LY0z-vM

More soon, no doubt. Keep ’em coming people.