Tag Archives: Richard III

The White Queen


I am weeping already.  Tonight at probably around 9.30pm Richard of York is going to give battle in vain.  It’s fair to say I am dreading it.

If you haven’t watching The White Queen BBC1 Sunday nights at 9.00 pm what have you been doing?  It has been the most wonderful, glorious historical drama based on the War of The Roses, which I now know was called the Cousins War at the time and was one of the bloodiest periods of English History. So it is educational as well as hugely entertaining. Double Whammy!  This time though it most originally and refreshingly told from the female perspective.  Women may have living with little control in their own futures, but this drama shows you just how much  power they held as wives, daughters, sisters and mothers.   Margaret Beaufort (played by Amanda Hale) mother of Henry Tudor is scarily ambitious for her son, believes she is on a mission from God and demonstrates political nous Machiavelli himself would have been proud.

I won’t deny I found it hard to follow at first.  Everyone seemed to be called Edward, Henry, Richard, Margaret or Elizabeth.   Where there no other names in Medieval times? Luckily the Earl of Warwick was also called the Kingmaker, which helped him stand out a bit but there was so much double-dealing and swapping of allegiances it made my head spin!  Thank God for internet on phones these days,  a quick consult with various historical websites before every episode and suddenly I got it, I understood how everyone thought they had claim to the throne.  It was as if I could spot the money every time in a con man’s game of 3 cups, no matter how fast he moved them around.

The whole cast has been wonderful, full of the next generation of British Acting talent.  It was brave of the BBC to commission a 10 episode drama containing very few star names.  But I am so glad they did.  I will admit thought at the start I watched for Janet McTeer as Jacquetta, the White Queen’s mother, another compelling performance (if you haven’t seen her in Albert Nobbs I recommend you rent it out straightaway, she is a joy and delight in every scene). Newcomer Rebecca Ferguson has been excellent as the titular Queen, a commoner whose radiant beauty helped her rise to be Queen of England (some things never change even in 600 years!) but as you might have guessed my eye has been most caught by Richard of York, better known to the world as Richard III, played brilliantly and with increasing intensity as his proximity to the Crown drew ever closer.

Played by Aneurin Barnard,  Richard, Duke of Gloucester is no bunched-back toad or bottled spider of  the Shakespeare play.  He is much more Edward Scissorhands than Richard Twisted Limbs. The loyal brother of  Edward IV, I feel the Ricardians, so recently delighted with the location of his skeleton in the car park in Leicester, would feel this is a much fairer portrayal.  Still there are moments of great complexity and ambiguity of character. For example when he married Anne Neville, daughter of the aforementioned the Earl of Warwick, there was a sense of uneasiness, was really he rescuing her from his increasingly unstable brother George, Duke of Clarence or was he thinking of himself and the riches he would gain?  As an audience member you are never quite sure, is it duplicity or affection? I guess we will never know.  As always the truth is probably somewhere in between.  My view, for what it is worth, is that he was a good man but becoming King made him act in ways he wouldn’t have ordinarily to keep the Crown.  It is this beautiful nuanced performance, this uncertainty, constantly keeping the audience on its toes to try to work out his motives makes me think that Aneurin Barnard has a very big future ahead of him.  I am definitely putting him on my one to watch list.

And just because I love this Horrible Histories song so much, here it is again, the song that first made me realise that the history books “might have been telling it wrong” and that Richard III “was a nice guy” after all!

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A Queen in A Carpark

Extraordinary and exciting as the news is that Richard III has been discovered, buried in a Social Services Car Park in Leicester for the past 500 years is, there is one detail of this story from this incredible story that defies all rational thought.   The discovery all stemmed from a hunch.

Phillipa Langley has become a new hero to me.  I absolutely adore that she raised all the funds for the dig and the dig itself on a hunch.  On a feeling.  In this age of computers and rationalisation, of research and scientific facts, she walked along that car park on a hot’s summer’s day when she felt it and she said she just knew.  “I walked past a particular spot and absolutely knew I was walking on his grave,” she told the Sunday Times.”It was a hot summer and I had goosebumps so badly and I was freezing cold.

“I am a rational human being but the feeling I got was the same feeling I have had before when a truth is given to me.”

Now I have been forced to watch endless Timeteams on Channel 4.  Horrible dreary programmes with beardy men grub about in the mud for a bit of crockery or at best a piece of Roman coin.   Dull Dull Dull.  I bet too, when they heard about this project they all scoffed and sneered at the fanaticism of Phillipa Langley and her fellow Ricardians, determined to reveal the truth behind their much maligned, King.

I am sure all scientists and academics were very sceptical, I am sure if she would have come to me I would have been too (from my extensive knowledge of Timeteam I know archeologists normally never find anything ever).  So how did Phillipa Langley keep going? Keep persevering with nothing more than a sixth sense?  How sweet it is that she was rewarded so fully?   To not only discover his remains, but have done so within the first fortnight of the dig.

So Phillipa Langley, I salute you, I think you are proof in the believing power of dreams, of never, ever giving up and for listening to your instincts.  I am going to take heed. The way you discovered your King in a Carpark makes you a Queen in my eyes.

It started with a hunch, not a hunch-back

How Richard III would have really looked based on facial reconstructive techniques.

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