I’m not a republican. Constitutional monarchies work fine as a system of government, even though on paper they don’t make sense.
Like Christopher Hitchens, I thoroughly enjoy Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, a novel where a detective examines the case against Richard III and decides that the duplicitous evil king was a creation of the Tudor spin doctor, Thomas More. His version was later popularised by the brilliant propagandist and jingoist, William Shakespeare. Hitchens called The Daughter of Time a “minor classic” and indeed it is a morality tale of not carelessly accepting the received version of an historical event.
Last night I watched a documentary about the Richard III Society raising the money and employing the archaeological department of Leicester University to dig up a car park in Leicester and – shiveringly for the superstitious – on the first day of the dig they uncovered a skeleton with a curved spine. I am delighted when people who our shallow society dubs “anoraks” or “eccentrics” i.e. people with a private passion for something of no obvious profit, are rewarded, whether it’s a couple who stick paua shells on the walls of their house which later turns into a tourist attraction, or a group dedicated to rehabilitating a king who died over five hundred years ago finding his body. It’s a mixed triumph for the Society since it contradicts their theory that Richard’s misshapen body was a lie of Thomas More’s.
But – a service in Leicester Cathedral. Headline news. Trailers on radio and television about live coverage of the burial. Cortege through the city. Heralds and banners and flags. As if this was an event of national importance. I like a good ceremony and will turn up for a Sealed Knot performance but is anyone else going WTRuritanianF about this?
You can follow the mixture of solemnity and derision on #richardreburied.