Today, the 22nd August, is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, which took place near Leicester in 1485. This battle was effectively the end of the War of the Roses, between the white rose of York and the red rose of Lancaster. Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings, was killed on the battlefield.
I was born and brought up in Leicester, with an awareness of the significance of the otherwise-uninteresting commuter village of Bosworth. History judged Richard as Shakespeare had done. Shakespeare’s so-called ‘history plays’ were seen almost as historical sources then, not as the Tudor propaganda that they are read as now.
Therefore, Richard was an evil hunchback who killed the Princes in the Tower and died on Bosworth Field, calling for a horse. It would have been a good deal for some bemused peasant who had a spare horse. Richard was offering a whole kingdom for one.
This must have been the start of rampant inflation and the debt crisis!
No-one seemed to have a spare horse handy at the time, though, so Richard was probably butchered in a ditch. We all knew that his body was taken to Leicester and thrown in the river, although why Henry Tudor’s troops would have gone to that much trouble is unclear.
But now we have found him under a car park. The parking space was just outside the classrooms of my sister’s school. She had shaken her pony tail over the hunchback king.
And then it became a major issue, about where to put him next. The people of Leicester thought he was theirs, the people of York thought he was theirs. Tewkesbury Abbey claimed a bit of the action as well. So did Westminster Abbey.
Everyone seemed to want a bit of the man they had supposedly thrown in the river as a piece of butchered garbage.
Leicester Cathedral eventually got the Oscar. They already had the body at the University of Leicester and they weren’t going to let him go again. He represents the tourist pound or the tourist dollar.
His price, now, is far beyond that of a horse. His true kingdom is a grubby parking space in Leicester. The story of the strange discovery of his body is more interesting than a monument that is nearly 600 years too late. If you visit the cathedral, go and see the car park as well. That will teach you more about human glory and the hollow crown.
We will all finish somewhere as laughable and anonymous. It’s just that when our bones are dug up no-one will notice.
Think on . . .