Thursday, 7 February 2013

History is written by the victors: a Catholic burial for good King Richard III!

Source: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images/The Telegraph

You may have seen in the media the story of the discovery of the bones of King Richard III (1452-1458), the last Plantagenet King of England.

A curious debate is going on now in the UK over his burial: will his bones be placed in some post-Reformation Anglican edifice and given some 'ecumenical' service, or will he finally get the Catholic burial denied to him by the usurper Henry Tudor (Henry VII)?

Good King Richard?

Richard III's name was blackened after his death by Tudor propagandists (including Shakespeare), but in fact the evidence suggests that in his brief reign not only was he was innocent of the crimes subsequently attributed to him such as the murder of his nephews, the 'princes in the tower' (for which crime Henry seems a much more plausible suspect), but in fact was rather a good, innovative king.  He was also a devout Catholic, particularly towards the end of his life.

Henry VII, by contrast, moved swiftly to imprison and execute all possible claimants to the throne, and put in place an oppressive regime characterised by financial rapacity, a direction taken even further by his son Henry VIII, who of course appropriated all the monasteries in his quest for cash.

I've always thought it quite ironic that Henry VII, towards the end of his life, established numerous chantries, arranging (he thought) for Masses to be said in perpetuity for his soul in purgatory.  He was surely right to think he was going to be there a long time.  These were, however, all suppressed by his son as part of the break with Rome...

So consider saying a prayer for all three men (OK, for Richard at least), just in case!

8 comments:

Gervase Crouchback said...

Sorry no prayers for the souls of the Henry's especially given the impact of the 'Top down "reformation" which set in motion all the horrors that the Tudors visited upon both Catholic and Protestant in England
Hopefully Richard the III's reforms to the law, his impact upon the North of England ina positive way ,are the tip of the iceberg which will exonnerate him of the 'Princes' in the Tower" murders.
I note that Henry VII executed Richard's son in 1495 too

Kate Edwards said...

An understandable view, but I'm not entirely sure the earlier Henry can be entirely blamed for the crimes of his son (though I agree his ruthless elimination of all potential claimants to the throne doesn't exactly encourage sympathy!). And even the most foul sinner might still have repented at the last - though in Henry VIII's case, there is no good reason to think he did.

PM said...

Moreover,the local ordinary for Leicester doesn't mind celebrating a solemn pontifical Mass. See:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t6gdwfER2gY

Tancred said...

Irrespective of whether he was as evil as he was credibly portrayed by St. Thomas More, his bones and his heart were still Catholic and the recipient of countless blessings. His knees knelt to say Catholic prayers and the Last Rites were pronounced on the crown of his head before he charged to his courageous death. I think he should be buried with our Rites.

Victoria said...

You might like to check out Josephine Tey's TheDaughter of Time, a thoroughly absorbing read re Richard and his supposed crimes.

Kate Edwards said...

Yes, Josephine Tey's book was one I discovered as a teenager and absolutely loved.

As for More's work - he was seven years old when Richard III died, so not a contemporary account in reality, nor was the work ever finished. But in any case, a saint is not infallible in everything they do...

R J said...

Interesting about The Daughter of Time. It has never been a commercial smash-hit. No history of modern English literature, to my knowledge, mentions it at all. Yet, rightly, it goes on selling (purely through word-of-mouth methods); and it goes on appealing to generation after generation, at least to members of these generations who are more intelligent and less credulous than average.

I read it thrice as a teenager, and on dipping into it afresh recently I found its charm working on me all over again. How often as a 1980s history undergraduate, confronted with the necessity to feign enthusiasm for some talentless Marxist guttersnipe on the reading list (remember Christopher Hill?), was I reminded of Josephine Tey's remark: "That is why historians surprise me. They seem to have no talent for the likeliness of any situation. They see history like a peep-show; with two-dimensional figures against a distant background."

R J said...

(You might get this comment appearing twice, though I hope not:)

Strange about The Daughter of Time. It has never been a commercial smash-hit. No history of modern English literature, to my knowledge, mentions it at all. Yet it goes on, rightly, selling (by word-of-mouth methods); it goes on appealing to generation after generation, at least to members of such generations who are more intelligent and less credulous than the average.

I read it thrice as a teenager, and upon dipping into it afresh recently, I found its charm worked on me all over again. How often as a 1980s history undergraduate, obliged to feign enthusiasm for some talentless Marxist guttersnipe on the reading list (remember Christopher Hill?), did I remember with gratitude Josephine Tey's remark: "That is why historians surprise me. They seem to have no talent for the likeliness of any situation. They see history like a peep-show; with two-dimensional figures against a distant background."