I don’t know how much the arts contribute in terms of income but it must be billions. The same can be said for history. Our tourism industry depends on it and we have a significant historical heritage in our part of the world.
The Bargate in Southampton (think Sir Bevis of Hampton as well as the Roman walls), the remains of Henry V’s ship The Grace Dieu in the River Hamble, Portsmouth Naval Dockyard, Winchester Cathedral (and Salisbury Cathedral with one of the few original copies of the Magna Carta, a quick train ride away from our railway station too. I highly recommend the run if you haven’t done it. The Chandler’s Ford to Salisbury line goes through some lovely country. Seeing the Magna Carta for yourself is something special too I think.).
History is a strange beast in how it turns hinges on results and those results can be changed by the smallest of things. There is much truth in the old rhyme “for want of a nail, the horse was lost; for want of the horse, the battle was lost”. Given I’m going to talk a little about the Battle of Bosworth, this is an appropriate rhyme to use, given it is believed to refer to this.
A battle win means regime change. A loss means change too funnily enough. The supporters of those on the losing side can expect reprisals for a start! And one of the biggest examples of this is the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The entire country was affected by that result so why is it not commemorated more?
History is written by the winners. All supporters of Richard III, including me, know how true that statement is, given the king’s “image” in the eyes of so many is that of a man who killed his nephews to take the throne. The “murders” are not proven. Richard did kill, as did all monarchs of his era, including his successor, but that does not make him guilty of the murder of the young Edward V and his brother, Richard, Duke of York.
Allowing for the fact Richard did have motive and opportunity to do away with the Princes if he so wished, it does make it difficult to understand why he left all the other heirs of York, at least one of whom had a better claim to the throne than he did (John de la Pole, another nephew), not just alive, but well and thriving and in his government!
I suspect we will never know the truth. All we can do is read what is known and draw our own conclusions. I followed Phillipa Langley’s quest to find the body of Richard III with great interest (and happily recommend her book too, detailing how this came about, which is called The Search for Richard).
Her next quest is The Missing Princes Project. I would love it if she was able to track down the missing Princes’ remains. I strongly believe the urn in Westminster Abbey that is marked as containing the boys does not. I would like there to be DNA testing on what is in there, given a known descendant of Richard was found and DNA was taken from him to prove the link to the king.
When all is said and done, thanks to treachery, Richard lost at Bosworth. It was a close run thing too. It was the betrayal by Lord Stanley that made the difference. Ironically, only a few years later he was to be executed by the man he put on the throne, Henry VII. Why? Stanley betrayed him too!
The Tudors came in and Richard’s name was mud from then onwards, helped no end by Shakespeare. Much as I love the Bard, I don’t rely on him for historical accuracy. You can’t trust us storytellers, can you? We deliberately make up lies (aka tell stories) and flog them (or the performance of them) to the public.
Bosworth is one of many pivotal moments in our country’s history yet is overlooked. Had Richard won, there would have been no Tudors, Reformation, Counter-Reformation and so much of what happened in our history simply would not have done, including one historical event that does get some attention – the Spanish Armada’s defeat in 1588. It defined us as a seafaring nation but Richard’s direct descendants would’ve been on the throne, they would still have been Catholic, there would have been no Armada sent unless Richard had gone out of his way to upset the Spanish. Richard’s policy in his short reign had been to negotiate where possible.
I find it hard to imagine a history without Elizabeth the First in it but had Richard stayed on the throne, she would not have existed. Richard, shortly before his death, had been planning to remarry into the Portuguese royal house – and was planning his niece, Elizabeth of York, would also do so. There would have been no marriage with Henry Tudor to unite the warring families of York and Lancaster. There would have been no Mary Stuart either given her descent was from Margaret Tudor, Henry VII’s daughter.
As for us here in Hampshire, our emblem is the Tudor Rose, the symbol of the uniting of York and Lancaster. Err… somehow I think we would have chosen differently if Richard had stayed on his throne! The article I link to here shows Hampshire had been linked with Lancaster and the red rose. I suspect this was one of those things “not drawn attention to” during the reigns of the Yorkist kings, Edward IV and Richard III. It would not have had any advantages to Hampshire at the time, quite the opposite in fact.
So how else did Bosworth affect us in Hampshire? Mary Tudor would not have married Philip II of Spain in Winchester Cathedral for one thing. Nor would she have gone down in history as Bloody Mary with all that entails.
One thing I think would’ve still happened is the building up of Portsmouth as a naval port. One of the few good things I do have to say about that monster, Henry VIII, is he did develop the navy (though even here Henry isn’t the innovator, King Alfred centuries before was – and remembered still, especially in Winchester), but Richard was a good soldier and strategist and there is a strong probability he would have done this himself, even if he didn’t have to face threats from the Spanish etc.
One of the odd things about Richard, which those who do think he murdered the Princes, have never explained is the fact he brought in what we would recognise now as the beginnings of human rights legislation. For example, he extended the right to bail. Now isn’t that an oddball thing to do if you are a ruthless killer? Just a thought…
The other major thing about Bosworth is had Richard won, he would almost certainly have strengthened defences around the country afterwards to act as a warning to others and to reinforce his position. This would have impacted on us all in the South, especially around Southampton and Portsmouth, given our part of the world has always been a tempting starting point for any potential invader.
Richard as a character has long attracted storytellers (Shakespeare must have relished writing that story, there is so much drama in it!), and, over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking to friend and fellow author, Jennifer C Wilson, who has made Richard her leading man in her books. In another, he is the romantic lead, not a role usually reserved for him (The Last Plantagenet?). Intrigued? I hope so. If you like books that are different, do check out Jennifer’s work.
More on this to come including Jennifer’s thoughts on the joys and woes of writing her stories, which are categorised as paranormal historical fiction (Kindred Spirits: Tower of London and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile). If you like historical fiction and ghost stories, you will love Jennifer’s work.
And the funny thing about fiction? It can sometimes bring out truths facts will not and is one of so many reasons why I love it. Unlike history, it does not hinge on results (which, after all, can be fixed if you try hard enough!).
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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