This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands,-- This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ~~William Shakespeare, Richard III

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Richard III, Last Plantagenet King of England

Richard III (Oct 2, 1452 - Aug 22, 1485)

On this day in 1485, the most maligned King in English history was killed at the Battle of Bosworth field. He was betrayed by some of his lords and was "piteously slain and murdered" (as is recorded in the York City records), paving the way for the usurper Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (Henry VII). Thus began the Tudor Dynasty, based on a very weak and illegitimate claim to the throne, and the complete destruction of Richard's reputation.

The battle was mainly a hand-to-hand encounter (which was typical of the times), with the Stanley family (who had promised Tudor that they would desert Richard) keeping away from the fight until, at a critical moment when it was obvious which way the victory was headed, they joined Tudor. Richard, realizing that he was betrayed, cried out, "Treason, treason!" He knew he'd either leave as the King of England or dead and refused to leave the field until, overpowered by numbers, he fell dead in the middle of his enemies. He came very close to dispatching his enemy, Henry Tudor, killing his standard barer, William Brandon (the father of Henry VIII's close friend, Charles Brandon). Even his enemies had to admit that he fought with courage (Tudor's historian even wrote that "King Richard, alone, was killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies"). The crown was supposedly picked up on the field of battle and placed by Sir William Stanley on the head of Tudor, who was at once proclaimed king by the whole army. After the battle Richard's body was taken to Leicester, carried naked across a horse's back, and buried without honor in the church of the Greyfriars. His death was the end of the Plantagenet Dynasty which had ruled England since the succession of Henry II in 1154. In a twist which can tell us a lot about the man who benefited from Richard's death, Tudor dated his reign from the day BEFORE the battle so he could charge all the men who had fought for an anointed and crowned king with treason.

Richard most likely was not the villain that his enemies made him out to appear. He had good qualities (and bad qualities), both as a man and a ruler, and seemed to have a sound judgment of political needs (he had been able to keep the North of England in peace for his brother). In testament to those ideas, a historian of the time, John Rous said he was a "good lord" and had a "great heart" (though he changed his tune once Tudor was on the throne). And the city of York, after hearing of Richard's defeat at Bosworth, risked the fury of the new monarch by entering into it's city council records "king Richard late mercifully reigning upon us ... was piteously slane murdred to the grete hevynesse of this citie." However, it is impossible to convict or clear him of the deaths of his nephews, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, in the Tower of London. He was not a monster but a typical man in an age of strange contradictions of character, an age of refined (for the day) culture mixed with horrible cruelty, and he possessed an emotional temper that was capable of anything (he was a Plantagenet after all).  After his defeat at Bosworth, Tudor and his supporters needed to solidify his claim to the throne and what better way to do that than to make the English people think that the King he replaced was a deformed, evil monster who killed his own nephews? No one did more to cement that belief than William Shakespeare with his play Richard III (Undoubtedly writing to please the Tudors but getting HIS information from Thomas Moore who was only 5 when the events actually occurred; Moore's information came from Bishop Morton, who hated Richard.). They were hugely successful in their endeavors and, unfortunately, this view of Richard stuck until probably the 20th century when scholars really began to study him. Tradition represents Richard as a hunchback but there were no contemporary accounts of him being "deformed." The discovery of Richard's skeleton under the car park in Leicester proved that he was NOT a hunchback (like Shakespeare made everyone believe) but
had scoliosis, which made his fighting ability that much more amazing as he was probably in quite a lot of pain. The discovery also showed that he had multiple wounds all over his body (including one on his "backside") that shows that his body was not treated with any dignity. While the discovery of his body can't confirm or deny the story that he murdered his nephews, it certainly shows that not everything that has been handed down through history is exactly accurate. If Shakespeare's hunchbacked Richard wasn't true, what else may not be true?

Loyaulte me lie

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pride and Prejudice Movies: 1940

So I have now seen all 4 versions of the Jane Austen's wonderful novel and I felt like I could finally do some comparison posts! I will do a blog post for each version (1940, 1980, 1995, 2005) in which I discuss the movie and offer my thoughts on it.

I'll start with the earliest version, the 1940 movie starring Laurence Olivier as Mr. Darcy and Greer Garson as Lizzy.

WARNING!!! There MAY be spoilers after this point!!!

The Good:

1) It was a fun movie to watch. Honest. In fact it was so fun I laughed almost the whole time. I was "excessively diverted!"

2) I thought Lawrence Olivier's Mr. Darcy was actually rather good. I did enjoy his "smoldering" good looks (though it took me a while NOT to see Richard III standing there!). I liked his personality but there were a few times I had to laugh at the "clumsiness" his Mr. Darcy showed.

3) The other actors and actresses did a fine job in their roles. Perhaps they all didn't quite LOOK the part (the actress playing Charlotte was way too pretty) but they still did a decent job.

The Strange:

I can't exactly call this "The Bad" as I'm sure a lot of what was done was just the way it was in the late 30s and early 40s. Obviously they were showing to a much different audience than what movie makers have today.

1) The costumes. I started laughing within a few seconds of the movie starting when I saw the clothes and couldn't stop. HUGE hoop skirts, ridiculously large bonnets, and endless flounces and ruffles and bows. I felt like I had been dropped into Gone With the Wind. After some internet searching I discovered that the producers actually set the movie 40 YEARS LATER so they could have more elaborate costumes (and they did recycle some of the costumes from GWTW!). So this is not a Regency but something plunked right down in the middle of Victorian fashion. :)

2) Now I understand that all movie makers have a set amount of time for their movie but I felt they went wayyyy overboard with their mashing together of scenes here! There were a couple of instances where this happened.

3) The added scenes. Some of them were quite funny (the carriage race home from Meryton and Darcy "hiding" Lizzy from Mr. Collins come to mind) but it was just weird. And the weird twist at the end with Lady Catherine's visit to see Lizzy??!!!

Like I said, I can understand that a lot of this was done because of the era the movie was made in. Perhaps the way they changed things around suited the tastes of the early 40s but it is certainly comical to watch! This is NOT the worst of the P&P adaptions - I'll get to THAT one in a few days - but it is not an accurate representation of the Austen's novel. So, if you just love watching anything that smacks of Austen (and you like a good laugh!) then have fun watching. If you're a purest then I'd probably steer clear (unless you just want a good laugh). Its not horrible but its...different.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Richard III...Found

In honor of the momentous and historical announcement this week that the body of Richard III has been found...

I have been bouncing off the walls with excitement and joy at the discovery of my favorite King (and the discovery that he was NOT a deformed hunchback like the Tudors wanted people to believe). He will now receive a burial and tomb proper for an anointed King of England. I can not wait to visit England and his new tomb in Leicester Cathedral.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Pride and Prejudice Bicentenary Challenge 2013

The lovely folks at Austenprose are offering a fantastic challenge this year in honor of the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice! I love Austen and was excited to hear about this year long challenge! I'm going for the Disciple level (having two small children really cuts back on my reading and movie watching time!).

Head over to their blog to read all the guidelines and the GIVEAWAYS they're offering! I'm in love!