Friday, 1 February 2013

The King and I

I was about thirteen years old when I fell in love with Richard III. In the early seventies the BBC showed a programme trying to solve historical  mysteries. I can't for the life of me remember the name of the series but it was a spin off from a detective show called Softly Softly and the episode I remember (the only one I remember) featured the mystery of the princes in the tower. 

I was immediately hooked and afterwards haunted the library, ordered books from remote libraries - we had no internet in those days - and read every scrap of material I could get my hands on. Richard was the subject of the project I wrote for my A level history exam. I also joined the Richard III society and read an awful lot of Ricardian fiction. My interest in history, my chosen career as a historical novelist all spring from that early interest in Richard. Although I haven't written much in that era myself, it remains a favourite period and I still read anything concerning him, fiction or non-fiction. As a girl, it was the fiction that helped me fall deeper in love with him. He was my hero and I couldn't get enough of it, as long as it was pro-Richard. A Daughter of Time (of course) Some Touch of Pity, Requiem for Richard, The Sunne In Splendour, We Speak No Treason - I read them all, more than once.

These days, forty years later, I am less romantically attached and slightly more academic in my approach. I can now accept that, just possibly, he may have been very different to the romantic, gentle knight of popular fiction. He was a man of his times, violent, ruthless even, but a child-killer? I still can't believe that. It would have  made no sense for him to do so. There is still enough romantic teenager left in me to make him seem like a real person, someone who died before I had the chance to really know him, like a great grandfather perhaps. So during the recent excavations at Leicester I have been in two minds. torn between wanting to know and preserving my childhood illusions.

When the day comes when I finally kick off my clogs and they inter me in deep, dark silence, I want to stay there, undisturbed ...forever. Please, don't dig me up - I'm happy here! Although I am not a religious person I am always uncomfortable with exhumation. If I were Richard I'd want to be left beneath the car park, ignominious burial ground or not, but now, in the great name of science, they have dug him up and subjected every remaining part of him to great scrutiny, I am involved whether I want to be or not.  I will be among those glued to the television on Tuesday, awaiting the results.

How will it feel when they reveal the reconstruction? To come face to face with the man I've worshipped, defended and dreamed about?  Spooky, that's what. Awesome. I will be as overwhelmed as a Christian standing before God. (Please don't take offence at that, it isn't intended to offend.)

If the reality of his face doesn't fit the one I have envisioned all these years, will it matter? I don't think so,  I have never been overly fussy about looks, it is the man beneath that matters. On the other hand, if the reconstruction turns out to be the living spit of the warrior king of my imaginings ...I will be shaken to the very core.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post Judith and I too will be watching the programme all about him being found beneath a car park. I just hope he turns out to be all that you want him to be.