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|Posted on February 8, 2013 at 3:26 PM|
No doubt you've already heard that British forensic scientists have positively identified the bones of Richard III, whose unquiet rest in a church crypt was disrupted by the march of progress (or construction of a parking lot; whatever). By coincidence, TCM is showing Anne of the Thousand Days this week. I hadn't seen it in a long time and found it to be a refreshing contrast to the less-than-fastidious treatment of history by the cinema.
Richard Burton's portrayal of Henry VIII was (to my mind) far superior than Robert Shaw's in A Man for All Seasons. Henry, as Burton plays him, is constantly fretful about the possibility that a failure of male succession in England could bring about another War of the Roses. He also shows a noteworthy lack of filial piety, remarking that Henry VII had introduced some evils into England which hadn't been there previously.
Some scholars with whom I am acquainted believe that Shakespeare ransacked the writings (acknowledged or anonymous) of Sir Thomas More to paint Richard III as a blackguard. There are those who aren't convinced that Richard arranged the murder of his nephews in the Tower of London, asserting that Henry VII caused the lads' demise to vindicate his own claim to the throne. It may be that the unearthing of Richard's bones will cause another reappraisal of the troubled half-century that followed Bosworth Field.
We shouldn't be surprised. For almost fifty years, there have been furious debates over the number of shots fired in Dallas and whether they came from the Texas School Book Depository, the Grassy Knoll, or some other place. Debates are good for the advancement of historical knowledge. Let the polemics begin!
Categories: History, Research, Writing, Fiction