Monday, February 11, 2013

Being Richard III

Better Potter’s field than these five centuries under a parking lot. Ignominy was my lot in life and death. But now my bones are free for all to see. No twisted, withered arm, my back less hunched or humped into a mountain as Will Shakespeare had it, no unequal, limping legs, just a curved spine and shoulders asymmetric. Bad ink has maligned me and stained my fate on folio pages.

Elizabeth called me that foule hunch-backt toade so her father’s thirst for severed heads would not suffer by comparison. As if my misshapen form had misshaped my deeds. They did worse than erase my name. One had me retained in the womb for two years. Another born too soon, unfinished, sent into this breathing world, scarce half made up… to disproportion me in every part. In death from Bosworth Field they stripped my body and dragged me to display. In the history books it is written that my body was despoyled to the skyne, and nothynge left above, not so muche as a clowte to cover hys pryve members . . . trussed . . . lyke a hogge or calfe.

But did I not hear the peasants jeer at their cursed act? I tell you I was loved in the forests and the fields, everywhere outside the court. Yes, yes I clawed my way to the throne. Treachery was in the air. But did I not ride to battle with the crown on my head? In my bones, from under cars and concrete I have been a student of the kings. Take note: I was the last monarch to die alongside his men. No Tudor lackey can re-write my bravery and the kingdom which but for a horse was mine. Nor can the chronicle deny I initiated bail to those accused, a beneficence which lives on forevermore. Is this the act of a usurper? Remember, history is merely the victor’s version.

Let this be their winter of discontent, while my grievances against the Bard’s mighty pen are redressed. If my visage seemed fierce and I chewed my lower lip, as reported, it may have been in compensation for my shortened frame. Yet it did not diminish the rage required to orate my call for peace between England and the Scots.

Let it be known that my first act as king was to ensure that the law of the land be administered fairly to all regardless of property or means. I allowed for petitions of the poor and set up legal aid for them in a Court of Requests, later abolished by my my successor, Henry VII. Furthermore, during my mere two-year reign, I protected our merchants by prohibiting the importation of goods from abroad exempting books which I encouraged for my people. Laws, henceforth, would be written in the common tongue, by my decree. During my reign sufficient benefits accrued to the populace, to generate an industry of defamation to my name by the opposition.

From inside my subterranean tomb I have heard spoken scurrilous attacks that besmirch public servants even in this enlightened age. Deceit got ennobled in a master’s hand during my day. Today it just requires repetition.

Hear my pleas. Yet shall my good name be restored. I feel it in my bones.

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