Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Richard III: those battles and bad back are just killing me

Fighting, killing, bad back: wish I'd
just stuck to the yoga
Remarkable news that the remains of Richard III have been retrieved from underneath a Leicester car park - some fatal altercation with a moody medieval ticket attendant, perchance?

And what astute combination of archaeological detection and scientific technology in authenticating the royal bones.

Evidence of multiple battle wounds combined with a pronounced spinal deformity testify to the probable extreme pain and discomfort of this last Plantagenet skeleton.

What point in being a king, eh? Why all this dreary weight-bearing armour, helmet-bashing and other tiresome bludgeoning when he could have been stretching out at the physio or doing some supple body balance for the dodgy back?

Which leads us to wonder what use was really served in the longer run by the Bosworth brawl and other such bad-tempered battling - or as the 15th century song hit goes: 'War, huh, yeah, what is it good for? Absolutely everything if you're the victorious Henry VII and now in control of the national spoils.'

But even that only prompted more and more revenue-requiring, tax-gathering, arms-procuring and peasant-drafting wars.  You'd think the political economy of the kingdom somehow depended on it.

Still, it was, at least, pleasing of those past warmongers to name their conflict after some nice summer flowers - unlike serious-sounding slaughters like 'Desert Storm' and 'Cast Lead'. 

And so it's gone on, since time immemorial, war, feuding and quelling of the foreigner hordes: from monarchical pretenders to royalist defenders, lionhearted crusaders to crown invaders, despotic throne fillers to president drone killers.

In the 1954 film King Richard and the Crusaders, actress Virginia Mayo (playing the fictional Lady Edith) chirpily berates Richard I with one of the greatest ever 'anti-war' lines, delivered in finest Hollywood accent: "Oh, fight, fight, fight! That's all you ever think of, Dickie Plantagenet!"

And, you know, with all the mad warring, invading and occupying still to come, she probably had a point.

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