Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Historical Anecdotes

by David William Wilkin

In the autumn of 1785, there was held a masked ball at which two of the attendees came to blows and had to be marched out of the ball by guards. Outside they were unmasked.


"Aye, William, is it you?" asked the first.
"Aye, George, is it you?" replied the other.
The embarrassed guards hurriedly released their princely prisoners.
From the Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes 1989


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Very popular at the moment is Richard III, who reigned for but two years, from 1483 to 1485. Those who are fans of Historical Fiction will perhaps have read the Epic, The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman (if you haven't and you like Historical Fiction, this should be a read!) or perhaps Josephine Tey's, The Daughter of Time, which was voted the Greatest Mystery Novel of all Time by the Crime Writer's Association. (Another read you should delve into as a fan of English Historical Fiction.)

Both of these stories tell us that Richard was not as bad as he was later painted, primarily by Thomas More, and Thomas Cromwell, Oliver's grandfather and a servant of Henry VIII. Henry VIII of course was the son of the man who took Richard's throne away.

Since he ruled so briefly, yet he was very much trusted by his elder brother, Edward IV (father of those two princes lost somewhere in the Tower of London) the first slur on Richard came six years after he died on Bosworth field.

File:Richard III earliest surviving portrait.jpg

The York Civic Records say, "an hypocrite, a crook back and buried in a ditch like a dog."

(DWW-I have scoliosis. A lot of people have it. It does make our backs curve more than they should and depending on how severe it is, more curving. But was he a crook back?)

John Ross, a Warwickshire antiquary who first wrote during Richard's reign, rewrote in Henry VII to curry royal favor. "Richard was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire, retained inside his mother's womb for two years and emerging with teeth and hair to his shoulders."

(DWW-Is that at all possible? Would someone educated at all in the 15th century be able to give credence to such? I know there were not many as a percentage who were educated, but really, two years in the womb?)

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Charles II is another favorite. His escape after the Royalists were defeated at the Battle of Worcester in 1651 was well chronicled, and often recited by many others besides Charles. It is a story that they would have told to entertain while dining out, as we do today with one of our own personal great stories, except this was Charles' tale to tell.



The diarist Samuel Pepys had the story recounted to him direct by the King twice, once when Charles sailed to England to accept his realm back from a country free of his enemy, the slighter Cromwell (DWW-He and his New Model Army slighted many a castle and manor house.)

"Upon the Quarter-deck he fell in discourse of his escape from Worcester. Where it made me ready to weep to hear the stories that he told of his difficulties that he had passed through. As his travelling four days and three nights on foot, every step up to the knees in dirt, with nothing but a green coat and a pair of country breeches on and a pair of country shoes, that made him so sore all over his feet that he could scarce stir."

Fr. Huddleston added more about the shoes:

"His shoes were old, all slasht for the ease of h[is] feet and full of gravell, with little rowlls of pa[per] between his toes; which he said was advised to, to keep them from galling."

Pepys went on to say:

"... he was forced to run away from a miller and other company that took them for rogues."

More could be relayed of course about the campaign and Charles' retreat, or rout, but that would be a retelling for a full blog post.
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