If the events of the last week have proven anything it’s that Richard III’s followers, the Richard III Society are somewhat vocal in their admiration.
The society aims to “encourage and promote a more balanced view” of Richard. From it’s origins in 1924 as “the Fellowship of the Wild boar” to the current society who contributed funding to Leicester University’s archaeological dig.
However with the controversy over his final resting place brewing the society have become a caricature of themselves. It started with the Channel 4 documentary on Monday which followed Phillipa Langley, the woman who started the project to find Richard following “a feeling” she had in the car park. Opinions on Langley were mixed on social networks in particular Twitter. Opinions varied from her being completely unhinged to being madly in love with him. I prefer to think she’s passionate about Richard, she is after all writing a screenplay about him. However one section in the programme resulted in the presenter of the show – Simon Farnaby from Horrible histories- exchanging conversation with various members.
The questions were the usual “has he been misunderstood” “What about the princes in the tower” now anyone who is a member of a society which aims to present a more unbiased version of events could go into it and say there’s not much evidence to support the idea or dismiss it and it will need more scrutiny. However the members interviewed went into rants that make Alex Jones’ appearance on Piers morgan seem sane. Now I’m not a fan of people who distort history to fit their own views, it’s the same with scientific results or theories. I foolishly thought it was a one off, and that C4 had just picked up the more loopy fringe of the society.
Now before we go any further I should admit that while the Tudors are probably my second favourite historical area of interest (yes I do have a ranking system) I have always had an interest in Richard III, I think given his short reign and the almost damnatio memoriae of him to be a fertile ground for Historical research (quite a lot is done by the Richard III Societies more grounded members)
Wanting to look more at the society and what its members are like I went to the website which seems normal and has quite a lot of information about Richard, and is well worth taking a look at here. However the Facebook page is another matter, on there is a lot of criticism aimed at Leicester University for having the remains at Leicester Cathedral against Richards wishes (although I’ve not seen any evidence that he wanted a burial there other than giving money to the Minster which for the time isn’t unusual.) The Society members then attack the University for being ungrateful for the donations raised by the society to fund the dig, although they weren’t the ones doing the digging.
Other interesting comments centre around this belief that since Richard was given a sloppy burial at Greyfriars then it shows that they didn’t want him, completely ignoring what would have been a pretty hectic and confusing day in Leicester since Richard left the city in the morning and by midday was dead and on his way back. They also ignore the terms of the archaeological exhumation license which stated the remains should be placed either in the Jewry wall Museum, the Cathedral or nearest churchyard by 2014. Some go as far as creating some conspiracy that the Dean of York Minster – Very Reverend Vivienne Faull- who was previously the Dean of Leicester had something to do with it, especially since the Minster issued a statement supporting the internment at Leicester.
Others are annoyed that guides at the Bosworth museum are “Pro Henry” and some have “kicked off” and “educated” them and the others on the tour that Richard was a sweety and Henry a tyrant. It seems to present a non biased view of Richard some members have ignored reality and other historical research. If a society is judged on its members then as the more vocal members seem to be fanatical in their devotion to Richard it isn’t doing the society’s image any good.
This isn’t a situation unique to the Richard III Society and I only highlight them as they are now in the news following the discovery of Richard, but I can’t help but think that the facebook page in particular isn’t going to get them many new members, rather I hope they emphasise their brilliant website and the research carried out behind the shouting mob.
I once toyed with becoming a member, however now I can’t help but think of Groucho Marx and his “PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER” Anecdote.