While Channel 4’s coverage of the interment of Richard III certainly did its bit, the subject was given scant attention by BBC TV, presumably because they couldn’t make it multi-cultural enough. Channel 4 had a good go at that too, providing what can best be called an eccentric two night’s viewing.
On Saturday we had a weird docu-drama, in which the young actor playing the king already seemed to be wearing a wooden overcoat. On Sunday we had a panoply of festivities from Leicester and talking heads, mostly women spouting spurious rubbish on behalf of Richard.
What stood out most perhaps was the sight of the late usurper’s tasteful coffin pulled on a carriage by plumed horses, the topped hatted carriage drivers turned out to be young women, one of them wearing a mini-skirt. As the crowds surged around the cathedral, mobiles and selfi-sticks held high, there was hardly an Asian face to be seen, although Leicester is famously our first a ‘minority majority’ city.
Despite that, the young Asian woman TV reporter managed to find two Sikhs with long beards and several Muslim girls to interview. There was a parade of African drummers and an Afro Caribbean school girl saying it was all very interesting while looking furiously bored.
Inside the cathedral when the service began, the camera scanned local worthies from the ethnic majority, including an Imam with an Iranian styled turban.
But what seemed most eccentric of all was Richard himself. The sight of his remains travelling by limosine motorcade was hilarious, then came the coffin strewn with white roses. ‘This is England taking Richard to their hearts,’ said one local voice. But how did he do it? If I meet him in Purgatory I will ask him and then sleep, if that is what you do on the other side, with one eye open.
In this age of puritan breast-beating, accusation and hideous anachronistic condemnation and of course daft apologies, Richard the child murderer who cut of his best friend’s head on a log, a medieval candidate for ISIS, has been entirely exculpated. He now rests surrounded by a protective shield of lady historians who all love him the way some young women go for Justin Beiber.
On Radio 4 as I write the Bishop of Leicester says he is ‘forgiven.’ Old men from the past, well the 1970s, languish in our prisons unforgiven, but Richard who not only molested but murdered young people, is now a celebrity. He seems to have reached that status by being a good story and turning up in a hole in the city centre car-park two years ago.
The truth is that he wasn’t a psychopath and terrible king, he was a ruthless usurper who stole a crown, implemented some good laws and insisted that lawyers used English rather than Latin. Then he began a killing spree, perhaps worst of all murdering a satirist.
On 10 October, 1484, Sir William Collingbourne, a Wiltshireman, was accused of plotting a rebellion for writing a ditty, ‘The Cat the Rat and the Dog, rule all England under the hog,’ and pinning to the door of St. Paul’s.
Collingbourne was duly charged with ‘rhyme in derision of the king and his council’ and his punishment for such was to be ‘in fearful example of other’, as Richard decreed. Thus, he was hanged, then cut down while he was still alive, castrated and disembowelled – up until this time rebels were merely hanged.
Contemporary reports show that Collingbourne seemingly kept his wit to the very end, muttering as his last breath escaped him,
Oh Lord Jesus, yet more trouble!
There seems to be no ‘Je Suis Collingbourne’ about and the man who Shakespeare called, ‘the bottled spider,’ has escaped trouble at last and emerged a popular hero. We should wish him well as he has achieved in death the status he never had in life.