Sunday, March 13, 2016

Ken Allan Dronsfield writes

Of Sky and Blood
(Ode to King Richard III)

Temperance of valor,
greet me with shame
steal away with a sword
from my leather baldric.
Grant me a final wish
before ending my life,
place me upon a throne
with defiant sufferance.
Whilst falling in battle
on a muddy bloody field;
although devout of faith,
who shall pray for me?
Will your great God above
grant forgiveness for my
sinful murderous contempt?
I am a warrior, not a priest,
tiller of soil; nor a follower
guided along pious paths.
Never forget that haunted
shrill of the battlefield cry.
Proclaim your righteous
virtue, sing your victory
song as sky and blood
drain from my pallid eyes.
As the sounds are muffled
and indistinct, I am suddenly
renewed, feeling a rebirth,
if only in an eternal dream.

 Richard III earliest surviving portrait.jpg


  1. Richard III was born just before the beginning of the Wars of the Roses, the 12th of the 13 children of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, England's Lord Protector due to Henry VI's incapacity to rule. The duke, who was Edward III's grandson through his father and his great-great-great-grandson through his mother, imprisoned the king in 1460 and claimed the throne for himself, though he agreed to be named Henry's successor instead. However, within a few weeks of this agreement he died in battle with his eldest son; his widow sent 8-year-old Richard and his older brother George abroad for protection. Henry was released from prison but deposed after Yorkist forces under the duke's son Edward VI defeated the Lancastrian loyalists; upon his coronation in 1461 Edward made his brothers George and Richard dukes of Clarence and Gloucester respectively. Despite Henry's severe schizophrenia, he escaped to the neighboring kingdom of Scotland and, through his wife Margaret, maintained his rule over the northern counties of England and Wales until his recapture in 1465. Margaret fled to France and, at the instigation of Louis XI, she formed a secret alliance with two of Edward's disaffected lords, his younger brother Clarence and Clarence's father-in-law Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick (his mother's nephew).[Edward had opposed Neville's plans to marry his daughters to Edward's brothers, and Clarence had married Isabel, the eldest one, without the king's permission.] In France, Neville married his other daughter to Henry's son Edward of Westminster, returned to England, defeated Edward IV and forced him and Gloucester into exile with their brother-in-law Charles the Bold in Burgundy, and restored Henry VI, who "reigned" less than six months (Neville and Clarence were the real rulers). But Louis declared war against Burgundy, and in response Charles provided military and financial aid to Edward, who returned to England in early 1471, reconciled with Clarence, defeated and killed Neville at the battle of Barnet, and Westminster at the battle of Tewkesbury; king Henry was then assassinated in the Tower of London and Edward was recrowned the next day. Thereupon, Gloucester, who had had his own independent military command since he was 17, had remained loyal to Edward, and had played conspicuous roles in the victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury, and subsequently in the English invasion of France to assist Charles, married Westminster's widow, Neville's younger daughter, thus bringing him into long conflict with Clarence over the Neville inheritance. After Isabel's death in 1477, Clarence became disaffected again when Edward refused to let him marry Charles' daughter, was convicted of treason and executed.

  2. When Edward died in 1483, Gloucester, who had become the most powerful noble in England due his control of the north, was named Lord Protector of the realm for Edward's son, the 12-year-old Edward V. While the Lord protector purged the faction that supported Edward IV's queen, he lodged young Edward and his brother Richard of Shrewsbury in the Tower of London for safekeeping. But before the new king could be crowned, Gloucester had the marriage of Edward IV declared invalid due to an earlier unconsummated betrothal, thus making Edward and Richard illegitimate and therefore ineligible to succeed to the throne; thus the Lord Protector became king instead. The last time the young princes were seen in public was a month after Richard's coronation, leading to rumors that the Tower Princes had been murdered. Richard's chief ally in his seizure of power, his cousin Henry Stafford, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, joined the remnants of the former queen's faction in a conspiracy against Richard, possibly to replace him with Edward V; but in light of the murder rumors Buckingham proposed instead that Henry Tudor should return from exile, marry Elizabeth of York (the elder sister of the Tower Princes), and take the throne for himself. Henry's main claim to the kingship derived from his mother, the great-granddaughter of Edward III's fourth son through illegitimate descent. Nonetheless, after the deaths of Henry VI, Edward of Westminster, and the rest of the Beaufort line of descent through Tudor's mother's uncle the 2nd Duke of Somerset, he was the senior male Lancastrian claimant remaining. In 1456 his father was captured fighting for Henry VI and died three months before Henry was born, and Tudor was raised by his uncle the earl of Pembroke until the earl's exile when Edward IV became King. William Herbert, a Yorkist, became the new earl and took over the guardianship as well until 1469, when Neville went over to the Lancastrians and had him executed. When Edward IV regained the throne Tudor fled with other Lancastrians to Brittany. As part of Buckingham's plot, Tudor tried to land in England in force, but a storm drove part of his fleet back to port and also discomfited Buckingham's army, which deserted when Richard came against them; Buckingham was convicted of treason and beheaded. (His widow later married Pembroke). Tudor fled to Paris and secured support for a second invasion, landed in Wales with Pembroke and a small French and Scottish force, and gathered a 5,000-man Welsh army. On 22 August 1485, Richard's 8,000 men attacked Tudor at Bosworth Field, but during the battle Richard was abandoned by the earls of Northumberland and Derby (Tudor's father-in-law), and his close companion, the Duke of Norfolk, was killed. Demoralized, Richard led a cavalry charge deep into the enemy ranks, managed to unhorse a renowned jousting champion, kill Tudor's standard bearer, and come within a sword's length of Tudor himself before being surrounded and isolated by Sir William Stanley's men. Struck with a halberd while his horse was stuck in marshy ground, driving his helmet into his skull, the 32-year-old king was slain. According to tradition, before the battle Richard consulted a seer, who foretold that "where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return;" as his corpse was carried from battle over the back of a horse, his head struck the same stone his spur had struck on the Bow Bridge in Leicester where his spur had struck and was broken open. Richard's naked body was exposed for a time, then buried at Greyfriars Church in Leicester. In 1495, his victor, who succeeded him as Henry VII, paid £50 for a marble and alabaster monument, but the location of the burial site was lost until archaeological investigations in 2012. An examination of his body in 2013 revealed 11 wounds, 8 of them to the skull.


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