Sticking the Boot into Historical Debate.
Over the last seven days, understandably, Richard III has rarely been out of the news. The discovery and positive identification of his remains must count as one of the most important archaeological discoveries of recent times, and has certainly fuelled a whole raft of discussion surrounding his life; his times, and the tragedy of his appalling death. But, if there was one thing I noticed amidst all the debate, discussion and general excitement; it was the way in which this find seemed to unite scholars/enthusiasts of all Historical persuasions. The whole event was as warmly embraced by the Tudor enthusiasts as it was the Ricardian – and just the briefest glance at the numerous Tudor related pages bore that out. It was everywhere – and everyone greeted the news with open arms, even if they aren’t falling over themselves to turn Richard III into a super-human saint. Nor was there any “Tudor Propaganda” style demonisation of Richard– just the thrill of living through history in the making.
Roll on to late last week when a “Henry Tudor Society” page made an appearance on Facebook. No sooner had the page been born, then it was flooded with angry Ricardians flaming/trolling the page and its owner. To use the phrase of one person who (presumably) was helping with the influx of trolls, they wanted to “stick the boot in” and presumably intimidate the owner of the page into closing his new group down. According to another of the angry brigade: “pay back is a bitch”. Pay back for what, exactly? An unfavourable (to them) outcome of the Battle of Bosworth (fought 528 years ago now). You piss on my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, you piss on me. Is this really the level we have sunk to? We’re studying History; not perpetuating its prejudices and hatreds.
One of the greatest tragedies of this whole carry-on, however, is the moderate Ricardians who attempted to rein the trolls in and restore some calm. They were branded “haters” of Richard III; haters of the Richard III Society and haters of the group who were “ashamed”. So, the gist of their argument is: unless you’re slinging mud at people who like to study the Tudors; trolling innocent members of the public, and making a general nuisance of yourself, then you’re not a proper Ricardian. I should imagine that many, right-thinking Ricardians, would be pretty appalled at being lumped in with this small band of fanatics.
Many Ricardians have a genuine and sincere interest in clearing away the myths (and yes, many of those myths were created during the 118 year Tudor rule) and bringing the real Richard III out into the light. This is not achieved through flaming the Henry Tudor Society – or any other Tudor group. You can’t simply right one wrong by creating several others. Spend less time demonising the Tudors; spend more time studying Richard III himself, develop a rational argument and you might just get somewhere. Petty insults, rabid flaming and name-calling merely makes you look like an incoherent, intolerant, bigot.
However, it is also important to remember that this is a small group of narrow minded individuals who were just looking for a fight. They claimed to be taking “the high ground” against Henricians/Tudor fans (while organising a flame war – and without the slightest trace of irony!). These people do not represent Ricardianism as a whole, and the Richard III Society plays a hugely significant role in the study of the late Medieval era with a wealth of online sources and information. It would be an unmitigated tragedy if they were to become defined by these irrational troublemakers.
On the other hand, having said all this; these people do not have a monopoly on Historical debate. If people wish to discuss Henry VII, then they are entitled to do so free from the threat of intimidation and harassment from those who disagree. The same applies to everything else in life. Marginalising and sidelining moderates; denigrating the opposition and attacking anything that’s ideologically different is a dangerous path down which to go. It is precisely that which the Richard III Society claim to be against (seeing as it is this that they believe caused the damage to Richard in the first place).
In short; let’s all study the era and put right the wrongs. But please, let’s do so in a rational, well thought out manner that doesn’t involve turning on your own and insulting complete strangers on the internet. Comment is free, so let’s make the most of it.
(Information from The Henry Tudor Society on Facebook, and the Richard III Society Yahoo discussion group).