Friday, 27 March 2015

Living History

Although science fiction is mainly about the future, history also plays a major role in the works of sf writers, Poul Anderson, James Blish and SM Stirling, so, before turning in tonight, let me list a few of the ways that we still live with history.

Richard III fought in the English civil wars called the Wars of the Roses and became a hunchbacked character in Shakespeare's historical canon. When it was deduced where Richard might be buried, a car park was dug up and a deformed skeleton was found. Richard's living descendants were identified and their DNA matched the skeleton. Today Richard was reburied inside Leicester Cathedral (see image). Benedict Cumberbatch, a well known actor who has played several prominent roles, including Richard III, read a new poem written by the Poet Laureate. The poem, as spoken by Richard, includes the line, "Grant me the carving of my name." It is now carved on his Cathedral tomb. One of my sisters with her family queued to see Richard's coffin before it was buried.

Leicester is also the home of characters in Blish's Doctor Mirabilis. In nearby Nottingham, I was part of a group addressed by the current Sheriff, whose remote predecessor was an opponent of Robin Hood - the latter also mentioned in Blish's novel - and I also met a man playing the role of Friar Tuck. In Lichfield, I visited the site of a battle fought by Anderson's character, Prince Rupert.

We live in Lancaster, one of the contenders in the Wars of the Roses, and occasionally visit York, Lancaster's rival. In nearby Kendal, I sometimes meditate in a side chapel containing the tomb of the grandfather of the sixth wife of Henry VIII.

Living history indeed.


  1. Hi, Paul!

    Forgive me being a pedant, but, strictly, Richard III has no known DESCENDANTS. His only legitimate son died as a boy and the usurper Henry VII had his illegitimate son John executed (obviously, to remove a possible rival, despite the illegitimacy). Rather DNA from descendants of his sister was used. Iow, COLLATERAL descendants of Richard III.

    And I admire the attitude you and other Britons have for your history, good and bad alike. A far better attitude than what fanatical Muslims are showing in the Mid East, as they destroy artifacts and remains from their own past.


  2. Sean,
    Of course not a direct descendant although the term was being used loosely in media coverage. Another British family knew how many generations connected them back to a collateral ancestor who had been an eye witness to the execution of Charles I.

    1. Hi, Paul!

      I fear I was using "descendant" more literally, instead of loosely. And memory of a traumatic event like witnessing the excution of Charles I would be preserved in some families!