And was the holy Lamb of God,
On Englands pleasant pastures seen!
- And did those feet, William Blake

mandag 7. februar 2011

Under the Hog, part II - My Faire Citie of York

'Tis death to me to be at enmity;
I hate it, and desire all good men's love.

- The Tragedy of Richard III, William Shakespeare

I cannot tell: the world is grown so bad,
That wrens make nests where eagles dare not perch:
Since every Jack became a gentleman
There's many a gentle person made a Jack.
- The Tragedy of Richard III, William Shakespeare

On his death in 1485, the city mourned
- Poster from the Richard III museum

Whereas Richard III apparently is still regarded with at least some distaste in the majority of England, the city of York and its inhabitants seem to have embraced him. The reason for this may be his influetial role in Northern politics prior to becoming protector of the realm, and subsequent bestowals on the city which he called "my faire citie of York," the city where he invested his son Edward as Prince of Wales. York was also the endpoint for his tour of the realm following the coronation in 1483, and it is said he entered the city triumphantly August 29 1483. Quaintly enough this fondness has persisted and is kept very much alive even today, a fondness that manifests itself in various and often unexpected ways. In this blogpost I present those examples I have come across showing Richard III's special place in the heart and minds of the inhabitants of York.

Edward of Middleham (ca. 1474-1484) was Richard III's only legitimate son. The Archbishop's palace is today York Minster Library.

A natural place to start this journey is the Richard III Museum situated in Monk Bar, one of the four Medieval gatehouses into the city, a museum founded and run by the Richard III Foundation and the Richard III society.

Monk Bar. Allegedly it was Richard who paid for the construction of the top storey in 1484.

The museum is beyond doubt the most idiosyncratic institution of its kind I have ever encountered. Its main purpose appears to be not so much to offer a more balanced view, as to redeem his reputation completely. This is, however, done in a very charming, tongue-in-cheek manner that makes it an endeavour I can appreciate. The first storey houses the till and a rather motley but interesting giftshop, where visitors are met by the late king reconstructed.

And yet withal a kingly look oft-times
Conveys an air of high-born royalty
That overshadows all thine awful crimes
And stamps e'en them somewhat with majesty.
Liar, Traitor, Murd'rer through all thy life -
Hero and King at Bosworth's fatal strife!
- Richard III, James Edwin Campbell

The second storey holds the courtroom where another dummy of Richard stands at the bar while an audioclip of a fictious trial plays in the background. This trial allows Richard to defend himself from accusations and allegations, seeking, I presume, to debunk the most popular and vicious rumours concerning his reign.

 They do me wrong, and I will not endure it:
Who are they that complain unto the king,
That I, forsooth, am stern, and love them not?
By holy Paul, they love his grace but lightly
That fill his ears with such dissentious rumours.
- The Tragedy of Richard III, William Shakespeare

The scene is surrounded by posters of a very humourous nature, giving a delightful undertone of self-mockery that suits the arrangement.

Visitors are also encouraged to give their opinions on the matter by casting their votes and writing their thoughts in one of two books, one for those considering him guilty of the murder of the princes in the tower, another for those who think him innocent.

Uncertain way of gain.

In the third storey we find more posters giving a detailed overview of the historical facts and the various opinions pertaining to his regime in a nice blend of the educational and the amusing.

Poster of a page from Richard III's book of hours, illuminated in 1440

Monk Bar seen from the city walls.

As stated, it is not solely in the Monk Bar museum I have encountered references to Richard III. Throughout the city of York there are several buildings and posters using Richard's name and image for various reasons.

Kings Arms is a small pub situated by the river Ouse and has a rather nice ambiance, yet it is not a place where you can get food or hot drinks. On one of the walls you can see the flood levels marked out at various times in history, and this is a perennial problem due to its locality.

Perhaps the Ouse set a new record this year.

York is famous for its hogmeat and has been so since Medieval times. The poster below is hanging in a Yorkshire Hogroast sandwich shop on Stonegate, where they have very tasty and delicious sandwiches.

Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile
- King Henry VI part III, William Shakespeare

Accidentally I stumbled upon yet another food-related reference in a food shop on Fossgate called The Hairy Fig. Among its assortment of cheeses I found a King Richard III Wensleydale, a crumbly cow or sheep cheese that has a nice sting to it, poignant, but not too overwhelming.

Not exactly a big cheese.

Richard III is also a subject for a riddle pertaining to the colours of the rainbow: Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.

Richard III, a fairy king?

These are the references to Richard that I have encountered, there may be several others yet to discover. As for generally unpopular rulers, York also has a street called Cromwell Road. Fortunately they have realised it was a dead end.

4 kommentarer:

  1. ... much like Churchill's and Roosevelt's Roads here in Trondheim. I always thought they should make one of those Stalin's Road, and make some new Churchill's and Roosevelt's Roads someplace else, preferably roads that actually lead somewhere.

    Thanks for these random reports from the streets of old Eboracum, by the way. Makes me all the more keen to see the town again, all the more envious of you, and all the more regretful that I decided against going there this spring myself.

  2. I'm happy to oblige. Take comfort in the prospect of Vienna, and I shall send more cards in the course of my stay.

  3. Gildt, gode Hope, gildt!

  4. Takk takk, Brandsar! Det gler meg å registrere.