I’ve spent a lot of my life fixating upon dead heroes, which means, as we turn into October, I’m entering my favorite other-worldly season. (Maybe “hero” isn’t quite the word, but “famous historical personalities” is unwieldy.) Richard III came into my life early, just pre-teen, via a discarded paperback, “The Daughter of Time” by Josephine Tey, fished from a wastebasket in the lounge of a 1950’s Barbados hotel. For some reason, this mystery story about a man whose chosen motto was “Loyalty Binds Me” and whose reputation had been unjustly blackened, started an obsessive fire in my brain which is, even 50 some years later, burning hotter than ever.
Richard started life in 1452, which is a long time ago—560 years at Fotheringhay Castle now nothing more than a heap of earth where the original motte and bailey stood.
As you can see from the picture, 500+ years without a caretaker doesn’t leave much behind! Richard Plantagenet was born on October 2, which makes him a Libra. If the Tudor spin doctors are to be believed, he was a seriously out of balance child of this supremely balanced heavenly sign. If the skeleton just recovered proves to be that of the King, it appears he did have a deformity, scoliosis, which would have caused one shoulder to be carried high. He only lived thirty-two years, but he (or his evil shadow) has left quite a mark on World Consciousness via Shakespeare’s popular blood-and-thunder melodrama.
This blog is not about King Richard, though. It’s about time, of which we humans don’t get a large slice. (I’ve been flailing around more than twice as long as this particular dead hero but have made not a jot of difference to the greater world.) Still, King Richard, his fair wife, Anne Neville, and others of that bloody late medieval cousinage have been wandering about, arguing, loving and fighting in the theater of my consciousness since childhood.
When the excavation in that Leicester car park came up with a skeleton--scoliosis, battle wounds, and all—it restarted the whole royal parade, complete with banners and drums, inside my mind. More than that, images of the past come bleeding out, a moving picture of antique glory superimposed upon the ordinariness of daily life. I feel closer to these semi-imaginary dead than I do to my neighbors. After all, these haunted royal shadows have been the constant companions of my chronically uprooted life, from tropical beaches to Cornish cliffs and all the way to this present slough of suburban senior despond. I wonder if, when I'm old and losing what's left of mind, those companionable ghosts will stand by my bed, extend their hands to me.
Coming soon from Second Wind Publishing: Roan Rose