…when I set off for Bosworth Battle Centre to give my talk on Wednesday evening, in their autumn series on Richard III. The wind was blusterous, the rain was episodic, and the highways were dark and windy as you begin to realise how far from anywhere the Battle Centre feels to be. Much further than on a sunny, summer day. But not so blusterous, rainy or dark as to deter a fair couple of dozen people from turning up to hear me!
My title was – “With dignity, honour – and peace”. That last word added into our strap-line to make a point – that over the last couple of years there’s been anything but peace in the tone of many of the comments addresses to us – or at us – in letters, emails, social media and general ‘out there’ comments. it’s a truism to say that King Richard’s story generates strong emotions. it’s a challenge to remain steady in the eye of that storm.
A talk isn’t the same turned into print, so despite the entreaties of one or two on the friendly Richard in Leicester Facebook page, I’m not going to reproduce it here, but I will outline the main themes behind the title.
Dignity – is intended to signify what we would aim to offer to any and all human remains that might be committed into our charge – royal or commoner. It’s what, as human beings, we owe each other, and its absence can be seen wherever people treat other people as disposable objects on the way to their own personal gratification.
Honour – is what is owed especially to one who was, in his life, King of England. And although he is no more of this world, those mortal remains deserve to be treated with honour, in recognition of what monarchy means in itself. And you needn’t be a convinced royalist to understand that every society is in need of governance and authority, and without it, and the honour due to it, we rapidly all pay the price. Unless, that is, you really believe in anarchy – literally the ‘absence of all rule’.
Peace – this story is full of the opposite of that. From the ever-so-real Cousins’ war – where lives were lost or wrecked in abundance – to the largely media-fuelled ‘York v Leicester’ ‘battle’ over the eventual resting place of the remains. Conflict may be an inevitable part of being human – but the way we conduct ourselves even in conflict still says a lot about the sort of people we really are. anyone can be good to their friends: it’s how we treat those we may regard as opponents that tells the truer tale.
Well dark and stormy night it ay have been, but it was a warm and receptive audience. Including three bosworth Centre staff, and one who works in Leicester’s King Richard III Centre, all of whom were keen to hear what they could regard as ‘authentic’ answers to some of the many questions visitors ask them about the Cathedral and what we’re about.
The image at the head of this story tells its own tale. The statue of King Richard III in the foreground, occupying much attention at this moment. There Cathedral streaky n the background. It’s been here for centuries from before Richard lived and died. All being well, it will be here for as long again. It may not be the first thing pople look for in this story. But it stands foursquare behind it, living by and proclaiming the Christian faith that Richard lived by, and that we, at any rate, still do today. That’s not particularly catholic or protestant, not especially C of E or RC, but simply Christian.
That’s what I was trying to say, one dark and stormy night when only a hardy few were listening.