Richard III’s death, because it paved the way for Henry VIII, was a pivotal moment in British and world history *UPDATED*

Richard III

My sister and I got to talking yesterday about Richard III.  He was, she said, a decent king during his two years and his administration was terribly maligned by subsequent Tudor historians and, especially, Shakespeare.  She’s right.  Contemporaneous records show that he was a good leader up in his home base, the north of England, and that he was an effective, pragmatic king.  In addition, he almost certainly committed regicide against the two princes in the Tower.  The only reason this mattered was because it gave Henry VII the opening to be righteous in his bid for the throne.

Henry VII

Looked at objectively, Richard III and Henry VII were two peas in a pod:  both were able administrators, both had a tenuous claim to the British throne, and both were willing to kill to get that throne.  It’s likely that, had Richard III retained his throne, England during his reign would have looked remarkably similar to England during Henry VII’s reign.

It’s equally likely that Richard III, even if he’d handed the throne to a son, would not have had a son like Henry VIII.  For all his faults (and they were many, considering that he had sociopathic or even psychopathic tendencies), Henry VIII was arguably the most important monarch to sit on England’s throne.  It was his overwhelmingly personality — his inability to beget sons; his overwhelming ego; and his mad passion for Anne Boleyn, who promised him a male heir — that saw him remove Britain from Rome’s orbit at a pivotal time in both British and European history.

Henry VIII

Some argue that Henry would have left Rome in any event, since Spain and France were his enemies and leaving Rome strengthened his alliance with Protestant lowland Europe.  This overlooks the fact that Henry’s break with Spain also came about because of his inability to have sons, his ego, and his passion.  During the good years with Katherine of Aragon, Catholic Spain was an ally, and helped Catholic England in the balance of power against Catholic France.

It was only after Henry abandoned Rome (and he did so administratively, not doctrinally) that the shift in the balance of powers that we associate with Henry’s, and the Elizabeth’s, reign came about.  By then, of course, religious wars were starting to rip Europe apart anyway.  And indeed, one can wonder whether, if Henry (or an imaginary son of Richard III) had stayed with Rome, the Protestant schism would have been as powerful as it was, or if it would simply have exhausted itself in small, German and lowland municipalities.  (In France, of course, the Catholic monarchs quashed Protestantism with brutality creating a Huguenot diaspora.)

Oliver Cromwell

Henry’s decision to break with Rome set the stage, a little over a century later, for the English Civil War.  That War opened the door to Cromwell, who allowed the Jews to return to England, which arguably helped jump start England’s phenomenal mercantile rise.  From that came a British colossus that, for almost two centuries, controlled vast swaths of the world — North America, the Indian subcontinent, parts of Africa, the Caribbean, etc.  Significantly, and without exceptions, Niall Ferguson demonstrates convincingly that every former British colony went on to become prosperous, whether that prosperity is measured on a worldwide scale (as is the case with America) or on a smaller, geographic neighborhood scale (comparing Kenya to the Congo, for example).

Short of dropping into a science fiction show that allows us to see alternate realities, we can only assume how history would have progressed if certain events hadn’t happened.  England might still have hewed Protestant without Henry’s decision to break away.  Had that happened, though, it might well have been a more gradual, organic transition that didn’t result in a Civil War.  Under the same line of reasoning, England, once Protestant might have invited the Jews back, although perhaps not at such a pivotal time, one that coincided with the geographic expansion of European power.  And even without the Jews, Britain might have become an imperial giant.

All we do know is that things played out as they did.  And to the extent one believes that it was a good thing for the world that Britain, which was historically a more freedom-oriented country than its contemporaneous peers, then one must also believe that Richard III’s death, by paving the way for Henry VIII, was more important than his life.

Richard III's face

UPDATE: Andrew Roberts has more on the fact that Richard III was an effective, indeed good, monarch, while Henry VII had the sweaty sheen of a liar and opportunist.  Be that as it may — whether Richard was a murderer or a victim — the fact remains that his death paved the way for Henry VIII, and all the consequential changes that flowed from his passions.  (Additionally, one cannot avoid the fact that, while Henry VII is as likely a murderer of the princes as was Richard III, they did vanish on Richard’s watch….

Eco-friendly homes more expensive than promised

I think Al Gore must have been behind this eco-friendly housing subdivision, because it’s making money for the rich and screwing every one else:

Residents promised cheaper bills to live in a multi-million pound eco-friendly ‘homes of the future’ complex say they will have to move out after being hit with sky-high electricity charges.

The Pavilion Gardens complex in West Bowling, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was heralded as being the most environmentally-friendly in the county when it was completed in July 2011 at a cost of £5.6million.

Residents were told their electricity bills would be £500 cheaper than average because the houses are super-insulated with biomass boilers for heating and solar panels for electricity.

But just 18 months after moving in, many residents say they have been hit with massive electrical bills almost double the annual average and they can’t afford to live in the properties.

Read the rest here.

Green — it’s the color of the wheelbarrows full of money the scammers are weeping over as they head to the bank.


Richard III’s remains positively identified

“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York,” says the malevolent Richard III in Shakespeare’s eponymous play.  Generations of Shakespearean actors have portrayed him is a sinister hunchback, greedily eying his brother’s throne and eventually murdering two young boys in order to obtain it.  The play was a perfect example of the victor’s ability to write history.

Laurence Olivier as Richard III

For centuries, people accepted Shakespeare’s portrayal at face value.  Starting in the late 19th century, though, contrarion historians started challenging this view.  They claimed that Richard III was a reasonable, temperate monarch, and that Henry VII was an overreaching usurper who needed to blacken Richard’s name in order to hold onto the throne that he had won by war, not by right.  The problem for these revisionists always remained those missing boys in the Tower of London.  Did they die?  Did Richard murder them?  Did Henry VII murder them?  Who knows.

What we do know is that Shakespeare was right about one thing:  Richard was indeed a hunchback.  Thanks to a stunning example of historic investigation, coupled with modern forensic science, we can look at Richard’s skeleton — and he had significant scoliosis:

Richard III's skeleton

We also know now that he fought ferociously in the Battle of Bosworth, for his skeleton reveals ten significant cuts, three of which were on his skull, with each of those three having the right to be called a death blow. There are also indications that Henry’s soldiers engaged in a little body mutilation after he did. Richard did not go gently into the night.

What struck me about the skeleton, in addition to the scoliosis and cuts, was Richard’s teeth.  They’re beautiful.  I didn’t expect the late-medieval corpse of a 32-year-old man to have such straight, white teeth:

Richard III's teeth

Whenever I think of medieval smiles, I think of a mouth opening to reveal gaping holes and blackened stubs. Richard’s smile, though, must have been lovely: big and white.

The media claims that this skeleton will allow a wholesale reevaluation of Richard’s reign. My imagination is failing me, though, because I don’t know how a skeleton can reveal whether he usurped the throne, whether he was a good administrator for the two years he held it, or whether he murdered his nephews. It can tell us about diet and health, certainly, but the only historic fact it seems to prove is that he was a hunchback. Whether he was a good or a bad hunchback is something to discern from the documentary record, not the bones.

England’s welfare state is a victim of its own success

It’s no wonder Brits, contra Obama, want out of the EU.  Aside from exerting nit-picky control over every aspect of British life, the EU makes it virtually impossible for Britain to stem the endless tide of immigrants coming in, legally or not, and immediately getting public benefits that are not available to the Brits themselves.

Here are two articles and a video regarding that problem.

First, a woman talks about living the lush life on her benefits.

Second, some fed-up Brits raise their voices in protest song:

Third, a shy, unlikely voice emerges to oppose, not just the welfare state, but the lies that the ruling class tells about the welfare state.

A video and an online bingo shop entice me down memory lane

Two things from England wandered across my computer screen yesterday.  The first was a link to Party Bingo, a fully-licensed online bingo site in England.  The second thing that wandered across my monitor was a 1972 informational video for new students attending the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology has hit the internet.  That video send me careening wildly down memory lane, a memory that includes my first ever exposure to licensed betting shops.  Let me backtrack a little, though.

It’s true that my year as an exchange student occurred some years after 1972 and I attended a different university.  Despite those differences, the similarities between what’s shown in this old video and what I experienced are striking.  That is, I was there far enough in the past to be a lot closer to 1972 in my England experiences than I am to 2012 in my experiences.  For example, that room in the sixth photo down is virtually identical to the student housing room I occupied while I lived there.  My university also had a very active Student Union, and I hung out a lot in the SU building, including the bar.   At Cal, there was a bar, but I couldn’t hang out there, because I wasn’t yet 21.  In England — no problem.  Incidentally, I didn’t drink (still don’t) so I just . . . hung out.

I also have vivid memories of “Rag Week.”  Students for various organizations would sell “rag mags” for a few pennies.  They were small booklets filled with jokes, many insanely stupid.  Somewhere in a box, deep in a closet, I still have my collection of rag mags.  The only joke I remember from those hoary collections is “What color is a burp?  Burple.”

The video also reminded me of professional football matches.  I never actually saw a professional match, although I went to a Christmas party at the football club, which the Student Union had leased for the event.  The fact is that, by the time I got to England, football fans were an ugly lot.  I always knew a match was coming up because all of the local shops would board up their windows.  One didn’t go to a match, one hid from it.

England was then, as it is now, so similar to and yet so different from America.  We almost spoke a common language, but I still managed to get myself in trouble.  My friends and I once had a lively evening telling silly jokes, until I stopped everything by telling a joke they thought was perverted nonsense.  I bet you know the joke:  “Why did the fireman wear red suspenders?  To hold up his pants.”  In England, that joke would be told as follows:  “Why did the fireman wear red braces?  To hold up his trousers.”  What I’d manage to say was “Why did the fireman wear a red garter belt?  To hold up his underpants.”  Yup, two nations separated by a single language.

Those differences get me back to that online bingo site.  Until I went to England, the whole notion of licensed betting shops eluded me.  When I thought of anything but racetrack or Vegas betting, I had pictures of Runyon-esque characters speaking a highbrow version of lowdown English:

It never occurred to me that an entire nation could sanction betting. Wherever one went in England, there were licensed betting offices. You could bet on anything, whether it was a football match, a horse race, or the outcome of an upcoming election, local, national, or international.  I never went into one of those shops, hindered as I was by a very American puritanical streak.  I’ve grown up since then, and certainly become more libertarian.  I know that gambling is a fearsome addiction for some, but it’s plain old fun for others.  I know people who think nothing about spending $400 for an evening of food and wine, so why should I condemn someone who spends $100 on a horse race?

But just as England has changed dramatically since the video was made and since I lived there, so too has licensed betting.  It’s gone online, so now you too can sign up for Party Bingo.  If that’s your thing, more power to you — just be sure not to get so enmeshed in the game that you become a living model for Hogarth’s Rake’s Progress:

About Prince Harry — it’s his nature (but I actually don’t mean that in a bad way)

My sister asked me “What do you think about Prince Harry?”

For starters, I don’t think about Prince Harry too much, but right now, the front page coverage is making one forcibly aware of him.  Frankly, this is how I think of Prince Harry:  He’s an Australian sheep dog, and perhaps with the same level of narrow intelligence:

Australian sheep dogs are wonderful animals, provided that you keep them busy doing the task for which they are born.  If you do not keep an Australian sheep dog busy, it becomes destructive, both to itself and to its environment.  It will chew up a house, break its teeth on the cages meant to control it, worry its skin to death (truly), etc.  Give the dog a job, though, and it just chugs along cheerily.

Prince Harry is exactly the same.  He loves the military and, from everything I’ve heard, when he’s on duty, he’s good at his job.  Keep him busy, and he’s happy and productive.  Once the down time starts, though, Katy bar the door.  That’s a boy who’s going to get himself in trouble — especially because trouble, in the form of wine, women, and song, finds him so easily.

I have no doubt that there are Las Vegas videos being circulated right now that show Harry engaging in carnal relationships with various women, either seriatim or simultaneously.  Take a physical animal, and then throw in booze, lots of women, and a morality-free environment, and it’s inevitable.  Nor would I be surprised if drugs were involved.

Under the circumstances, the worst thing to do would be do sack Harry from the military.  He should be punished by being given massive amounts of extra work.  Then, once the punishment period is over, they should continue to give him more and more work and responsibility.  This is a sheep dog that needs to be kept out of trouble, because he’ll just harm himself if allowed to roam free.  (In this regard, I seriously fault his minders for giving him free rein.  What were they thinking?)

British police can’t even defend themselves against dogs

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding things here, but as I read this article, five British police officers got badly mauled by a single dog because none had a gun.  It wasn’t until a SWAT team arrived that the attack ended.

In America, the police are minutes away when seconds count.  In England, the police are there, but who cares?  Even the dogs aren’t scared.

The news out of England *UPDATED*

A few stories from England’s Daily Mail, all showing that the country is not in the best of health.  Each of these stories highlights, not the horrible things individuals can do, because those crimes transcend national boundaries, but the way in which England has rendered itself unable to react in any way to the insults occurring within its borders.

1.  An Eritrean national who helped plot an attempted jihad-inspired mass murder in England is not only free after serving just half his sentence, but the Brits cannot deport him for fear of violating his human rights.  Interestingly, concern about human rights didn’t seem to impinge on his activities when he helped the would-be bombers.

2.  Somehow England’s best, brightest and Leftest minds were unable to figure out that open immigration would depress wages.  This is what years of Leftist higher education will do to you — make you stupid.

3.  As a child, I remember reading that Soviet hospitals had something in common with medieval hospitals:  if your relatives weren’t there to take care of you, you died.  Turns out that you don’t have to be in a hardcore Communist nation or a medieval time warp for that to open.  Just go to England.  Soft socialism will do exactly the same bad job for you.

4.  Human rights don’t stop with Jihadists.  True blue axe-murdering Brits get their day in the sun too, as was the case with an axe murder with three notches on his blade who was nevertheless allowed out of prison to attend a course in chopping down trees.  Once an axe lover, always an axe lover, I guess.

UPDATE:  Sadie just sent me the worst article of all, one explaining better than anything else could, how Britain has arrived at this state:

From the Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz to Meg, the good witch from the Meg and Mog children’s books, witches have always dressed in black.

But their traditional attire has now come in for criticism from equality experts who claim it could send a negative message to toddlers in nursery and lead to racism.

Instead, teachers should censor the toy box and replace the pointy black hat with a pink one, while dressing fairies, generally resplendent in pale pastels, in darker shades.

Another staple of the classroom – white paper – has also been questioned by Anne O’Connor, an early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity.

Children should be provided with paper other than white to drawn on and paints and crayons should come in “the full range of flesh tones”, reflecting the diversity of the human race, according to the former teacher.

Read the rest here.

And one more from Sadie:  police ban cafe owner from displaying Christian literature (including the Bible) and images, as they are an offense to public order.  The next thing, presumably, will be a raid on Buckingham Palace.  I’ve heard there’s an old woman living there who actually claims to be the head of a Christian church in England.  (I feel a satirical post coming on, if I can just keep my comic mojo going.)

Mixed feelings about England

I fought my husband for years about taking the kids on vacation to England.  Despite growing up as a complete Anglophile (I can talk for hours, unaided, about British history) and despite having spent one of the happiest years of my life there, I have a lot of issues with modern day England.

My primary problem with England is the institutional antisemitism that permeates its political and educational class.  A poisonous combination of virtually unlimited immigration from the Muslim world and Leftist education has turn England into one of the most antisemitic countries in the Western world.

It’s a little unfair to point the finger of blame solely at the recent past, though.  The slow drip-drip of Muslim antisemitism goes back to the 1930s and before, when England made an unholy alliance with the Muslim world over oil.  That emotional alliance was temporarily severed during World War II, when the Arabs made common cause with the Nazis (“antisemites unite”), but it came back in full flower when the British behaved disgracefully towards the nascent state of Israel.  (Briefly, as they withdrew, the British, in violation of international agreement, handed key forts over to the Arabs.)  What this means is that modern Muslim and Leftist antisemitism in England grows out of fertile soil.

I’m also unhappy about England because of the cultural rot that’s set in.  A few months ago or more, I would have illustrated that rot with links to reports about its rampant alcoholism, single parenthood, drug abuse, teen mothers, etc.  Now, I’ll just say:  riots.  Those riots — which weren’t about anything at all, but sprang from a nihilism brought about by decades of the type of government dependency that saps all meaning from life — perfectly illustrate England’s decay.

Going to England as a tourist means giving my money to that system.  By paying for food, lodging, transportation and entertainment, I feel as if I’m putting my imprimatur on something quite awful.

And yet….

And yet there’s still something for me about England.  My husband and are watching with the children “World War II in Colour,” one of the endless World War II offerings on the Military channel.  The show takes old footage, colorizes it, adds sound, and pieces it together with maps and very British narrative to put together a fairly comprehensive (albeit facile) picture about World War II.  Watching it, one cannot forget that it was the Brits who held off the Nazis for two years entirely on their own, and who ending up fighting the fight for six solid years.  From the end of 1941 onwards, the British also found themselves facing off against the Japanese in the Pacific.  It takes one hell of a nation to do what the English did.  There was a moral courage there (in America, too) at the time that simply earns my respect.

Generally speaking, British history has my respect as well.  Yes, the British were pirates (16th to 17th centuries), they were religious killers (name a century before the 18th), they were slave traders (16th through early 19th centuries) and everything else awful that makes up the history of the Western world.  But they abandoned those sins before other nations did.  And unlike other nations, they advanced a notion of individual freedom that (I believe) reached full flower in America.  Without British law and customs as the foundation, there would be no United States of America.  That too is worthy of respect.

From the travel point of view, Britain also still ranks high.  For the kids and me, it was the best part of the trip.  It worked at every level, whether we’re talking about a temperate climate, ease of transportation, beauty, interesting history, or quality museums and other historic sites.  You name it, we liked it (especially the Churchill War Rooms and Imperial War Museum).  As a tourist, England felt right.  If you stay in the heart of London, the rot that led to the riots is hidden.  All you see is glory.

That’s why we’re probably going back to England next year.  My husband wants to travel and I want to travel to a place that’s comfortable and endlessly interesting.  I’m not sure there’ll always be an England.  This will probably be my last chance to see it and, if current political and demographic trends continue onward, it might be the children’s last chance too.  So, while we can, we’ll go to the greatness:  Hatfield, Blenheim, Chatsworth, Castle Howard, Bath, York, Oxford, Cambridge, Stratford, Edinburgh, etc. — all the places that still feel redolent of the past, and haven’t yet been destroyed by the present.

Honor they father and thy mother

When he was 6, my son suddenly started stealing things from his classmates.  Market value wasn’t the object.  Like a magpie, he went for the sparkling, brightly colored stuff.  Naturally, he got caught.  The school imposed appropriate consequences, but it was left to me to explain to him that stealing is bad, not just because you can get caught and punished, but because it’s fundamentally wrong.

The approach I took, and one that worked surprisingly well, was the Ten Commandants.  I explained to my little six year old that the Ten Commandants are the BIG RULES.  Even if you don’t believe in God (and he’s always parroted his father’s atheism), they’re still exceptionally good rules for a functioning society.  People cannot live together if they’re murdering each other, or stealing from each other, or constantly eaten up with jealously.  The Ten Commandments represent the wisdom of the ages.  Whether from God or from man, they are the keys to a successful society in which people can go about their ordinary lives.  My son never stole again.

I thought of the Ten Commandments today when I read the opening sentence of Theodore Dalrymple’s take on the convulsions in England:

The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker’s Transylvania.

Whether from God or from man, the Ten Commandment’s dictum that the young must “Honour thy father and thy mother,” if applied, would have prevented the riots.  That’s because these weren’t ordinary riots.  Think about it:  In the past, whether it was the Poll Tax riot in 1381, or the Chartist and other riots in the early 19th century, Britain’s riots were driven by adults with legitimate political grievances.  This time around, it was just angry kids.  As the Victorians knew, and they were certainly well-steeped in Biblical morality, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.  And when those idle hands are attached to minds that respect nothing and nobody . . . anarchy results.