“Let us sit upon the ground, and tell sad stories about the death of kings.”’
I see them everywhere—little girls donning their Disney Store Princess dresses. Miniature visions in pink tulle stand in line shopping for groceries and gobbling down frozen yogurt. When I see these tiny girls in their colorful cotton/poly blend, the first thing I think is, “Wow. Do they make that in my size?” But then I come to my senses—I look like a giant macaroon in tulle. (Give me a sailor’s cap and I’m the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.)
I think that along with an innate knowledge of all Beatle song lyrics, there must be some yet-to-be-discovered DNA strand inherent in all little girls that genetically compels them to love Cinderella plastic pearl tiara’s. This seems possible as I watch sweet little girls throw royal temper tantrums in order to get those plastic Princess high-heels.
However, my hypothesis becomes less likely as I try this theory out on myself. Like Wolverine (but without the rugged sideburns (I wax)), my Princess DNA must have mutated. As a kid, I loved a good Fairy Tale, but I never wanted to be a Disney Princess. I didn’t want to live Under the Sea to meet a handsome prince. I wanted to move to medieval England and live in a cold castle with no indoor plumbing, curling irons, or Twinkies. I wanted to be a real princess.
My childhood fascination with dead kings has never died out like the Plantagenet line did. Clearly, there must be other adult people out there who still hold onto their childhood dreams. I’m pretty sure deep down, grown men still want to be astronauts, NFL quarterbacks, and Bill Murray in Cadyshack. But I doubt even Bill Murray can name all the British kings (in order) from Henry II to Henry VIII. (There are actually more than just eight Henry’s in that line up.)
Since buying a ticket to medieval England was impossible, I decided to use a time machine of sorts—books. I was 19 when someone at a now defunct B. Dalton’s suggested I read it—my favorite book ever. I fell in love with the author and her dead kings after the first paragraph.
I fell in love with Richard III.
Shakespeare (writing for the winning team) made Richard out to be the most heinous of villains. Complete with withered arm, Richard hobbles around stage killing his relatives in order to wear that all-powerful hollow crown. As a theater major, I never questioned the validity of the mighty Shakespeare's claims. I accepted his truth without thinking there might be more to the story.
Sharon Kay Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour opened that door for me. She changed Richard from a wicked villain to a put-upon, misunderstood hero—all backed by history. Inspired by her research, I even conducted some of my own. I read dry history book after dry history book, and now I can confidently boast that I know more about Richard III then I do about most of my long-term boyfriends.
So, the other week when it was confirmed by people with sexy British accents that they had indeed dug up my medieval boyfriend, I was full of more mirth and merriment than Henry II was at the sight of Eleanor of Aquitaine. (In the beginning of their relationship.) It was strange for me sharing my secret boyfriend with the rest of the world. But like any supportive girlfriend would do, I woke up at 2 am to watch the findings on BBC live with rest of the UK. I’m still amazed that he was found—in my lifetime.
Even though Shakespeare may have gotten his scoliosis right, this fact hasn’t changed my love for Richard Plantagenet. Just because his body was misshapen doesn’t mean his heart and soul were, too. The Sunne in Splendour changed my perception of history and of life. It taught me never to take anything at face value again. The winners write history, and since time travel has yet to be invented, I will never truly know what this dead king was like, even though by all contemporary accounts he was a a good man and a great king.
But don’t take my word for it…
I understand it’s hard for anyone to trust a woman wearing her Princess Renaissance dress at 2 o’clock in the morning.