” Shall these enjoy our lands? Lie with our wives?
Ravish our daughters?! …
March on, join bravely, let us to’t pell-mell
If not to heaven, then hand in hand to hell. ”
The city center square of Leicester is a typical Midlands city center, with Islamic preachers setting up roadside tables to sell books which are supposed to promote the virtues of Islamic life, a couple of Nigerian pastors shouting that Bible says the world is going to end soon, somehow managing to exist peacefully, perhaps aided by the fact that two unarmed “police-couple” (it’s usually a man and a woman in England, gender equality and all that) watching over for signs of trouble. There were a few yobs sitting in the market square, heavy rank of weed. Over all sunny day, and indifferent people.
It however looks like a complete different city when you cross around five hundred meters to Leicester Cathedral. Empty street, very English, with pubs, and tea shops, and lots of overhanging lavenders and limoniums, with a few curious passerby looking at me. Enter the huge Cathedral, and you will see very familiar twenty year olds sitting and munching kebab, in the Cathedral lawn. So much for respect for historical sites.
I was met with curious looks, every where I went. The group in the lawn munching kebab was curious, as was the incredibly polite lady of the cloth, who was surprised that I actually knew about the Battle of Bosworth, and more or less familiar with English history.
I don’t blame them. They don’t probably see many Asians, other than Chinese people in tour groups taking selfies in front of fountains and gargoyles. Indians and Pakistanis, the former subjects of the British crown, either are typical Labour voters, which means they either dislike, or are indifferent about everything about ancient Britain and carries a colonial legacy, or are just here for work and jobs, and don’t often come to Cathedrals or read up about obscure Kings who died in battles in the middle ages.
Except, Richard the Third wasn’t obscure.
The last English king to have died in a battlefield, charging and fighting alone, helm-less, foolish, and maddeningly brave. Nothing could be more typically English than one single man going down with a drawn double handed long-sword in hand, for a hopeless cause.
Called a hunchbacked evil by Shakespeare, and a child murderer by generations to come after him, although that might arguably be revisionist history, after all history is written by victors, Richard died when he was 32, after having reformed the English judicial system. The presumption of “innocent until proven guilty”, which forms the basis of English common law and jurisprudence, came from this “mad” king. Quite liberal for his age.
History subsequently proved that he was in reality, incredibly handsome, not hunched, and contrary to conventional wisdom and Shakespearean press, quite popular.
As of the claims of him being a tyrant, history is not written by good people, and definitely not by good people for long. And, for the record, at the time of writing this, I am 34, and to my last knowledge, didn’t produce ideas to reform anything under the planet, nor have achieved timeless notoriety or a violent and gory death.
Richard died to save England, from what he thought was a foreign invasion from hordes across the sea. Walking through the cathedral, during the age of Brexit, the symbolism couldn’t be more stark and in your face. For someone as liberal, and reform minded as Richard, the sanctity of English borders was still paramount. You cannot give good justice, and stable, peaceful life to your citizens and subjects, unless you define the territory and population over which your writ and jurisdiction lasts.
The kebab-munchers in the Cathedral, the future of this country, and the failed product of the modern British education system, could do well to ponder over this age old wisdom.