Richard III is having a good year. Probably his best year since 1483 when he became King. Certainly a lot better than 1485 when he was killed at Bosworth and buried hastily in a priory which was then demolished and eventually became a car park.
Yes, this post is a slight diversion from my usual topics, but it’s a diversion taking us to the same place: sexy inspiration. I admit to being a little obsessed by this chap at the moment.
There are several reasons why it’s a good year for Richard III.
Firstly, he was lost but now is found. The tale of the King in the Car Park has captured the world’s attention and renewed interest in the last Plantagenet monarch. Seeing those bones crammed into the ground, revealed after half a millennium, was a deeply moving experience for me, as it was for many. The Richard III Society has long sought, quite rightly and effectively, to reform his reputation. It was therefore an ironic and ever so slightly bitter sweet victory for them and their champion, Philippa Langley, when he was found. The thing that initially indicated that she had indeed found her king was the fact that the skeleton had a spinal deformity, a characteristic she had been fighting to refute. OK, scoliosis does not produce the conventional appearance of a hunchback, but those Tudors weren’t entirely misguided.
Anyway, no matter what the condition of his spine, I could practically hear Richard yelling joyfully from the hereafter at his rediscovery.
Secondly, Richard is having a good year thanks to another Philippa – Philippa Gregory. Her series of novels, The Cousins’ War, has been serialised by the BBC and Starz as The White Queen and, although not universally adored by the critics, it has maintained a solid few million core of wide-eyed would-be wenches, only too happy to gaze on the three gorgeous sons of York week in and week out (me included). And again Richard delivers. The series was built, it seems, around Max Irons as Edward IV, but it’s little brother Richard who’s captured the hearts and minds of the audience.
Aneurin Barnard, the Welsh actor who plays him, has stolen the show, there’s no doubt, and I put it down, not only to Aneurin’s undeniably compelling performance, but to the enduring fascination of Richard III himself, especially among women.
He’s always fascinated me, right back to when my only impression of him was as Shakespeare’s scheming, evil-sodden hunchback. Olivier’s portrayal of him is still seared on my mind, and was probably my first guilty crush. Yes, I’ll admit it now as I know I’m not alone: I found that portrayal of Richard sexy. The scene where he seduces Anne is one of the sexiest moments in cinema. ‘I’ll have her, but I’ll not keep her long.’ You fucking gorgeous bastard! Well, when you’ve finished with her, I’m right here ….
Olivier played him sexy, of course he did. His little looks to camera, his smirks. He may have hobbled around a bit and had a pointy nose, but he was still eminently shaggable.
And then there’s the portrait, or rather portraits. There’s been much debate about which is the most genuine, and which has been doctored to make him look more sinister. Personally, I can’t see much difference in any of them.
OK, he’s not Brad Pitt, but there’s something about the penetrating eyes and firm set mouth which is utterly hypnotising. And then when they did the facial reconstruction – wowser! He looked exactly the same! I wouldn’t go so far as to say he was the most stunning thing I’ve ever seen, but I wouldn’t say no. And it was him! Richard III! I wasn’t the only one entranced. When watching the programme, I actually thought Philippa Langley was going to snog his reconstructed head. And who are we to deny her? (OK, maybe turn the cameras off at that point.) She found him; she’s in love with him; she deserves her little moment.
There’s something quite sexy about an evil man (with some notable real life exceptions, clearly). There’s something more sexy about a charming evil man. And there’s something infinitely sexy about a charming evil man who might not actually be that evil after all. And that’s why we adore Richard III – the idea that under that dark, brooding exterior, there might be a soulful, tormented, misunderstood heart in need of someone who will finally see the truth. And even if he’s still got some evil left in him, we’ll reform him – we modern women are great at that! What could be more attractive? It’s the stereotype of sexiness – evil transformed by love. Poor Richard. He’s now got thousands of women ready to transform him … unfortunately, they’re 500 years too late.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth. No matter what your personal thoughts on the man, take a few moments to think about him tomorrow. He’s my Man of the Year. Better late than never, Gloucester.