Sunday, March 22, 2015

Medieval Cloud of Witnesses

The cloud of witnesses, as described in Hebrews 12, is the huge audience of Christian saints who have died before us but surround us and join us in prayer and worship. Never before have I more strongly felt the presence of this phenomenon as I did today when two of my great loves came together: medieval history and my faith.

I have an almost painful desire to be a participant in the reinterment of Richard III this week, but I have to settle for catching pictures and short video clips online. As I sang, took communion, and worshiped in church this morning, however, I understood that I do have a connection to my fellow Christians in history.

Maybe my mind wasn't exactly where it should have been, because as I was shuffling slowly forward to participate in the Eucharist, I imagined Elizabeth of York. First as a Plantagenet princess, then as a Tudor queen, Elizabeth would have practiced a faith much like my own. A picture of her gliding toward the altar of a soaring cathedral formed in my mind. Her gown would gently brush across the floor and rushes until she would kneel down before the revered bread and wine.

Of course, my imagination quickly expanded this picture to include other people in Elizabeth's life, including her uncle Richard. We may never know this side of heaven what Richard's relationship was with Elizabeth or whether he ordered her brothers killed, but that is part of what makes them so intriguing. I do not have any more answers about Richard than anyone else, though many will claim to know more, but I am excited about this unique opportunity to witness the burial of a medieval monarch. 

Many history enthusiasts will enjoy being a part of Richard's reinterment services though they do not share his faith. While I cannot be there in body, I am certainly there in spirit as I imagine the medieval people that I almost consider friends surrounding me as my prayers join with theirs. 

Loyaulte me lie.

Monday, March 16, 2015

History in the Headlines: Richard III

If you love history as much as I do, you have undoubtedly been following the discovery of the remains of Richard III. Whether you cringed or nodded in satisfaction at seeing the maligned king's curved spine, the excavation and research since that day over two years ago has been spectacular to follow. We have enjoyed a truly once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from King Richard's 530 year old remains.

Leicester Cathedral, where the reinterment of Richard's remains will occur in just six days, has a comprehensive website dedicated to the event. You can see it here.

Thinking about Richard, which I often do as one who is enthralled with the Wars of the Roses, leads to a multitude of historical what-ifs. I'm not one to question the change of huge events, such as "What if the South had won the American Civil War?" I prefer to question small tweaks.

What if Richard's son Edward had not died?
What if Richard had given Hastings a trial (at least what sufficed for a trial in those times)?
What if people of Richard's time knew the fate of his nephews?
What if Richard had not died at Bosworth?

I do not necessarily think of Richard as innocent on all charges and am certainly no Bride of Gloucester, but I do wonder if he was as villainous as some have accused him to have been. We will likely never know the truth for sure, but what is certain is that he managed to bring about the end of the Plantagenet dynasty after they had ruled England for over three centuries.

Instead, history gives us the Tudor dynasty through the Plantagenet Princess Elizabeth of York, who was married to the victorious Henry Tudor. Her son, Henry VIII, has surpassed her in fame, despite the exciting and turbulent times in which she lived. The Tudors would go on to decimate the Plantagenet remnant, break from the Catholic Church, and set the stage for the English Civil War.

Oh, the what-ifs we can devise with those infamous Tudors!

But back to Richard III. Whether you love him or hate him, it has been exciting to see him discovered again. After 530 years, he will soon finally be at rest.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Guest Blog at The Writing Desk

Thank you, Tony Riches, for giving me the opportunity to be a guest blogger at The Writing Desk! You can see the post here.