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British Heritage: DECEMBER/JANUARY 1999 Letters

Originally published on HistoryNet.com. Published Online: September 23, 2000 
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HOORAY FOR HISTORY

In response to your request to hear from readers concerning coverage of British history ('Historical Spark', August/September 1998, page 4), I'd like to say that I wait with anticipation for each new issue and locate the articles on history and read them first. I do not have the opportunity to travel outside the United States, so I do all my 'travelling' to far-away places through magazines. The history of a place is much more enjoyable than just a few snapshots of present-day locations. How did the present-day place get to be what it is? That is thrilling! Please continue to publish articles on the history of places and the people who are associated with those places.

The issue titled 'The Age of Arthur' was the most enjoyable I have read in a long while. The articles, along with the pictures of places associated with Arthur, gave me a better understanding of the Arthurian age than anything I have studied or read on the subject. I was especially grateful for the maps that listed some of the place names mentioned in the articles. I am not all that familiar with places in the British Isles and can only learn by your maps. Present-day maps do not list many of the historical names and places, so your maps are much studied. I would like a more complete map in each issue, possibly marked with each place name mentioned in the issue.

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Please continue your coverage of British history. After all, isn't that what heritage really is?

Linda Austin
Florence, Alabama

WINTERY DISCONTENT

When I first saw Peter Kilby's 'The Princes in the Tower' in the October 1998 issue (page 5), I thought, 'Oh dear, yet another person who won't bother to actually research the topic.' But, having been well pleased with the content of your articles thus far in my subscription, I decided to give it a chance. Bad decision, and I suspect that I'm not the only reader lamenting a decision not to just turn the page and give it a miss.

The reign of Richard III, including his ascension to the throne, takes on an entirely different light when viewed outside the influence of the propaganda machine of the Tudor monarchy, striving desperately to justify its existence. Richard was formally and unanimously upheld as the rightful king by Parliament following an assertion that the marriage of his brother Edward IV to Elizabeth Woodville was illegitimate, thereby barring Prince Edward from the succession. Whether the assertion is true is a matter of some speculation, for Henry Tudor was very effective in destroying almost all copies of the documents by which Richard became king.

A more open and scholarly look at those records that can be trusted to be relatively free of the taint of Tudor propaganda reveals a very different picture of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester and later King of England. He was an able administrator, a competent general and warrior (so much for being a hunchback; at Bosworth he managed to slay Henry Tudor's standard-bearer, Sir William Brandon, with a single stroke and unhorsed Sir John Cheney, accounted to be the strongest man on the field), a devout supporter of the church, as well as the founder of colleges and the originator of the college of arms.

The selected illustrations were even less accurate and were quite misleading. They showed a further lack of research into the subject.

Readers interested in a more open, and quite likely more accurate, view of Richard III are invited to contact the Richard III Society, 4702 Dryades Street, New Orleans, Louisiana, or visit the website of the American branch. The Society lists numerous sources of reading on Richard III, the Wars of the Roses, and the 15th century in general.

Jason Asbell
Melbourne, Florida

Editor's note: The events surrounding the disappearance of the Princes certainly provide the raw material for lively and vigorous debate. Will a general consensus ever be reached? Probably not, and we welcome informed opinions such as this, which cast further light on the subject. Until the debate is conclusively resolved, though, it seems rather premature to label Peter Kilby's article 'inaccurate' because of its inclusion of anti-Ricardian quotes such as those by Sir Thomas More. Contrary opinions are what debate is all about. Also, the illustrations in question were chosen with the specific intent of documenting how the popular press has often maligned Richard through the use of historical inaccuracies. The captions clearly point out the misleading elements.

In addition to the Richard III Society described above, readers interested in other investigations into the mystery of the missing princes should turn to our Reviews department and look for the review of Royal Blood by Bertram Fields, which also provides a sympathetic picture of King Richard.

CAERPHILLY CONNECTION

I have just received my copy of the October/November 1998 issue of British Heritage and wanted to comment on the excellent issue. The photograph of Caerphilly Castle on the cover made the issue even more special to me.

In May 1997, I finally made my first trip to England and Wales with my wife, daughter, and parents. My mother had worked in the U.S. embassy in London in the early 1950s and arrived just before Queen Elizabeth's coronation.

Having been fascinated with England, my father and I embarked on a genealogical quest several years ago and learned that we were descended from the family of Gilbert de Clare, builder of Caerphilly Castle. We spent two wonderful days in Cardiff, exploring the town of Caerphilly and the wonders of the castle itself. Gazing through the various windows, arrow slits, and open area of the castle, we marvelled at how wonderful it must have been to have seen the castle in its full glory. The main dining hall, stupendous in itself, holds numerous shields and arms of the various owners of the castle over the years, and of families who married into the de Clare dynasty–it also played host to Edward I and his entourage, as his daughter, Princess Joan of Acre, married into the family. The guides and staff of the castle were most generous during our visit, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mark W. Clark
Louisville, Kentucky

LET'S CALL THE WHOLE THING OFF…

The comments by Mr. William McColly regarding the origin of the name 'Welsh Rarebit/Rabbit' (August/September 1998, page 5), reminded me that my Welsh father was continually irritated by the English pronunciation of this dish as 'Welsh Rabbit'. His explanation was that because cheese could be expensive for people with low incomes, as many people in Britain were in those days, a 'rare bit' of cheese was spread further by this manner of preparation. He was annoyed also that the English didn't take the time to understand the Welsh language as being important and misunderstood the beautiful lilting accent Welsh people have when they say 'rare bit'.

His own recollection as a young child during the Second World War was that his parents encouraged their three children to see who could eat the most bread with a small piece of cheese–without realizing it they were filling their tummies with bread, not bothered by the meagre morsel of cheese allowed on war-time rationing.

Incidentally, the simplest form of this dish is to grate some sharp cheese (Double Gloucester is a good choice) and sprinkle it on toasted bread. (Italian seems to be the closest to English bread that you can buy in the States.) Then grill it, cheese side up, under the broiler until it bubbles and melts.

Lyn Spence
Canton, Michigan

CORRECTIONS

Several readers noticed an error in our feature on Queen Victoria's Scotland (October/November 1998, page 32). The article indicates that Victoria was 23 years old in 1847. Actually, she was born in 1819, which would have made her 28 at the time of her visit to the Highlands.

Also, the feature on Admiral Nelson in the same issue (page 40) describes an encounter between Nelson and the future King William IV. At the time of the encounter, William was Duke of Clarence, not Prince of Wales, as stated.



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