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Zaku's avatar

Do you have any opinions on the poem read at the reburial of Richard III?

Asked by Zaku (29729points) 1 month ago

In 2015, after Richard Plantagenet ( Richard III )‘s body was found in an unmarked grave, he was given a royal ceremony and reburied.

At the service, a poem by Carol Ann Duffy was read by Benedict Cumberbatch (who, like millions in the UK, is related to Richard, being his third cousin, 16 times removed). Cumberbatch was also about to appear in a TV production.

Do you have any opinions about the poem, the reading of it, or how you feel about this event?

Here is the reading.

Here is one article about the event.

Here are the words to the poem:


My bones, scripted in light, upon cold soil,
a human braille. My skull, scarred by a crown,
emptied of history. Describe my soul
as incense, votive, vanishing; your own
the same. Grant me the carving of my name.

These relics, bless. Imagine you re-tie
a broken string and on it thread a cross,
the symbol severed from me when I died.
The end of time – an unknown, unfelt loss –
unless the Resurrection of the Dead …

or I once dreamed of this, your future breath
in prayer for me, lost long, forever found;
or sensed you from the backstage of my death,
as kings glimpse shadows on a battleground.

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22 Answers

chyna's avatar

I quite like the poem. It seems fitting.
If his body was in an unmarked grave, how did they know it was Richard III?

janbb's avatar

I’m not a big pomp and circumstance fan but I like both the poem and Cumberbatch’s reading of it.

@chyna “Extensive anthropological and genetic testing” was done.

filmfann's avatar

It’s perfect.

Caravanfan's avatar

It’s a nice poem.

Richard III is a victim of some very effective propaganda by the Tudors and amplified by Shakespeare.

Acrylic's avatar

Tried too hard and as a result failed.

flutherother's avatar

Carol Ann Duffy was the Poet Laureate in 2015 and would be expected to write a poem for this occasion. Poems written to order are rarely successful and while this poem reads well and contains some good ideas for me it isn’t one of her better poems. I do like the simplicity of the title. Not Richard III or King Richard but just plain Richard. The myths and the history are cast aside leaving just bones and the personal name “Richard”.

ragingloli's avatar

Sounds like a meaningless word salad to me.
I think I hate it.
Yeah, I think it is shit.

raum's avatar

I don’t think he deserved such a lovely poem. He murdered his nephews to usurp the throne.

Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
Snuffed his nephews with the featherbed.
That was a pretty evil thing to do.

Caravanfan's avatar

@raum No more evil than all the people Henry VIII had killed, and you don’t see Shakepeare writing poetically about them. (Actually, I saw Shakespeare’s Henry VIII. It’s a shit play)

raum's avatar

@Caravanfan Not a fan of Henry VIII either. Nothing to do with Shakespeare.

smudges's avatar

Well, I have no real opinion about the poem or about Richard, but I love that name! Benedict Cumberbatch, especially the Cumberbatch part. Reminds me of Bandersnatch – another great word!

Zaku's avatar

@chyna The article linked says:

“Until 2013, when a skeleton with a curved spine was found by archaeologists beneath a parking lot near the cathedral, not far from where Richard died. After genetic testing and facial reconstruction, it was announced that Richard had indeed been found.”

NoMore's avatar

Can’t get too excited about a king who has been dead over 500 years.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I don’t know who Richard III is so I read the poem like it wasn’t written for that occasion. As a poem itself it’s pretty moving. It could be used for a lot of heroes who were buried in unmarked graves.

Caravanfan's avatar

@raum Of course. I’m just saying that Richard III did what most kings did—eliminate their competition.

NoMore's avatar

Two skeletons were found in the Tower, don’t recall when. Speculation was they that they were the two princes who were imprisoned and murdered on orders of Richard III. According to “Churchills History of the English Speaking Peoples”.

Caravanfan's avatar

That’s also how Shakespeare put it. It’s likely true. I’m just saying that it wasn’t uncommon behavior and monarchs did that kind of thing all the time to quell dissent.

The most egregious example was when Henry VIII murdered Margaret Pole simply because she was a popular surviving Plantagenet (and a Catholic)

raum's avatar

Not a surprising move.
But still pretty shitty.

Plenty of predictable evil in the world.

Caravanfan's avatar

@raum I’m not sure it was necessarily evil. The Plantegenets were a royal line that stretched almost all the way back to the Norman invasion. And if you look at the rule of primogenature, Henry Tudor (Henry VIII grandfather) was arguably an illegitamate king. So in order to avoid civil war Henry had to get rid of competition, especially if they were popular. So although the death of Margaret Pole was egregious (she was old, and wasn’t going to produce any more Plantagenet heirs) she was super popular and therefore a potential threat to the kingdom.

It’s just what was done back then. Even Elizabeth sentenced Mary Queen of Scots to death because she was a rival.

raum's avatar

There is that phrase, a “necessary evil”. But that’s just evil with a modifier.

janbb's avatar

I think we can call killing your two young nephews just plain evil – for now or then! Temporal relevance only goes so far.

Caravanfan's avatar

This is interesting in that it goes to the idea of moral relativism (I am not a moral relativist but it applies here). Let’s say he did not kill his nephews, and if people were unhappy with his rule then they would rally behind the two nephews to create civil war. This was at the end of the Wars of the Roses, so civil war was very real at that time and many people were dying. Richard may have felt that if he had the nephews killed and therefore consolodated power, then it would prevent more war and death. Is that evil? Maybe.

Of course in the end it didn’t work. Henry Tudor led an army against him anyway and he was killed, and the fact that the nephews were also previously killed effectively ended Plantagenet rule. Hindsight is 20/20.

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