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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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King Richard is ours, so bring him home now

Home is always where the heart is. Not where the horse falls nor in the council car park under which the bones lie. It’s the place that makes the soul sing.

Penrith... probably.

Richard III, King of England, fearless warrior monarch, Cumbrian offcomer – he’d confirm all of that, if only he could.

He can’t of course. Not now. Dead, no longer buried and languishing uncomfortably still in Leicester, Richard is awaiting his final burial spot in the one place he could call his spiritual home.

Penrith. Or Carlisle, at a pinch. Well, why not? Either would be a heck of an improvement on Leicester and poor old Richard is long overdue an upturn in fortunes. His weary soul deserves a spell of singing.

Let’s be straight about this – the last Plantagenet ruler never really got what he rightly deserved. Falsely accused of murdering his young nephews, having to fight fiercely for his throne, misplacing his mount, hacked to bits in bloody battle over roses (there was no Interflora in those days), it’s entirely likely he found what little contentment he ever knew here in Cumbria, when in 1471 – as Duke of Gloucester – he acquired Penrith Castle as a second home.

We know about second homes in these parts. Bolt holes, holiday havens, rural retreats, offering their owners tranquil fell walks, feet up in front of roaring evening fires, a pint or two of real ale down the Gloucester Arms.

So it must have proved for the one-time sheriff of Cumberland who, to be truthful, didn’t have the best of deals as a fingers-to-the-bone, hard-working, stallion-losing sovereign.

No royal trains for him. No walkabouts with flowers and empty handbags. He didn’t live long enough to be given a Jubilee barge or a tribute song by Gary Barlow.

No ruler since him has had to offer their kingdom for a horse. Had Richard done so today, he’d have had a dozen bargain burgers and a freezer-pack of lasagne thrown at him. Such was his luck. But somehow he coped. Valiantly.

“Dukes, earls, lords, princes – everything’s different for them. They’re Aristotles,” my great auntie Polly – who had a touch of the Mrs Malaprop about her – used to say.

She knew about these things, did Polly. A proud pork butcher’s wife and a town councillor – mayor at one point – she considered herself sufficiently elevated above ordinary station to be close to but not quite an Aristotle and therefore eminently qualified to pass judgement, if a bit resentfully.

She was right though. Most aristocrats and high born folk do pretty well at keeping comfy lives on an even keel these days. Not so the Yorkist Richard. He really had to knuckle down to dangerous nitty-gritty.

Never a minute’s rest, other than on his holidays in Penrith, close to hills, lakes, that smashing cafe at Rheged; clean country air whistling through his castle window-frames, Cumberland sausage for tea – and no beckoning car park!

Then by brutal fluke of battle he ended up in Leicester, only to have his bones picked over by archaeologists, scientists, DNA-testers and assorted other ologists, centuries after having fallen at Bosworth Field.

It just doesn’t seem right somehow. No way to treat a north country Aristotle in need of eternal slumber.

So, at risk of enraging Yorkshire folk who want him for their Minster, I say bring him home to Cumbria and let the poor soul rest in peace.

We have plenty of room for him here. And we don’t always argue for decades over burial sites – promise.

Cumbrians are an hospitable, friendly lot who would never allow a scurrilous bad press campaign about princes in The Tower colour honest judgement.

King Richard, weary of war, rumour, car parks and having his bones picked over in laboratories, deserves no less than the idyll he loved as a young man.

We can give him that. Let him accept the invitation and get the rose-wreaths ready for his funeral. Order the Jennings casks for his wake.

Too many winters of discontent have passed for our unfortunate castle-dwelling offcomer king. We claim him as our own bona fide Cumbrian Aristotle.

Bring him home – and don’t spare the horse meat!

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