Today is one of those lovely sunny winter’s mornings. The sun is low in the sky (which makes driving a nightmare!). It is positively mild and there’s almost an early spring-like feel to the day. I think that the real difference between winter this year and last year – apart from the absence of snow – has been the appearance of the sun. Last year winter seemed very dark and miserable and dragged on for ever. This year in my part of the England, we are really still waiting for winter to happen. We have had a few very cold days but in general it has been bearable. I have only had to wear my gloves once so far which is always a sign that it’s not too cold! Unfortunately it has been incredibly wet and Southern England has really suffered from floods and storms but, fortunately for us, we have not been badly affected.
However, this very strange winter has left my garden slightly confused as to what time of year it is. I have bulbs pushing their way up at a great rate which is to be expected at this time of year. The snowdrops are through which is always lovely to see and they bring me great pleasure. But I also have a patio rose that has started to bloom. This is possibly a foolhardy move by the rose so early in the year. I fear for its safety should the snow and ice make an appearance but I have to admire its courage. It’s a unexpected beacon of hope in February.
I have recently been studying a Future Learn online course about England in the time of Richard III. I am a total history addict so this course was perfect for me! Interest in Richard III has increased since the discovery of his remains under a car park in Leicester. Which is not actually as random as it sounds since the car park is built over the site of an ancient priory (Greyfriars) where his body was taken after the Battle of Bosworth. The course was led by staff from the University of Leicester who were part of the team that found the remains.
I had studied Richard III at school over 40 years ago but the course has given me greater understanding of how people lived in medieval England. The food they ate. How they lived their lives. The course gave us links to some wonderful websites including National Archives where we could access the Wills to see what they left and to whom. The religious aspect of their lives was really interesting – concept of purgatory and the importance of prayer. It was not actually a bad life for both the rich and the poor. Apart that is from the Black Death, Wars of the Roses and low life expectancy …… The Wars of the Roses was a key element of the course. It through up some interesting facts. The Battle of Towton lasted for 10 hours. Can you imagine? 10 hours! 28,000 were killed. That was about 1% of the population at the time. Richard III was the last English king to actually die in battle. Did you know that? I am sure it was fact I was probably told at some time but had totally forgotten.
But what I found to be one of the most exciting aspects of the course was reliving through video the discovery of his body. The luck in digging the trenches that found the remains of his body. The realisation that he did actually have a crooked back and it was not just an invention of Shakespeare. He wasn’t a hunch back but there was definite curvature of the spine. An examination of his skeleton revealed the extent of the injuries he sustained in battle. Then being able to locate and take DNA from two descendants of Richard’s sister to enable positive confirmation that it was indeed the remains of Richard III. How fantastic is that?
And the story is still not over. The argument still goes on over where his final resting place should be – York or Leicester.
Future Learn is a brilliant concept. I am now doing a course on Hamlet and have signed up for several more. Watch this space …..