Belfast Telegraph

Why even a killer like Richard III deserves a really good send-off

By Lindy McDowell

History, we are always being advised around here, is written by the victors. But that old Churchillian line is massively simplistic. True, the rights and wrongs of historical events and players are often contested by special interest groups and occasionally conspiracy theorists, but generally evil-doing is hard to argue away. Even with that other worn old line we're constantly bombarded with again around here. The line about how one man's killer is another man's freedom fighter.

A line which, in the clever case of the city of Leicester, has been amplified this week to one man's murderer can be another man's tourist attraction, as they've paraded through their streets the mortal remains of a notorious child killer with all the pomp, deference and solemnity due a saint.

Granted, the crime happened a while back. And granted, too, every man is innocent until proven guilty. There is no forensic evidence, as DCI Banks might say, to link the suspect directly to the crime scene. But circumstantial evidence and contemporary account does point to a 99% certainty that Richard III, the last of the Plantagenets, did indeed murder his two young nephews, the Princes in the Tower, in order to secure the English throne for himself.

Other awful things did happen back then, of course. A king topping his predecessor to take over the crown was not an unusual career move.

Yet even by the standards of the time, killing small children, your own nephews to boot, was seriously frowned upon.

Some might say that Richard got what was coming to him then, via defeat in battle and following that his long, ignominious interment beneath a municipal car park.

But that's not a view shared by his sudden, modern-day supporters, quoted in news reports this week on their "need" to "pay their last respects" to the old ogre. Full of 21st century gush, they pay tribute like he was a wayward, but loveable relative. The monster of Shakespearean drama has been reworked into saccharine, Disney-style hero.

Good Kind Richard, whose only crime was royalty. Maligned by the Tudors' PR maestro, Shakespeare, what chance did he have, they ask? (And, yes, the Tudors, let us not forget, did have form themselves in terms of barbarity. The decapitation of young women for a start.) But to portray Richard as a hapless goodie isn't just rewriting history. It's reimagining it.

Time for a confession here. If I'd been in Leicester this week, I'd have been in the front row of the crowds gawping with the best of them. The story of the search for and discovery of the king's remains is a fabulous, romantic, thrilling yarn. All credit to the people concerned in that search who can be forgiven for feeling more than a bit sentimental about old, unearthed Rich.

And full credit to Leicester for taking full advantage of the situation, beating off a rival burial bid from York (which some might say had more claim to the king) and capitalising in a week-long wake and funeral fest.

Giving the old boy a belated send-off is utterly justifiable. Treating his remains with dignity is admirable (in the cathedral some gawpers have had to be warned to stop taking selfies. And, in other tech-age news, he's also got his own Twitter account.)

But it's the mawkish, modern guff about poor misunderstood Richard that grates a wee bit. It's the demi-deification. We can give the medieval murderer a send-off without feeling we have to write off his terrible crime. You don't have to rewrite history to rework him into a hero. This week's events, tomorrow's 500-year-late funeral, have given us an amazing ringside seat on the killer king's last journey.

As one chorister taking part in the cathedral ceremony so aptly put it: "I'm dead excited." The late Plantagenet couldn't have put it better himself.

It's time we pulled the plug on robots

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, now admits that he believes the future of artificial intelligence is "scary and very bad for people".

Having previously been more optimistic, he now envisages robots taking over from humans, for whom they will have no need.

Yikes! Ominously Mr W adds: "Will we be the gods? Will we be the family pets? Or will we be ants that get stepped on? I don't know about that."

I don't know about you, but I don't like the sound of that.

Also suggesting that AI is a threat, not a boon, is Stephen Hawking. Shouldn't we be pulling the plug on it now, then? While we still can.

Cuddly toys are just the business

You get the feeling the corporate world is increasingly toying with us.

Have you got your Brian toy yet? It's the mascot of one of those comparison websites and the new kid on the block to challenge the likes of the meerkat stars of yet another comparison site - cuddly toys also available there.

Then there's the knitted monkey (I quite like him) that advertises teabags. The list goes on.

The new face of big business is fluffy and aimed at big kids.

I'm not sure what this says about big business.

But it does seem to say we, the customers need to grow up a bit.

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