Monday, April 10, 2006

Dandy-lion holocaust

Speaking of memes, Millennium Elephant's daddy Richard shares his birthday with Henry Tulip. This fact reminded me to look up exactly where the princes in the tower fit into the Wars of the Roses, in good time for listening to my friend Nev's The Kingmaker.

Ooh look, Henry Tulip's granny was the French bird Henry V married after his European Cup win at Agincourt. Top fact about that: Henry had been wounded 12 years before in the longbow-on-longbow action at Shrewsbury. An arrow hit him in the face, leaving him noticeably scarred. This detail is not included in the best-selling biography by W. Shakespeare.

I think I'm right in saying that the name "wars of the roses" was a contrivance of Shakespeare's, too - it certainly wasn't used at the time the wars were actually going on (1455-1485, or 1487 if you're a pedant). Shakey's plays show those decades of war to be miserably brutal and bleak (until, er, his patron's granddad took control after the Battle of Bosworth Field), so the title's meant to be ironic. Like there being a "buttercup massacre" or a "dandy-lion holocaust".

(Yes that's an archaic spelling, before you write in.)

The ironic title is not just a pretty bit of word-play; it's useful in differentiating from the other civil war. Which is often referred to as two civil wars anyway, because silly King Chuck surrendered and then started fighting again. Yes, that does seem like nit-picking, but this was not 'Nam, there were rules...

Anyway, wars can't be civil either. The civility-bit is a "treaty". It’s always the diplomats and peacemakers who have to clear up the mess, as a wise Time Lord might remark someday soon.

(We also tend not to call the squabbling between the boss-eyed King Stephen and his big sister a civil war, because, er, we tend to forget about it anyway. Oh, and if Henry IV hadn't jumped the queue, we might have had a King Roger.)

This kind of semantic stuff appeals to me anyway (I've always loved the Master's self-contradicting line in Dr Who and half of all the Drs Who, as the Cybermen point menacing guns at him: "I am the Master, and your loyal servant.").

I've also spent a morning beefing up metadata, gathering all the synonyms, homonyms and Houyhnhnms I can think of, which may explain why brain has gone wandering...


Anonymous said...

Shakespeare didn't come up with the term 'the war of the roses' - the phrase doesn't appear in the four plays and seems to have orginated in the 19th century. Shakespeare does incorporate some red/white rose business into the Henry VI plays, though - but the idea that the two sides had red/white rose emblems seems to be a (not entirely accurate) notion that took hold during the 16th century, and was not an invention of Mr S. No irony intended.

Henry Tudor had two claims to the throne - as well as being the great great grandson of John of Gaunt on his father's side, he was also the great great grandson of John of Gaunt on his mother's side. John of Gaunt being the son of Edward III and an important running-the-country type of chap around the time of Dick II (his nephew, and a real twat).

Top fact: Edward V was never crowned so shouldn't count as a king, and so our Edward numbering system has been fucked ever since. Kind of like when they put the years on Dr Who annuals.

This is all from memory. I have been boning up on this shit, oh yes. And now for an encore, who ruled the country during the civil wars?

Charlie I
Rump parliament
Nominated assembly (everyone forgets this one)
Olly C
then his son
Dickie C
Rump parliament
Charlie II

Nimbos said...

Maybe the wars didn't exist as "the roses" but the emblems certainly did. The Tudor Rose (in various red/white forms) exists back to the time of Henry VII to signify his red one and Liz's white one conjoined.

0tralala said...

Ah, I'd thought it was all from Henry VI and the simile of it all just being a rumpus in a garden.

Yes, Nimbos, the flowery emblems were contemporary, but calling the wars after them would be a bit like calling the 1640s the "Haircut Wars". It's an example of meiosis.

Jonny, I recommend Christopher Hill's books on the civil war and Oliver Cromwell. The latter I can lend, since it informed a fair bit of Dr Who meeting him.

Anonymous said...

The reason why I said 'not entirely accurate' is that the white rose was only one of several badges used by the House of Lancaster, and there is some doubt over whether the House of York ever used a red rose for their badge. The idea that the two houses were represented by red and white rose badges seems to have been invented when Henry VII came up with the combined red and white Tudor rose.

Alex Wilcock said...

And can I jump in on the 'two civil wars'?

The English Civil War/s (1942-49, or '51 for choice) was / were really just the middle bit of the British civil wars, including the Bishops' Wars (Scotland) and the Irish Rebellion, and wouldn't have happened if Charles hadn't been ruling three non-uniform kingdoms that became destabilised (largely because of attempts by each to impose their own uniform rules, particularly in religion).

So the English civil wars you mentioned that aren't titled 'the English Civil War' have rather better claims to the title ;-)