Social Media and Trolling:When History turns Nasty!

Having been a member of various historical groups and pages on social media for several years now I am a veteran of the ‘cut and thrust’ of historical debate and the high level of passion that runs through threads. I think this is generally a very positive feature of history forums on social media as it shows that people around the world care deeply about the subject and want to debate controversial areas and often hold strong opinions.

I truly believe that we are seeing a renaissance in historical interest and study and that this is a wonderful sign for the future of the subject and should have a very promising outcome in terms of preserving our historical monuments, funding museums and exhibitions and carrying forward research in future generations. Heritage/ Tourism is a major industry which provided many other associated benefits to the hospitality, leisure and transport industries and for tour guiding and living history interpreters and as a former tour guide I welcome the increased interest in this sector too.

Further I actually think that passionate interest and commitment to particular periods of history is a beneficial aspect of a wider interest in history. People need to dig down deeper into their subject areas and spend time looking in detail at the main figures and their world in order to pick up on small details which may have been overlooked in the source material and sharing that passion and knowledge on social media encourages others to do the same.

I have found myself that in order to counter a particular argument from someone with an opposing view that I have had to go back and re-read source evidence and re-evaluate my argument. Sometimes I have agreed with the other viewpoint and learnt something valuable and sometimes my argument has been the stronger one. Although it is always satisfying to be proved correct, it is also no bad thing to be educated and to change your viewpoint as you learn more about a subject. This is part of the inter-active process of debating on forums and in the vast majority of cases we all seem to learn and explore together. History is not a fixed discipline. It is a dizzying combination of rational argument, emotional connection and intuitive response. Changing and adapting our ideas and arguments keeps us moving forward and may help us to get closer to the real ‘truth’, whatever that may be in the end.

Trolling is a problem across social media and the area of historical forums is as open to the ‘troll’ as any other platform. It is sometimes difficult to even define ‘trolling’ as distinct from healthy and robust debate. It is always worth giving someone else the benefit of the doubt in a medium where you can’t read facial expression or hear the spoken word. Posts can appear much more hostile at first reading than the poster ever intended. Often by the second or third comment initial frostiness has been replaced with a more discursive and friendly tone which benefits everyone involved.

I’ve had some battle royals over the years with people who hold very different views from me on a variety of different topics from Viking shield-maidens to Tudor politics and the most heated and controversial ones have usually centred around ‘he-who-shall-not-be named’ i.e. King Richard III. I have to admit that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed nearly all of them and usually been on good terms with the posters throughout. I’ve never (so far) blocked anyone as I do genuinely enjoy the argument and try to respect their opinions even if I don’t share them or admire the way in which they were couched.

A nadir was reached during the period between the discovery of Richard’s bones and his re-interment at Leicester Cathedral when the debate on all sides got very heated and personal and there were so many conflicting opinions and issues that social media became a real battleground between pro-Leicester, anti-Leicester, pro-York, anti-York, Ricardian and anti-Ricardian factions and people ‘bused in’ supporters from other groups and pages when a ‘rumble’ was on the cards. Emotions ran very high and several group sites like the Richard III Society stopped allowing any posts to be added without vetting them.

In one sense this was all very negative and disappointing but at another level I think it also demonstrated the depth of sentiment that history can inspire in people about characters and events which much of the general public are hardly even aware of and that is surely a good thing even if the form these feelings took was hurtful and damaging at times.

The one undoubtedly positive facet to come out of the ‘hoo-haa’ was the interest shown by school children and their involvement in the re-interment which will hopefully lead to future generations taking a real interest in the history of this period. Combined with the numbers of visits who have come to visit his grave and make a ‘pilgrimage’ to sites around the country that were connected to him, I see a bright future for C15th history.

Trolling does have a wholly negative aspect though as well. It stops some people from debating at all. I’ve seen fledgling interest crushed by heavy-handed and patronising comebacks. Some people who don’t feel terribly confident can be completely turned off by getting such a harsh response to their tentative thoughts and, lets face it, much of what we are debating is not set in stone anyway. We should all know that the past is another country and that we are feeling our way in order to make connections and piece together events and evidence in the teeth of many intervening centuries of destruction, bias and propaganda, changing religious and social practices.

History is so compelling and fascinating and wonderful because we need to tread carefully wherever we go and be open to suggestions and nuances along the path. Trolls don’t accept the truth of this. To a troll there is only one way and one truth and everyone else as a heretic who must be shouted down and rubbished and derided as publically as possible in order to score a petty point. They keep coming back too like a cancer that won’t be eradicated!

Administrators must often feel that they are fighting a constant war against trolls and this takes up their time when they could be engaged with the debates and posting new material on to their groups and must be deeply frustrating for them so I totally understand that sometimes they have to make a call and stop posts of specific topic areas completely for periods of time in order to let things calm down and other posts to be considered. It is a shame as freedom of speech and thought are so essential to our society and to the spirit of social media and the exchange of thoughts across the planet but it is sometimes necessary when things get too out of control.

Another area of trolling that I really do dislike is taking screen shots of debates and then removing this to another group page and discussing specific people by name when they are unaware that this has been done. I do feel that this is unfair as someone should be able to defend their posts, even if they might be accused of trolling in them, on the same site that the post was originally made. It speaks too much of school yard bullying to me and whenever I’ve found myself in danger of being sucked into this I have stopped posting and withdrawn as soon as I became aware I was engaging in it.

This is another facet of the problem because it is easy to make an instant response and regret it later on. This happened recently to me when I discovered the identity of someone who was being criticised on another group forum and commented before I had considered how much I dislike this sort of posting. I apologise for it.

Trolls a tend to think that they ‘know’ everything about someone based on prejudices and pre-conceived ideas about other people. I’ve come across many trolls like this over the years. If you argue even one point that is commonly held by a particular faction then you must believe and agree with everything else they say. This type of mentality is again very frustrating and undermines free debate. It is perfectly possible to admire a king for his legislation or military skill but find him capable of committing ruthless acts to secure his position. Conversely we might actively dislike another character yet admire some of their qualities. Most of us are probably guilty of making assumptions based on a small section of text written by another poster and sometimes we are even adult enough to admit to this and start over again. I don’t see any shame in that as we all make mistakes at times and might be more forgiving of historical figures if we stopped to consider the complexities of their situation rather than making instant value judgements.

Of course trolling applies to professional historians as well as amateur interest groups. I think there is scope for lambasting a public figure and satirising their work and broadcasts but not in personal attacks on them as people and it is often a fine line. Historians are seen as powerful figures who lend legitimacy to their argument because of the exposure their assessments are given in the media and their role as ‘talking heads’ on documentaries and current affairs programmes. On the one hand they appear to making a living from judging people who can’t respond and on the other hand they may well be encouraging more people to become interested in history who are capable of thinking independently and making their own judgements at a later date.

Again I think that on balance it is more important to hear their arguments even if we can pick holes in them at our leisure than to resort to trolling and personal attacks but people should be free to reply and point out inaccuracies and bias as well. I can think of one published historian who automatically blocks anyone who posts a counter-argument on their website and refuses to post their comments. This is counter-productive because it forces the disgruntled to sound off on lots of other sites and creates an atmosphere where the free exchange of ideas is closed down. A historian should be able to take criticism and win by force of argument or give ground gracefully where they have been inaccurate or mis-leading and still be regarded highly by their peers and the general public. They are allowed to make mistakes too but might end up getting laughed at a bit along the way!

So, having covered the aggressors, I want to also mention the passive-aggressors who claim to be the victims of trolling when anyone disagrees with their viewpoint. This is often harder to deal with that blatant aggression because they put you on the back foot. Again it is a grey area where there should be some genuine room for allowance and mutual respect before we assume the worst of someone. Rather like posters who can’t get a thought down without mentioning how many degrees they hold or those who demand source evidence for every assertion, there is a mixture of the genuine and the ‘wind-up’ about these posts.

Personally I think it is perfectly permissible to go onto a site with a strong bias towards one side of the debate and stir things up a bit. I also think that people who persistently attack the fundamental views of a site and can’t move the debate on should retire gracefully having made their point rather than returning over and over again with the same criticisms. Life is too short, frankly and we all need to ‘get some closure here’. I also think it is fine to mention your degree or who you’ve studied with but not in a way that implies that anyone who holds a different view is clearly a village idiot or unqualified to have an opinion on the subject. That is particular off-putting for younger posters or people who may not have had access to higher learning but should be welcomed with open arms to social media debates and on-line courses. This is one of the great benefits and advances of our age like the opening of public libraries and working-men’s reading rooms in previous centuries. It is a very mean spirited soul who would chase off someone at the start of their journey by hitting them over the head with their privilege and attainments.

Finally, I want to make a plea for all those who post on social media about historical topics. Please share your passion and put forward your arguments. Admit when you’ve been hasty and made a mistake and try to assume that other posters are nice people who you might sit and have a cup of tea with before you ago on the offensive and remember that we are all dealing with a very complex and nuanced subject that is very subjective but incredibly worthwhile to study and debate about so try to be kind! Thank you for reading. 🙂

 

 

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45 Responses to “Social Media and Trolling:When History turns Nasty!”

  1. Lady of Winchester Says:

    Interesting perspective. It may be rather ironic that my own Supervisor, a Professor of Late Medieval History and lately head of his Department has been lauded as ‘The Greatest Living Expert on Richard III’- but has never been on television to the best of my knowledge, and only seldom has pieces in Newspapers or historical magazines.
    From what I can see, he does not seem bothered about the relative lack of exposure- just does what he does and does it well.

    As for the interest of school-children in all things fifteenth century- well that’s all well and good- but I can be a cynical person at the best of times. I sincerely hope that the travesty that is ‘The White Queen’ is not going to be used to ‘teach’ them about the Wars of the Roses. I would honestly rather they not learn about it al all- then have thier persepctive so influenced……

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  2. Lady of Winchester Says:

    In relation to the above, it may be notable that there are some persons, all adherents of ‘He Who Must not be named’ who proclaim that the aforementioned Professor is ‘not a proper historian’ or is not ‘teaching his subject properly’- primarily for this views on a certain historical figure(HHMNBN)- and sentments such as these would be ones on the tame side. There have been far worse things said.

    Its interesting to note the dichotomy between the claims of such persons, and those like me who are personallly acquainted with the Good Professor, as students, or colleagues, who almost universally speak well of him, and his knowledge and expertise in his field (I have yet to meet any who did not).

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  3. giaconda Says:

    I was thinking of the school children who were involved in the re-interment and did school projects on the WOTRS country-wide rather than kids watching The White Queen! I’m sure that some will get the wrong idea but hopefully they will read more as they grow up and evolve their knowledge as they go.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      I some ways, I understand your elation, I genuinely do- but I still have reservations. School history teaching tends to be very simplified for obvious reasons, and I fear that any project or topic on the WOTR is going to be reduced to a very black and white ‘York good, Lancaster bad’ affair.
      We both recognize that this was not the case, and that things in history are always much more complicated then that- but I don’t think that is going to be an aspect that children are going to ‘get’ with school history.
      Lets not forget that he average school-teacher is not a qualified historian, and is going to just use whatever ‘educational material’ they can get hold of from the Internet, or some school textbook- or a TV show with ‘The White Queen’- they’re not going to be that interested in High-Brow academic studies in all probability.

      Also, I don’t know about you- but when I was at school, reading history was not deemed ‘cool’. Most children, most people in my experience, will just accept what they are told and can’t be bothered to do research.
      There are still children being taught in school as ‘fact’ that Medieval people thought the earth was flat- I heard such from the daughter of a friend only weeks ago. So forgive me if I don’t have much faith in the quality of school history teaching……

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  4. blancsanglier Says:

    “…….lauded as ‘The Greatest Living Expert on Richard III’” I find this a strange description to be honest, but if he is I hope he is open to alternative views? After all, there is so much that cannot be ‘known’ about King Richard as there are no surviving records. One has to read between the lines and take everything in to account.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      With all due respect Blancsanglier, the notion that there are ‘no surviving records’ is a myth I am seeing bandied about a lot on the Internet- usually by those who do not approve of critical views of Richard III.

      There are surviving records from Ricard’s reign. Indeed, the survival of governmental, legal and adminsitrative records from the Late Middle Ages generally is pretty incredible, for the simple fact that there is so much.
      We even had an example of Richard III’s handwriting in a paleaography class once.

      I think people like to say ‘there is no evidence’ so they can keep the myth that everything we know about Richard comes from the Tudors alive, and discount unpalatable truths or evidence.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      One could also ask, are the Richardians ‘open to alternative views’? A lot of those I have encountered do not seem to be. They are some of the most closed-minded people one could encounter- utterly convinced that thier viewpoint is the only ‘correct’ one, and savegely intolerant of that which does fit in with it, as well as being rather dishonest and misleading, or at best, misinformed in their approach ot the evidence.

      Like saying ‘there is no evidence’- when there is. I don’t blame you for this. I blame the uninformed people who have not taken the trouble to examine the evidence, and have fostered this myth.

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  5. giaconda Says:

    Going back to your comment about dumbed down history teaching in schools, I am really surprised that you would assume that all teachers would be pro-Yorkist especially in relation to Richard III’s reign. It is only very recently that the mood has swung from very negative to slightly more balanced with regard to his character and actions. My daughter studied the Tudors at school in year 3 and there was quite a range of opinion about how they came to be on the throne and what Richard’s reign had been like and this was encouraged by her teacher.

    I certainly talk to the children about bias and propaganda when I go into school to do history projects for them and always ask them to remember who was writing and why whenever they look at original sources.

    I do think that perhaps history has been overly ‘kind’ to Edward IV who is not usually tarred with the ‘usurper’ brush quite as often as Bolingbroke or Richard yet clearly took the throne by right of conquest and made some rather questionable decisions. I suspect the good old, tall, handsome and charismatic persona has done him some favours over the years in the way that Richard the Lionheart was always presented as a ‘hero king’ to children in the past.

    I can see that traditionalists are going to be rather concerned by the headway made by Ricardian groups in terms of rehabilitating his reputation and that might go too far the other way but in the end I do think that balance will be achieved and that the general public will have a more rounded and healthy view of him. I genuinely desire that for all the figures surrounding this fascinating period of history. The women are certainly all due a reassessment in terms of how they are presented to children and the wider public. They have all been either marginalised or demonised in equal measure in the past but I remain optimistic for the future nevertheless.

    I just hope that they won’t be watching Dan Jones too much or they will end up thinking that the Normans were around on the battlefield in the late C15th!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      You are not going to like this, and the Richardians will hate me, but there are worse things for children to watch then Dan Jones. Would you seriously rather have them watching the ‘sex and silliness’ of Philippa Gregory and other Richardian sycophants?

      Sure, the costumes in his series were- awful- (although as has been pointed out- he had little influence in the costuming department), what little I saw of his series did not some way towards presenting a more nuanced view of certain figures- such as Margaret of Anjou and Richard, Duke of York. The reaction of some latter day Yorkists, whining because he dared to be critical of the latter, speak of the kind of ideological facism so prevalent when in comes to certain figures or events in the past.

      This can easily ‘rub off’ on teachers, when the matierals they use in education are influenced by the views of the Richard III society, who, let us not forget, have a lot of prominent and influential members and backers.
      In my own experience, I think it can be seen that many members of the public are starting to espouse rather extreme and misinformed viewpoints, largely gleaned from books or media written or created by people who are less than objective.

      When I was at school, we learned almost nothing about the Plantagenets whatsoever- my only exposure to the period was through series like SImon Schama’s ‘History of Britain’- and David Starkey’s ‘Monarchy’. If, when I had been a teen, I had seen the kind of disparagement of people like Starkey that is in vogue today, by Richardians- well- let us say, it is not an approach that fosters tolerance of opposing viewpoints, or objective research.

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      • giaconda Says:

        I’m still interested to know why teaching in schools would have a pro-Yorkist bias, particularly with regard to Richard III when it is only very recently that public opinion has begun to change regarding the stereo-typed image of him as a twisted mass-murderer that has been accepted by the majority for centuries? Edward IV does seem to get off lightly probably due to the ‘handsome equals good’ popuar perception of kings but why do you think teachers would be pro-Yorkist or rather anti-Lancastrian in their approach generally? Do you think that Henry VI’s mental affliction makes teachers prejudiced against him or that there is still a misogenistic view of Marguerite’s role in events?

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      • Lady of Winchester Says:

        The vast majority of history teachers (and I’m sure they do their best) are not qualified historians – as I may have said before.
        They’re likely to just follow whatever the textbook or teaching material tells them, and Richard III is only one aspect of that. ;Lets not forget views of other figures in the wars have been informed by centuries of Yorkist propaghanda and if such views are fashionable (as I believe they still are) they are likely to just follow them.

        Also, I very much doubt that primary school age chidren are going to be exposed to the complexity of motives and political machinations in the fifteenth century. If they are taught about the WOTR at all, its probably going to be in very very simplistic terms. I recall one little girl who seemed to think it was all was all about them ‘fighting over which flower was the right one’.

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  6. hoodedman1 Says:

    I am afraid the ‘world’s expert’ (a tag added by his publisher, I might add, not by fellow academics) lost credibility for me when he began to question the veracity of Richard’s remains. It was a nasty swipe at many other academics and specialists, especially as he is neither archaeologist, osteologist or geneticist. The onus would be upon him to come up with an identity of another closely related male who was buried in the same place and died in the same manner and at the similar age. Not unsurprisingly, he was unable to do so.When he came up with a statement to the effect, ‘Everyone knows Richard III had black hair and dark eyes,’ I actually felt embarrassed for him.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Hooded man, I bears mentioned that even some geneticists have suggested that Richard III’s supposed blond hair was probably something he had during his childhood, and it darkened as he got older. This is entirely probable- in fact it happened in my own family. My mother used to be blonde, like my brother, sister and I- but she is now Brunette.

      Indeed, its even been suggested (and not only by Prof Hicks), that Edward IV may not have been blonde either. Considering that the Yorkist Kings had a spanish Great-Grandmother, whose own mother was Jewish, I would say a dark hair and eyes were not an impossibility.
      Indeed, image of his father, Richard Duke of York, portrays Dark hair.

      Let us not also forget the absurd suggestions made by the Genealogist John Ashdown-Hill, who without a shred of actual historical evidence, asserts in his books that the Tudor Brothers Jasper and Edmund, as well as Edward of Westminister were sired by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.

      So, please take the trouble to think before you start lambasting a man widely recognized (with the exception of militant Richardians ) as a pre-emininent expert on Late Medieval English history as stupid and ignorant for daring to suggest the colour of Ricahrd III’s hair may have been different from that presented in the current favoured image.
      To make such a claim of such a person because of one thing he has said, ignoring his record he quite simply- absurd- and can only suggest a degree of personal amimosity, as displayed by Richardian trolls on reviews of his books, who harp on about isolated passages they don’t agree with, whilst ignoring the vast amount of recognized and armired writing and scholarship he has created or contributed to over the years.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Indeed, I recall that the initail tests were on the mitochondrial DNA, a subject upon which Prof Hicks made the quite valid point that Richard’s mother was one of 23 chidren, and it is well known that she had 13 uterine siblings.
      Her mother, Joan Beaufort, was the daugter of Katherine Sywnford, and there are many thousands of people living today who can trace thier descent back to Katherine.

      Thus, I would suggest, questioning the provenance of ancient bones of a person who had was related in some degree to all of the royal family, and half the nobility of England in his own day, is not entirely disingenous.
      Indeed, those involved the the DNA testing have themselves made inaccurate claims publsihed in the media- saying for instance that Richard did not have any children, when he had at least three known children- of which the two illegitimate ones survived him.

      So again, before you denigrate a person recognized by his fellows and students as an expert in his field, on the basis of one single issue, please take account of what others have said, and the mistakes and questionable claims they have made. One may question whether they have also ‘lost credibility’ with you for the same reasons- or whether-as I suspect, you give such persons the benefit of the doubt because their views of He who must not be named, conforms to your own……

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  7. giaconda Says:

    I would rather they didn’t watch The White Queen (which I personally hated) or Dan Jones to be honest. I would rather they did some research and formed a BALANCED opinion!

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      I would like that to, but seriously- how many are actually going to do that? Very, very few I think. I think on balance, they are more likely to glean at least something that is useful and factual from Jones (and let us be honest, the vitriol currenly directed against him is largely coming from the Richardian camp, for his daring to express a viewpoint that is anathema to them) then Gregory.
      Really, if all the persons that the Yorkist community currently disapproves of are to be ‘purged’ from schools- what are they going to be left with?

      It is heartening that there is some quality history teaching in some schools, but the opposite can also be seen in the public sphere- a lurching to opposite extremes with the veneration of Saint Richard of Middleham, and the vilification of his contemporaries, and repitition of ‘facts’ learned from sillly, fictional Drama series…..

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  8. giaconda Says:

    I agree that ‘veneration’ of any historical figure including some that were actually sainted is unwise, they were all humans with faults and failings and I’ve always thought that fear was as much a motivator as ambition though it is less talked about generally and this approach might lead people to be less judgemental and rather more open to empathy, balanced with reason.

    Psychology interests me and trying to get back into the psychological space of a C15th mind is a fascinating process. The problem that some have experienced online in relation to trolling is that anyone who makes even one positive comment about ‘he who’ tends to get a stock response of ‘well, you must think he’s marvellous all round and you probably have a crush on him and a duvet cover that you kiss at night’ etc… which obviously gets backs up almost instantaneously. The clever repost is to use rational argument and factual evidence to make the counter-case with eloquence and then people might agree with the perspective being put across. I can think of one writer in particular who uses her website to downright ‘sneer’ at anyone involved or interested in positive reassessments of his reign. The old ‘brides of Gloucester’ chestnut comes rolling out of the closet which, to my mind, immediately makes the person making the comment look like a prize idiot. There has been so much mud throwing in both directions that it really is a troll’s paradise of a topic. In fairness I have also seen the opposite from ‘Tudor haters’ as well. You can’t honestly hold Henry Tudor responsible for what his children and grand children did either.

    We are currently living through a ‘process’ regarding the general consensus of opinion relating to his life and achievements and also his failings and bad judgements and I think it will even out the faster if all sides engage in harmonious debate based on evidence and strong arguments but remain respectful to each other wherever possible. There is room for humour and criticism but it needs to be fair and reasoned rather than hysterical and prejudiced and that applies to all sides of the debate.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Giaconda, I have quite literally been accused of having an affair with my Professor for daring to defend him against a Militant Richardian who decided to vent spleen in a review of one of his books. An extreme example, perhaps, but own that shows how low some are willing to stoop.

      I am all for respectful, reasoned debate, but (and maybe its just the circles which I move), I don’t see much of it from the pro-Richardian camp, or a lot of honesty.
      For instance, people will label the likes of David Starkey as ‘Tudor Sycophant’ when in fact, if one bothers to watch his ‘monarchy’ series- one can actually see that he was quite critical of Henry Tudor in places. Hardly the actions of sycophant.
      Or people moan about Dan Jones being ‘anti Richard’ or a ‘hater’- yet he does give him some credit, as a brave warrior for instance.

      I almost find it amusing, that as I said above, the same people who are quite insistent upon claiming that they don’t believe Richard was perfect will often respond negatively to anyone daring to point out any imperfections or character flaws. You would think that such persons were actually doing them a service, by demonstrating thar ‘He Who’ was only human- but no, its treated as some kind of criminal offense. As if ‘postive reappraisal’ means you cannot say anything negative, that criticism is strictly off-limits.

      Even the recent discovery of the bones is leading some to expressions of hateful scorn- such as the commenter above pouring scorn on an eminent Professor for daring to question the idea that Richard was blonde. (I thought it was widely accepted that he was not- from most observers, not just one- and not just because of ‘that’ portrait).

      As long as there is that kind of depth of feeling, I fear a happy Medium is out of the picture. I would like to see it, but at times like this, I don’t always hold out much hope.

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      • giaconda Says:

        Wow, found a reply button at last! I’m sorry to hear that you’ve experienced slurs about your relationship with your tutor from ‘Ricardians’. This is completely out of order and should be retracted immediately. All sides need to call back silly, mis-informed comments like that. There is no need and it does nothing for the debate but just speaks of desperation to be honest. I do think the ‘counter-swing’ will even out in the end though how long that process will take is debatable. I guess I would try and see it as a facet of people looking at the motivation of ‘fear’ over pure self-interest and they sometimes go too far down that road and end up justifying every action to the point where it looks like ‘hero-worship’. Personally I think this is a defensive mechanism in response to hostile debate in most cases.

        I think from this discussion it is very clear that the language in which arguments are expressed is crucial. Going off at the start with an accusatory tone and making sweeping statements fuels the animosity and is a form of trolling itself.

        Making assumptions about someone else on points they haven’t raised is also inflammatory and unfair. Fixating on one area and bashing away is OK but all posters need to realize when enough is enough and that’s a harder call because we all want to see a resolution but sometimes it might be better to approach from another angle and I’ve seen whole threads shut down due to this which is unfortunate for all the other posters.

        You ended by saying that you thought a happy medium could never be reached which is sad. If so, what does the future hold for debating these issues?

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      • Lady of Winchester Says:

        Perhaps I am just being pessimistic and there is hope. There are some more objective books that seem to be getting well recieved.

        The person who made the accusation in question is something of a troll themselves I think. Pretty much every book on Richard that is critical of him in any way seems to have a scathing, one star review from her, which often attacks the author.

        She must just be a very hateful person. What irked me though is that Amazon did not remove her comment, which accused me of the said impropriety, but did remove the comments from myself and some my our Professor’s fellow students, defending him and rebuking her.

        I almost felt it suggested some bias on Amazon’s part- as some of her comments are simply vile- not to mention libellous.

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    • Jean A. Dickey Says:

      Two hundred years separate the reign of James II from the reign of Richard III, and as a battle looms we have a different end result. Mary undoubtedly wanted her father to simply abdicate. William III by himself had a weak claim to the English throne, his Protestant marriage to James’s daughter Mary handed him an added legitimacy. The succession had triggered a constitutional crisis, and perhaps the events from 1399 onward to the reign of Elizabeth the First are a backdrop to this. What if the old rules were not totally rigid? Kings and Queens needed to be backed up by a Parliament, but it took the religious conflicts of the 1500s and 1600s for there to be a further codification. Henry IV had tried to define who’d inherit, he evidently did not want his Beaufort offspring to move in on Henry V’s eventual bloodline heirs. Later on Henry VIII created legislation in response to the new direction he took England. The War of the Roses is possible because multiple claims can be made to varying degrees of legitimacy. The central question concerning Titulus Regius is whether Bishop Stillington was being honest or shabbily in someone’s pocket. If Richard III had not asked him to lie, did he, Richard, feel he was the legitimate heir due to who his father was, and was he feeling morally certain on the claim of his House despite how the Battle of Wakefield had ended? Did he then interpret any oath he had made to his brother Edward IV as actually being predicated on keeping all of Edward’s children alive? Is Lord Protector translating into protector of the realm, and not simply the heirs and/or children of the royal household? What if the murky Beaufort claim impelled Henry Tudor to marry within the bloodlines of Edward III? If Edward IV had been willing when alive to cut a deal with Henry and Jasper Tudor, was Richard part of the loop? The unexpected death of Edward IV creates a degree of chaos that impelled Richard III along.

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  9. blancsanglier Says:

    You are right ‘Lady of Winchester’ I should not have said “there are no surviving records” ….. I meant to say ” there are not many surviving records” and also that Tudor rewrote the history after 22 August 1485 (if not before) with the aid of Vergil and his burning of many documents.
    As for ‘Richardians’ (whatever that means) not acknowledging anything detrimental about King Richard, that is a complete myth too. I have joined in with several discussions from different sources discussing many aspects of his life including why he executed Hastings, what happened to the boys and of course him accepting the crown. The bottom line usually is that he had no alternative given the circumstances at the time…… Apart from the boys and we most certainly do not KNOW what happened to them, whether you support Richard or Tudor.
    As Giaconda says, we must all have balanced and polite debate and not resort to sneering at others opinions, just because they do not match ours.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Is there actually any evidence that Henry Tudor actually ‘burned’ any documents- I mean seriously? From what I have seen, there are more than a ‘few’ records from Richard’s reign.
      I hope you will also forgive me for disbelieving what some Richard III fans when they claim that they do not think Richard was perfect- especially when they turn around and viciously attack anyone who dares to point out any of his imperfections.

      Actually- may I say that I see a hint of that here? You say that Richadian will acknowledge facts or evidence that are dertimental to Richard- but that go on to detail how the general consensus amongst them is to try to explain away these actions by asserting that ‘he had no choice’- basically- ‘he could not help it’- ‘he was forced’- ‘someone made him do it’.

      In other words, they will only acknowledge actions they can try to excuse, or explain away by saying things like ‘they were totally out of character and he was really really sorry afterwards’.
      In essence, they are claiming he was perfect. or practically perfect in every way. I don’t think any other English King has so many apopogists who either ignore- or are simply unaware of his less than blameless record (especially before he became King).

      As far as re-writing history is concerned, well since we did the Wars of the Roses at Uni, there is one grand hypocrisy that has struck me. That is that whilst people complain loudly about the Tudors re-writing history to make Darling Dickie look bad, the way in which the Yorkists, especially Richard’s older Brother Edward IV- rewrote history in their favour, to denigrate and vilify thier own rivals- like Margaret Beaufort is largely ignored.
      In fact, I think thier re-writing of history was more sucessful- as people still believe thier version of events to this day……..

      Like

    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Sorry Blancsanglier, I meant Margaret of Anjou above, and I said Margaret Beaufort.

      Like

  10. giaconda Says:

    Surely all primary sources written by individuals who were a witness to events carry a form of bias in them. That ranges from specifically commissioned, official history chronicles, through monastic accounts, mayorial records, letters and other related documents. I would be surprised if any serious historian would not be aware that people were writing from a particular perspective and either consciously or un-consciously editing their accounts to fit their argument. In times of war both sides engage in propaganda on a wide scale. That is history 1.1 so everyone should be aware that the Yorkist faction were creating a ‘legend’ around their struggle for ascendency just as much as the Lancastrians were doing the same on the other side of the fence. Everyone in between was probably watching in horror as the country was ripped apart between them; some were looking for advantage, some were just trying to survive and some where playing one side off against the other with their own agenda entirely.

    Working out which element of a source is recording the ‘truth’ is the real skill of historical interpretation, especially when bits of the puzzle are lost or missing or have been destroyed by later events. This is why everyone needs to be cautious and examine primary source evidence within the context in which it was recorded.

    Perhaps the way forward is to cut each other some slack and look with fresh eyes at every layer of assumption and interpretation that we have acquired over time and see if we are able to find a new overall picture of the ‘truth’ in the interests of accuracy and balance.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Yes, its quite true, which is why in some ways, I’m always glad to have had good teaching and coaching with regard to sources- even when we looked at them in seminars.

      The irony I think it that Richard III may actually not be the most vilified monarch in English history at all. There are other who have a deservedly bad, and perhaps sometimes rather undeservedly bad reputation, like John, Edward II, and even Harold II- and perhaps some that have an undeservedly good reputation.

      Getting into the Mediveal mindset is a fascinating exersize, and I think that one of the pitfalls of even the modern trend is the tendency to judge by the standards of today’s morality. There is a book on Richard III on Amazon by a Welsh author, that looks at Welsh poetry and other such lesser known sources, which I am interested in. Not because I am Welsh, but I think it might be an interestingly different perspective.

      We Brits can be rather insular when it comes to figures in our history, and not realize that people of different nations might see them very differently- and sometimes, their own national background can provide us with a new slant on thier actions or behaviour.

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      • Jean A. Dickey Says:

        Dan Jones in his recent television series did border on hyperbole when describing the chaotic twists and turns of the reign of Henry VI, all the while forgetting who Ethelred the Unready was! There were able and less able Saxon kings and yes 1066 ended an era, even so, I don’t lump Charles I or Henry VI in with Ethelred the Unready due to the fact that their advisers sometimes were wise and actually listened to! There is a documentary program on this unfortunate monarch that Michael Woods did in the early 1980s. Sometimes people compare apples and oranges. Edward II did have people beheaded without a trial, but Henry VIII is more consistently autocratic even when being quite legal, so who was actually worse if one is thinking like a civil libertarian? Things are binary, first one has to define good king verses bad king ground rules, and then whether there is a strong king or weak king on the throne, but where does one place a monarch hit with social change? Richard III may simply be a monarch who lost a critical battle, but he is a king from a dynasty that was trying to govern a kingdom in the middle of growing pains, that was on the verge of the Renaissance. The rigid and more hierarchical Mediaeval world was ceasing to be…

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      • Lady of Winchester Says:

        I’m going to throw a spanner in the works, and say that in terms of horrible executions, I think Edward IV has to come near the top of the pile.
        He appointed Sir John Tiptoft, a man who became known as ‘the butcher of England’ as the man in charge of trying suspected cases of treason. This was a man who is supposed to have had a particular penchant for torture, and horrible methods of execution which included impaling.

        ….and people say the Tudors were bloodthirsty. With the example of the Yorkists, its little surprise.

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  11. hoodedman1 Says:

    Sorry, Lady Winchester, your tutor made the ‘black hair,dark eyes’ comment, not me, and he made it to the Press. He was not questioning that Richard was a blond, he was questioning his identity at all just (it seemed) because he was found to have blond markers.
    Yes, it is correct, Cecily had many siblings but Mitochondrial dna can only go down the female line so only her sisters would be able to pass on their mtdna. This immediately diminishes the amount of people with testable mtdna in that lineage. The line of descent had been traced and there were only THREE men at Bosworth who carried this VERY RARE mtdna, and of these three, only one died there and was buried in Leicester. To not only have an identical match in the mtdna, but for the remains to have scoliosis and to be the right age at death, then to also have teeth isotopes that point to a childhood in east and west Britain (where we know he was, at Fotheringhay and Ludlow) is about as indicative as we can possibly get.
    Dna is something I do have some knowledge in and my background is anthropology and archaeology.
    As for his children…his two illegitimate children may have survived him briefly, but Katherine was dead within a year or so and John disappears from history and is thought to have been possibly executed by Henry Tudor around the same period as Warbeck. In any case neither of them would have the same mtdna as Richard himself (though John would share a y-chromosome), and neither of them were known to have had surviving children themselves. So it does indeed appear the direct line from Richard ended there.
    Lol, about the Jewish relative. Not all Jewish people are dark, just as not all (actually not that many) British people are blond. As for the supposed ‘Jewish’ ancestor (Maria Padilla), there is no actual evidence that she was, in fact, Jewish. And Pedro I, her lover, was tall, blond and blue eyed.
    As for Richard III himself, I think he was brown haired and blue eyed. That is actually what Dr Turi King said all along, but the press ran away with the ‘blond as a child’ statement. Yes, I know Edward IV was a brunette, I frequently tell people that–after all, his hair exists. No portrait remains of the Duke of York, but the remaining medieval stained glass of him has GOLDEN hair, but he probably wasn’t blond either; gold hair in stained glass is common simply because the light comes through it better!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Hmmmm, yet one can deduce that you probably hold the likes of Phillippa Langley and Ashdown-Hill in high regard, in spite of thier prepostrous claims……

      Like

  12. giaconda Says:

    I think that Hoodedman 1 has made a pretty good summary of the DNA analysis as it stands. The vast majority of historians and scientists believe that they are the remains of Richard III especially as they were found in the right place and correct circumstances even down to the irregular burial position and match all the criteria of someone who had died due to battle trauma from multiple wounds and had Scoliosis. The DNA analysis is very convincing indeed though I admit I have only a lay person’s understanding of this as science is really not my area at all. As far as we know to date his children didn’t have any living offspring of their own even if you believe that Richard of Eastwell was also his son as he died without issue too.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      I agree Giaconda, but I notice that people like Hoodedman are making a lot out of a statement that Prof. Hicks made a long while ago- its like they wanted an excuse to ‘rubbish’ everything he says, and this has given them one- whilst upholding and promoting the views of non-historians and non-Professionals such as Langley and Ashdown-Hill.

      To the best of my knowledge, the denial was something that happened quite early on. Prif Hicks may now have changed his mind, accepted the evidence, and agrees that the remains are those of Richard. Its really a non-issue, and yet its made out to be a big deal largely, as I see it, by people with a pre-existing grudge.

      As far as the DNA is concerned, I am no expert either, but I do recall one expert on an Internet discussion board giving a more reasoned analysis of the supposed ‘DNA gap’ idea. It could, apparently, be anywhere in the bloodline, and certainly does not prove Henry Tudor had no royal blood, as is the idea some have jumped on. Silly really, as Tudor’s claim was through his mother, and the ‘gap’ was reportedly in the male line.

      I must confess though, the old story about Isabella, wife of Edmund of Langley and John Holland came to mind. Apparently there’s no way of proving it unless one were to actually test thier DNA though.

      Like

      • Jean A. Dickey Says:

        For what its worth, the Uni of Leicester FutureLearn course has just started once more, yesterday was its kickoff. In the course, the family tree lines of descent from Edward III were briefly gone through, the mitochondrial DNA had no breaks, but there were at least two or three “Y” chromosome discrepancies. The more important one may have been after the 1600s or 1700s in one long family tree branch. The solution to this, needfully disturbing a few monarchs and/or upright subjects from past centuries in order to find out exactly where the break happens is something Elizabeth II most definitely does not want to do. The Uni of Leicester people were allowed to sample RIII’s DNA in order to identify him, this has him being unique. We’ve all seen the headlines in the tabloid press. As to whether the learned minds around Charles II and Sir Isaac Newton were correct in 1674, so far, the Queen has been firm about leaving the Urn undisturbed that is inside Westminster. Philippa Langley and John Ashdown-Hill did receive MBEs for the way a well researched “hunch” played out. http://www.johnashdownhill.com/johns-blog/2015/6/9/john-ashdown-hill-mbe

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      • Lady of Winchester Says:

        Sadly, good research does not seem to be somethng John Ashdown-Hill always does. In a couple of his previous books, he is said to have asserted, without evidence, that both Jasper and Edmund Tudor, as well as Edward of Westminister, were all fathered by Edmund Beaufort, Duke of Somerset.
        Not that he’s tested any of thier DNA.

        Its almost absurd some of the things that have been said in the media about the so called ‘DNA gap’. One person I think asserted it could mean that Henry Tudor had no royal blood- which is tosh- his royal blood was through his mother, not in the male line, and through her father, as well as his grandfather’s mother.

        Personally, I think the DNA gap might be in Richard III’s line, not the Tudor/Beaufort line. I think it might be explained by the old rumours about the paternity of Richard, Earl of Cambridge, the grandfather of Richard III.

        If true, it could have some interesting implications that might make the Richard III society squirm.

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  13. jay Says:

    i’m a bit confused by the last comment- why is the paternity of richard earl of cambridge relevant or embarrassing? i thought that when richard duke of york staked his claim to the throne in 1460 he did not do so through his father but through his mother anne mortimer who was a descendant of the senior line of lionel duke of clarence through philippa countess of march.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Yes Jay, but it would mean that he and his sons were not descended in from Edward III in the male line at all, and it would mean he had no blood claim to the Dukedom of York either. In other words, it mean that had no better a claim than Henry Tudor really…..

      Like

  14. jay Says:

    but the claim was made as a legitiamte descendant of lionel of clarence edward 111’s second son so is rather different to henry tudors claim through the legitimised beauforts who were descended from john of gaunt edward 111’s third son?

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Not really, Much is made of the descent from Lionel, but that descent from him was in the female line, as he left no male heir and had only one daughter.
      In fact it was in the female line twice over, as of Lionel’s daughter’s grandchildren, only one, Anne Mortimer, had children.

      If the rumour about Cambridge is true, it would mean he was not descended from Edward III at all, and that Yorkists would have been descended only in the female line (Anne Mortimer, Joan Beaufort and Cecily Neville) with no blood relationship in the male line to Edward III at all.
      Also, it would mean they were not descended from Edmund of Langley, from whom they inherited the Dukedom of York. It would make them bastard descendants of Edmund of Woodstock, the younger son of Edward I in the male line.

      So not a whole lot better than a man descended from John of Gaunt’s Beaufort offspring through his mother (although he did have other royal blood through his great-grandmother too).

      Like

  15. jay Says:

    whether richard was or wasnt edmund of langleys son is not relevant- he was the direct descendant of lionel of clarence which reprensented a superior claim of unquestionable legitimacy. yes it was through a female line – but why is henry tudors claim through his mother valid and richards claim through anne mortimer and philippa of clarence dismissed? as far as i am aware the principal of female hereditary right to the crown had been esablished by edward 1 in 1290 so the descendants of lionel of clarence were the true heirs.

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    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      Jay, I think you’re getting confused. Richard Earl of Cambrige, the father of Richard Duke of York was not descended from Lionel of Clarance at all- it was his son who was, though his (York’s) mother, Anne.

      As to the whole female descent question and York’s claim- I am unconvinced. It was basically only accepted under duress. Edward I may have made some provision about female succession, but I suspect that was because his sons kept dying in childhood, up until Edward II.

      To the best of my knowledge, where primogenture was concerned, successsion in the female line was only valid if there were no descendants in the male line left. That was the only reason Matilda was able to succeed the throne way back in the 12th century- as the direct and legitimate male line of William the Conqueror had died out.
      That was not, however, the case with the Yorkists. The direct, legitimate male line still existed in Henry VI and his son, as well as others.

      Like

    • Lady of Winchester Says:

      By under duress, I mean reluctantly, in a parliament including many of York’s supporters. I would’nt be surprised that there may have been other forms of duress, with him putting the pressure on. I was reading just yesterday how parliament tried to get the men of Law to decide on the matter, but they refused and passed in back to the Lords.

      Needless to say, his claim was not ratified enthusiastically, by a parliament who suddenly realized how fantastic his claim was. Ruluctantly, and secured by conquest, with his son’s victory in battle.

      Still, you know the irony of it all? If the claims of York’s father being illigitimate are true, it would mean that Richard of York and his sons were actually more closely related to John of Gaunt then any of the other sons of Edward III.

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