Alternate history: what if Richard III had won at Bosworth?

Jonny Wilkes talks to Professor Emeritus Michael Hicks about how Richard III might have recovered his reputation, to some extent, and consigned the Tudors to historical obscurity.

Richard III had a clear advantage going into the battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485. As king of England, he commanded an army two or three times the size of the ragtag Lancastrian force that sailed from France, he had brought more cannon, and he was a seasoned warrior. His enemy, a Lancastrian with a tenuous claim to the throne named Henry Tudor, had never seen battle. When Richard heard of Henry’s landing, he was overjoyed: he had a chance to crush this pretender once and for all.”

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The True Story of Roland the Farter, and How the Internet Killed Professional Flatulence

A plate originally from The Image of Irelande, by John Derrick, published in 1581. Note the flatulentists on the right side (h/t the Lavatory Reader). (Photo: Public domain)

Roland, court minstrel to 12th century English king Henry II, probably had many talents.

But history has recorded only one.

Referred to variously Rowland le Sarcere, Roland le Fartere, Roland le Petour, and Roland the Farter, Roland really had a single job in the court: Every Christmas, during the court’s riotous pageant, he performed a dance that ended with “one jump, one whistle, and one fart”, executed simultaneously.

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What We Get Wrong About Medieval Libraries

When we picture the libraries of the Middle Ages, we see heavy tomes chained to wooden benches, far away from an accessible open space. It is a place forbidden, guarded jealously by the hooded librarian of The Name of the Rose, Malachi of Hildesheim—a domain of men. No books can leave this prison.


St. Gregory offering his book to Bishop Leandro, miniature from Commentary on the Book of Job, from the Abbey of Citeaux. France, 12th century. De Agostini via Getty Images

How to cook a medieval feast: 11 recipes from the Middle Ages

Food has been central to the social life of humans for thousands of years and, in medieval Europe, food consumption ranged from everyday sustenance to extravagant feasts.

The diet of the rich and poor was very different. While the upper classes and their households enjoyed fresh and imported foods, the rest of the population had to live off what the local land could produce which, at the end of winter or in times of shortage, might be very little!

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Earthenware tile showing a feast, probably the wedding feast at Cana, Christ’s first miracle. One of a group of eight floor tiles at the British Museum associated with the church at Tring, Hertfordshire. 14th century.

The Language of Love in a 12th Century English Law Book

In the final scene of Legally Blonde (2001), Elle Woods quotes Aristotle as part of her graduation speech: ‘The law is reason free from passion.’ ‘No offence to Aristotle,’ she continues, but ‘I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of law.’ Elle captures a contradiction between a common conception of law as emotionless, and the practice of law as something that in reality always involves emotions. This tension between the theory and experience of law is one that goes back centuries, even millennia.

From Cotton MS Claudius B IV f.5v, c11th-12th century. Courtesy the British Library

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Parchment in prison: imprisoned medieval writers

In 1484, Lewis of Caerleon (d. in or after 1495), a Welsh physician who served Lady Margaret Beaufort and her son (the future King Henry VII), was arrested at the order of King Richard III for his loyalty to the Tudors. Despite being incarcerated at the Tower of London, Lewis obtained writing materials and employed his scientific knowledge to compose several innovative astronomical works.

Lewis of Caerleon’s table on solar times ‘newly made in the year of Our Lord 1484 in the Tower of London’ (London or Cambridge, 1485–c. 1495): Add MS 89442, f. 121r


6 myths about Richard III

Richard III (1452–85) was the last Yorkist king of England, whose death at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 signified the end of the Wars of the Roses and marked the start of the Tudor age. Many myths persist about the last Plantagenet king, whose remains were discovered beneath a Leicester car park in 2012. Did Richard III murder the Princes in the Tower? Did he want to marry his niece, Elizabeth of York? And was he a usurper?

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King Richard III
by Unknown artist
oil on panel, late 16th century
NPG 148

Take a Virtual Tour of Hieronymus Bosch’s Bewildering Masterpiece The Garden of Earthly Delights

Art historians have argued about the meaning of The Garden of Earthly DelightsHieronymus Bosch’s enormously sized, lavishly detailed, and compellingly grotesque late 14th- or early 15th-century triptych—more or less since the painter’s death. What does it really say about the appearance and fall of man on Earth that it seems to depict? How seriously or ironically does it say it? Does it offer us a warning against temptation, or a celebration of temptation? Does it take a religious or anti-religious stance? And what’s with all those creepy animals and bizarre pseudo-sex acts?

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