Monday 29 October 2012

Dicks and Their Churches

This is an eclectic set of photographs. I don’t have all of my cathedral and church photos on hand at the moment, so I’m working with what I’ve got (and with a few from the internet). Consequently, this post is a mishmash of churches associated with Richard I, Richard II, and Richard III.

Westminster Abbey

The granddaddy of medieval English churches. Westminster Abbey is the royal church; every monarch since William the Conqueror has had a coronation there. A bunch of monarchs are buried there as well. The medieval tombs surround the shrine of Edward the Confessor, but other monarchs are there, too. Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Mary I actually share a tomb in a side aisle. Royalty often celebrate their weddings at Westminster Abbey as well. Recently it was Prince William and Kate Middleton, but back in January 1382 Richard II and Anne of Bohemia married at the abbey. These are exterior photos only; visitors cannot take photographs inside the abbey.

 Tewkesbury Abbey

This is now a local parish church, but it was an abbey in the middle ages. Edward IV fought and won a decisive victory here in 1471. His Lancastrian opponents sought sanctuary in the abbey, but Edward refused to recognize it. He had them hauled out and executed. Anyway, a young Richard, duke of Gloucester (future Richard III) was with Edward at that battle. Interestingly enough, George of Clarence (brother of Edward and Richard) and his wife Isabella Neville are also buried in Tewkesbury. And FYI: Tewkesbury is in great shape because the townspeople purchased the abbey when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. Tewkesbury was thus never ripped apart so some aristocrat could use the stones to build a fancy house.

St. Albans

The kings Richard probably visited this famous monastery (now cathedral). Richard II certainly did. St. Albans also had a famous set of monks who wrote chronicles, which span several centuries. Two of the most famous of these monks are Matthew Paris (thirteenth century) who wrote much about Henry III and Henry’s brother Richard, earl of Cornwall, and Thomas Walsingham who wrote a bunch of not-very-nice stuff about Richard II. Their chronicles are awesome. I especially love Matthew Paris. He is informative and hilariously snarky at the same time.

Leicester Cathedral

Again, this was once a monastery. It currently has a memorial to Richard III inside. It seems likely that, once his newly-discovered bones are positively identified, that this will become Richard’s final resting place.

All Saints’ Kings Langley

After his murder, Richard II was buried here, rather than in the tomb he had prepared for himself (and Anne of Bohemia) in Westminster Abbey. Henry V later brought Richard’s body to Westminster in 1413.

From Wikipedia


Abbey in the Loire Valley where Richard I was buried (along with his parents Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II). Their remains were lost during the French Revolution.

From Wikipedia

Monday 22 October 2012

Richard Woodville and Richard Grey

These two men are grandfather and grandson, connected via Elizabeth Woodville, queen of England’s King Edward IV.

The Woodvilles were a source of contention in their own day and continue to be so to historians even now. People can’t seem to agree on whether or not Edward IV’s marriage was suitable (although not as suitable as a foreign alliance would have been) or a horrible m├ęsalliance.

Richard Woodville, Elizabeth’s father, was an exceedingly minor noble who achieved prominence at the court of Henry VI through military service. It was at court that he met Jaquetta of Luxembourg, duchess of Bedford, widow of one of the king’s uncles. Jacquetta was high nobility – related to the ruling house of Luxembourg, the St. Pols. By March 1437, Jacquetta and Richard had married in secret, to the astonishment and disappointment of the St. Pol family and the English court. But what God had joined, no human could put asunder; the two were married for over thirty years.

With Jacquetta’s wealth at his disposal, Richard became an important man. His wife’s wealth (although it was for her life only) permitted Richard to live like a high-ranking noble, and he and Jacquetta secured several advantageous marriages for their children. One such marriage was that of their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, to Sir John Grey, heir to Lady Ferrers of Groby. With Grey, Elizabeth had two sons: Thomas and Richard.

Richard’s (who became Lord Rivers in 1448) fortune increased again in 1464, when his widowed daughter Elizabeth married Edward IV. A marriage alliance with the king was a real coup and more than even the highest nobility generally hoped for; after all, kings tended to marry foreign princesses.
Edward IV was generous with his new kin, arranging illustrious marriages for his wife’s unmarried siblings (especially her sisters) and granting his father-in-law lucrative offices and making him an earl.

The Woodvilles’ rapid rise caused a great deal of resentment among the nobility, especially on the part of Richard Neville, earl of Warwick. When Warwick gained the upper hand over Edward in 1469, he took action against his enemies (real or perceived). Richard Woodville was one such victim - the queen’s father (and a brother) were executed on Warwick’s orders in August 1469.

Richard Grey was the younger son of Elizabeth Woodville by her first husband. He was therefore stepson to Edward IV and uterine half-brother to Edward V. Being a younger son who perished at a fairly young age, not a great deal is known about Richard Grey.

For starters, his date of birth is uncertain, although it might have been as late as 1460 or 1461 (not earlier than 1456, as his elder brother was born in 1455). Richard Grey was knighted in May 1475, and seems to have spent the rest of his life associated (in one way or another) with the household of his younger half-brother Edward, Prince of Wales (and future Edward V).

When Edward IV died in 1483, Richard Grey was with the Prince at Ludlow on the Welsh border. Richard, along with his uncle Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers, and Sir Thomas Vaughan accompanied the young king on his journey towards London. After Richard III (still Duke of Gloucester then) overtook the young king at Stony Stratford, Richard, along with Rivers and Vaughan, was arrested and sent north for safekeeping. The trio was later executed, ostensibly for treason, in June 1483.

So, aside from being grandfather and grandson, Richard and Richard have another thing in common – killed in illegal executions (so murdered, I guess). Lucky them.

Michael Hicks, “Woodville , Richard, first Earl Rivers (d. 1469),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2011 [, accessed 15 Oct 2012]

Rosemary Horrox, “Grey, Sir Richard (d. 1483),” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, Sept 2011 [, accessed 15 Oct 2012]

Monday 15 October 2012

Richard Dix

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Hollywood, perusing the stars on the Walk of Fame. Imagine my surprise when I found the star of one "Richard Dix" on Vine Street.

Richard Dix (Dick Dix?) is a name that seems to be all kinds of unfortunate. And yet... Richard Dix was not born with this awkward moniker.

He actually selected it himself! Richard Dix was born Ernst Carlton Brimmer in 1893 in St. Paul Minnesota. He did some local acting and some stage acting in New York City. When his father died (around 1921), Ernst/Richard was responsible for supporting his mother and sister. He went to Los Angeles, presumably because he assumed the money was better. He was certainly proven correct when he landed a contract with Paramount Pictures.

In Hollywood, Ernst Brimmer changed his last name to Dix. Wikipedia is unclear about when he altered his first name, so let’s just assume it was at the same time. For reasons unknown to me (although I really wish they weren’t!), Ernst Brimmer decided Richard Dix was a name better suited to Hollywood. I couldn’t agree more. The world always needs more Dicks.

Anyway, Richard was successful as both a silent film and talkie actor, which is actually quite a feat. Many actors found it difficult to transition between mediums, but Richard was up to the challenge. According to his Wikipedia filmography, Richard was in 46 silent films between 1917 and 1929. 46! Unfortunately, only fifteen of those films are still extant, meaning a whopping 31 are now lost. The survival rate for silent films is apparently pretty abysmal. Richard’s most famous silent work was probably in Cecil B. Demille’s The Ten Commandments (1923), although he starred in the awesomely-named Womanhandled (1925), which is (thankfully) still extant.

From 1929 until his retirement in 1947, Richard appeared in 52 talkies. None of them are particularly famous, but the man racked up quite the filmography. He appeared in 98 films in thirty years. Incredible! I’d say the man deserved a star simply for industriousness.

Richard Dix did not long enjoy his retirement. He had a heart attack on 12 September 1949 and died eight days later on 20 September (age 56). He was survived by four children: two daughters and twin sons. Unfortunately one of the sons (Richard Jr.) did not long outlive his father; the younger Richard perished in 1953 (age eighteen) in an accident at a logging camp.

Although Richard Dix is not exactly a household name, he was an accomplished actor. Not just in terms of quantity, but also in terms of quality: he was nominated for an Oscar for his role in Cimarron (1931). He didn’t win, but I’m sure it was an honor to be nominated. Richard tended to play salt-of-the-earth, good-guy roles. His tribute site features a charming collage of Richard as a soldier, Native American, war-time flying ace, baseball player, and cowboy. At one point he also played a ship’s captain.

For more, see: (this website has some really great pictures)

Monday 8 October 2012

Richard Grayson

This is a real person, not the fictional character. His name came across my dash last week as the editor of The Hipster Huckleberry Finn. I did a bit of investigating and learned THHF is a real book and Richard Grayson is a real writer.

The guy has a pretty epic autobiography on his website (linked below), so you should totally read that. I’m just going to point out some of the highlights because his piece is rather long.

Richard was actually born Richard Arnold Ginsberg in Brooklyn, New York on June 4, 1951. His Jewish parents, both born in New York City to parents who had emigrated from Eastern Europe, changed the family’s surname when Richard was six months old. And so he became Richard Grayson.

Richard spent his childhood in Brooklyn. He was a smart kid and good at school, but he began to suffer from daily panic attacks at age 15. Although Richard sought psychiatric help, his conditioned worsened. After graduating high school in 1968, his panic attacks increased. Although he had planned to attend CUNY Brooklyn in the fall, he was unable to leave the house – sometimes his agoraphobia was so severe he was unable to leave his bedroom. Reading was his escape.

*Note: in his autobiography, Richard mentions that he liked superhero comics, and that he would often pretend to be The Flash. Why did he not pretend to be Robin – they have the same name?!  

Eventually Richard’s psychiatrist prescribed Triavil, which brought the panic attacks under control. Richard was able to attend college in the fall of 1969, only a year later than originally planned. Really, his recovery from anxiety is quite inspirational.

After undergrad, Richard pursued an MFA, which ultimately led to a series of adjunct positions as a college writing instructor. In fits and spurts, he has kept this up to this day. He also, of course, spent a lot of his time writing fiction. I have appended a list of his selected works below.

Richard also engaged in what he calls “publicity art.” These included facetious runs for political office and the establishment of international fan clubs for his grandparents. (Man, why didn’t I think of that?”

He also ran for office in South Florida in the early 1980s. In Richard’s own words:

“Campaigning for the Davie Town Council in 1982, I advocated giving horses the right to vote. My platform consisted mainly of bad puns, like pledging to vote “neigh” on everything till horse suffrage was passed, offering the town a “more stable” form of government, and in the end forgoing campaign speeches because I had “become a little hoarse myself.” I got 26% of the vote as the media routinely covered my antics.”

Love it! I think I could be convinced to vote for a candidate who made such epic puns.

He also ran for President in 1983. “On the Florida primary ballot as a candidate for delegate to the Democratic convention (supporting myself), I received over 2,000 votes – but Mom, whose name I had put on the ballot as a candidate for alternate delegate, got twice as many votes as I did.” Classic. You just don’t mess with old ladies in Florida; they have an iron grip on power.

In 1994, Richard worked to defeat a ballot referendum that would have rolled back the county’s gay-rights legislation. After the referendum passed (!), Richard became a volunteer for the Human Rights Council of North Central Florida. Now when he appeared on the news he had “Gay Activist” under his name rather than “Political Candidate.” Luckily for GLBT residents of Gainesville, the Human Rights Council was “ultimately successful in getting a pro-gay rights majority elected to the Gainesville city commission.”

In the 1990s, Richard did some traveling and attended law school “for fun.” He eventually ended up, along with his family, in Arizona, but that was a short-lived move. His anxiety began to return, especially after he was mugged outside his apartment.

He spent much of the 2000s in Florida, where he wrote fiction and ran for various political offices. In 2010, though, he was back in Arizona where he ran for the House of Representatives as a Green Party candidate. Given that this was Arizona, he unsurprisingly did not win.

He seems to also spend a fair amount of his time in Brooklyn. Richard is the main writer featured on the Dumbo Books blog (Dumbo Books published The Hipster Huckleberry Finn).

*All quotes are from this two-part autobiography.

With Hitler in New York and Other Stories

Lincoln's Doctor's Dog and Other Stories

I Brake for Delmore Schwartz

I Survived Caracas Traffic: Stories from the Me Decades

The Silicon Valley Diet and Other Stories

Highly Irregular Stories

Richard has also published many stories in various literary magazines. Look him up – he seems like a pretty cool guy!