Tuesday 18 June 2013

Dicks on a Mug

Here's a fabulous mug with fabulous shots of Richard II and Richard III.

Quite the dandy, isn't he?

And Richard II, still looking like a little kid.

In July 2009, I purchased a mug at the National Portrait Gallery gift shop, which featured miniature cartoon drawings of the monarchs of England since 1066. Each ruler, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II, was depicted in varying sensible (John looking shocked when reading Magna Carta) to ridiculous (Henry II playing leapfrog with a table) fashion. Three of the kings appeared as children, conveniently labeled with their ages when they ascended the throne: Richard II (age ten), Edward V (age thirteen), and Edward VI (age nine). Depicting Edward V and Edward VI as children makes sense, as both died before reaching adulthood (around ages thirteen and sixteen, respectively). Richard II, on the other hand, ruled as king for twenty-two years, going from a ten-year-old boy to a thirty-two-year-old man. Richard II’s situation more closely parallels Henry III (king at age nine) and Henry VI (king at age nine months) than the two later Edwards. Richard was a child when he became king, but he was a man when he was deposed. Unlike Richard, though, Henry III and Henry VI are represented on the mug as men, leaving the Black Prince’s son as the only perpetual child who actually grew up. The mug’s seeming mistake is a modern manifestation of Richard II’s image problem. Despite becoming a chronological adult, Richard II, in the eyes of many, never reached full maturity.

At one point, I tried that as an intro to a discussion of Richard II's maturity problem. It was not academic enough to remain in the dissertation, but I find it very telling. Why is it that Richard II, out of all the kings of England, can't grow up, even hundreds of years later? Even Henry VI gets to grow up and he became king at age 9 months.

Christopher Fletcher has written a really great book about Richard's maturity problem (citation below), but I argue it also had something to do with Richard's childlessness. Maybe someday I'll be published and you can read about it.

*Fletcher, Christopher David.  Richard II: Manhood, Youth, and Politics, 1377-99.  Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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