The Lessons of Richard III

5 Feb

One of my students told me that the remains of King Richard III were discovered under a parking lot. Then, I read a couple of articles about the discovery and the DNA testing that followed. Now, there are articles about re-examining the life and rule of the king. All of that is interesting and important to history, but that’s not what I thought about while reading the articles.

I thought about Richard III and what he would think about all of this. As king, he probably thought that his grave would never be lost. It would have a monument standing forever, and people would visit it for generations to come. He was a king with all of the power and fame that goes with the position. There is no way that he would fade from history enough to have his grave lost and covered by some form of construction. As he knew, it’s good to be the king.

At least, that what Mel Brooks says.

At least, that what Mel Brooks says.

However, it didn’t turn out that way, and there was Richard under cars leaking oil. I think that’s the mistake that people make. Famous people assume that their deeds will always be chiseled in stone. Regular people think that their way of life is the way that it’s always going to be. Nations think that they will last forever. But, none of that really happens. No matter how many monuments are built or markers are erected, they will ultimately fall into ruin and be covered by future people making their place in the world.

Does anyone remember the greatest leader of the Hittites? I bet he thought they would. For a long time, no one remembered any of the Hittites.

How many people can remember all of the presidents? Only 43 people have ever held the position, but not many people can name them all. I’m sure this guy thought he would be remembered by school children for years to come.

Who am I?

Who am I?

Sure, there are people who are known by most everyone. George Washington and Julius Caesar come to mind. But, will they always be remembered? I don’t know. There’s a Washington Monument, but it doesn’t seem too sturdy these days. If it stands for a thousand years will future people know who it honors and what he did? The Great Pyramid is still standing, but how many people know who had it built? Surely, he didn’t know that one day his monument would be endangered by urban sprawl.

Not the postcard view.

Not the postcard view.

I see the same thing in my town. Every morning, I pass a vacant lot that used to be a park named in honor of a former mayor. There is also a football field named for a man who coached at a local military academy for many years. The academy closed in the 1980s, and the field fell into disrepair. It has been resurrected as a park where walk, jog and play. When those men were honored, they probably thought that children would swing and touchdowns would be scored on their fields forever more.

Even worse, a drive down a country road will likely take you past family cemeteries that are covered with weeds and crumbling under the pressure of tree roots. As cities grow and land becomes limited, many cemeteries become lost and covered by that growth.

What are the lessons of King Richard III and the other people who I mentioned? That nothing last forever. We, both famous and not so famous, have markers, monuments and grave stones to prove that we were here and be remembered. But, it is a futile attempt. If King Richard III can be covered by a parking lot, then we all can.

As I titled another post, only the rocks live forever, and they are usually the ones without inscriptions. We can put up all the monuments in the world, but we have to realize that they will not always stand. We can only live our lives and make our marks on our little part of the world. For kings, presidents and anyone else in the world that should be enough.

Before I stop writing, there is one more thing I should do. I present to you a likeness of King Richard III.King Richard III

10 Responses to “The Lessons of Richard III”

  1. leslinalicia February 5, 2013 at 03:36 #

    This is where documentation comes into play. Also money, people who care and well more money.

    • Rick February 5, 2013 at 04:27 #

      Spoken like a true preservationist.

  2. javaj240 February 5, 2013 at 07:01 #

    I always say, “This,too, shall pass”.

    • Rick February 5, 2013 at 13:38 #

      It usually does.

  3. DyingNote February 5, 2013 at 15:33 #

    We have another feeble attempt at immortality in some communities – naming children after their grandparents. I’m named after my maternal grandfather. Even my mother doesn’t remember him – he died when she was 4

    • Rick February 5, 2013 at 18:49 #

      That’s an excellent example. My family likes to look at pictures of people long dead and talk about how much we look like them.

  4. John S February 6, 2013 at 00:32 #

    Richard III didn’t have much choice about his grave. He was killed at the Batlle of Bosworth Field in 1485, which heralded the start of the Tudor reign under Henry VII. He was hastily buried in the Church of the Grey Friars in Leicester, now one of England’s biggest cities. The church was destroyed in Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in the 16th century. And in the 20th century, that site became a car park – a typical fate. It seems that a skull and skeleton, complete with deformed spine, has been found and confirmed to be that of Richard III. The remains are to be interred in Leicester Cathedral. One excitable MP has suggested he should have a state funeral!

    Shakespeare created the image of Richard III as one of the most evil Kings, but they were all pretty awful. His most famous expression, courtesy of Shakespeare is: ” A horse, my kingdom for a horse!” Things weren’t going too well at the time. The examination of his skull suggests some pretty brutal blows from those heavy swords they liked at the time. Not a happy ending!

    • Rick February 6, 2013 at 04:24 #

      I knew that he took the throne in a questionable way and ended his reign violently, Still, I can’t help but think that he thought it would go better than that.

  5. keithlittlefield July 28, 2013 at 03:14 #

    only the rogks live forever

    • Rick July 28, 2013 at 15:04 #


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