On BBC Look North last night, I saw something that had me spitting feathers: children at a York primary school are petitioning the Queen for Richard III’s remains to be reburied in York.
I have no problem with that – I’ve signed such a petition myself. What I have a BIG problem with is the reasons they were giving, like, ‘Richard III came from York’. No, he didn’t – he was born at Fotheringhay in the Midlands. Or, ‘It was his dying wish to be buried in York.’ Um – I doubt he had time to wish anything before the back of his head was cleaved off, except perhaps to reach Henry Tudor and kill him.
This suggests several things, none of them very pleasant. Had the children grossly misunderstood their lesson? If so, it’s not a very good advert for the school or the history teacher. Were they simply repeating what they had been told? Judging from some of the howlers I’ve overheard teachers feeding their classes, I could well believe it: pointing to the Close around Salisbury Cathedral, ‘this is a ‘typical village green’; to a 20th century repro door, ‘see how well the wood is preserved’; or to a low doorway, ‘that’s because people in the Middle Ages were all very small’ (conjuring images of an England populated by hobbits). Again, very scary; teachers hardly better-informed than their pupils passing on rubbish. Or, worst of all, had they been deliberately lied to, emotionally manipulated to turn them into York partisans and bring their school into the media spotlight?
Whatever, this pile of total tosh has now been aired on a prime-time local news programme, and no doubt some non-history-buff viewers will believe it, perhaps now petition for a York reburial themselves – but for the wrong reasons. And while I’d be happy indeed to see the Lord of the North return to Yorkshire, I don’t want it to be on the back of such outrageous misinformation… God knows, we’ve had enough of that for the past 528 years.