Battling with history

On this day the longest and bloodiest battle in England’s blood soaked history was fought.

As an undergraduate I walked the quiet fields of Towton and over several trips the place held a fascination for me.

My buddy on those journeys was another undergraduate and his father as French.

We were both foreigners in a foreign land and for the record neither of us was reading history.

On more than one occasion at a warming pub lunch in nearby Tadcaster we quietly noted that the locals seemed poorly informed about their history.

I suspect that battle is largely unknown among contemporary English people.

Yet a higher percentage of English manhood died that day than on the first day of the Somme.

The enemy at Towton was not a foreigner on English soil.

Perhaps this is rather like the ‘act of forgetting’ that the Spanish engaged in after the victory of Franco in 1939.

Civil wars are such traumatic events as to leave scars that cannot be easily healed.

Unlike the comforting xenophobia of other conflicts in a war between brothers there is a sense of betrayal that your own would spill your blood.

Here in in this republic our politics have been defined by a civil war that took place 90 years ago.

In my opinion Liam Deasy wrote one of the best books to come out that period in Irish history says it all in the title.

It truly was a war among brothers and half a century afterwards it would cause my grandmother to quietly cry about it at her fireside in Mayo.

Sometimes the least painful option is forgetting.

After my first term at York I left campus and found accommodation out in Stamford Bridge and the locals were very well versed at what had happened there in 1066 (and all that).

Perhaps it is easier to remember such an event when foreigners are the opposition.

However, the role of an ambitious brother seemed to have dropped off the local narrative.

When I asked East Riding native that I was renting from if he had ever heard of Tostig Godwinson my Yorkshire landlord thought he was sure that the very chap played for Leeds United!

In becoming the dominant people of this archipelago the English submerged themselves in this British fiction and in doing so their collective memory seems to have been collateral damage to the imperial project.

Subsequently they lost much of their identity as a people.

Perhaps they are now in a process of recovering it.

Despite their title I view that the political phenomenon of UKIP to be a specifically English cultural product.

However, I hope the English do not leave this important cultural task to the political right wing

I will Level with you that I think that there is much that the English left can do to rediscover the soul of radical England, but enough of my Ranting.

Perhaps now that the Scots, in many ways the architects of enlighten Britishness, are becoming semi-detached from the United Kingdom then the English will rediscover themselves.

There was a point in Scottish history when many of the natives of Alba considered themselves ‘North Britons’.

In my lifetime the tales of the Royals have been used as sentimental glue for the London polity to thirl the ‘Celtic fringe’ closer to the seat of power.

The re-interment of Richard III is a quintessentially English cultural event and here Alex Thomson of CH4 nails it beautifully.

I considered that Royalist Scots and Welsh could not fully take part in this Plantagenet pantomime even if they wanted to.

Of course, ‘IndyRef’ was not about the monarchy, although some of The People thought it was when they turned up in George Square to give Nazi salutes and sing about An Gorta Mór.

The Yorkist victory over the Lancastrians at Towton led to Richard’s eldest brother being crowned King Edward IV in June 1461.

As a York undergraduate I participated in “Roses” week, where my university competed with Lancaster in various sports.

One of my colleagues on the university boxing team was from the Wirral and he had no idea that he had been born and reared from one of the possible sites of Battle of Brunanburh 937 AD.

This was an epochal settling day which largely fixed the boundaries of England.

It was like a Dubliner not knowing about the Battle of Clontarf.

I then concluded that this England was a far off country of which I knew little.

Perhaps if the Scots continue on their journey out of political Britishness then the English will have to look in the mirror and find out who they really are.

The Welsh will be just fine although in Norn Iron I really fear for the cultural health and long term emotional well-being of the Fleg Folk.

Richard III is now in a suitable resting place for someone of his rank.

When he ruled he could only have dreamed that his nation would dominate this archipelago so totally.

That dominance was built on conquest and ethnic cleansing.

Those Machiavellian crimes were carried out by the by the English and their local Celtic allies.

Once they had triumphed they could export this industrialised murder across the planet for the enrichment of a few.

During the imperial epoch the British ruling class grew fat on slavery and slaughter.

Thankfully the political unravelling of the United Kingdom polity, if that does indeed happen, will be peaceful and democratic.

If the predatory expansionism of the ruling tribe in medieval England was prosecuted by a strong sword arm in the saddle then it could well be rolled back in our time by the sharp tongue of a wee Scottish lassie called Nicola.

This week end in my native city the biggest political party in Scotland sent a clear message to Westminster.

This time the battlefield will be the constituencies where the Labour Party has ruled for a lifetime.

I believe that the Bullingdon boys are about to lose their local allies in Alba, history is about to happen and I’ll be there to witness it.

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