"Even the dead want to be loved for their own sake" (Fleur Adcock, Grandma, Poems 1960-2000, Bloodaxe).
“And if there is a next time,” he added, scowling at the flickering shadows in the far corner of the laboratory, “I’ll employ the best groom money can buy. You can’t be too careful. I was thinking of enquiring after Zara Phillips, your present Queen’s granddaughter. She’s a great horsewoman and as her husband’s a Yorkshireman, her credentials are impeccable”.
“Is there anything else, Sire?”, asked Dr Jo, easing him back into bed for the last time.
“Indeed! If I did have my time over, I’d return as a defamation lawyer and sue my enemies rotten! You must know that during my reign, I hammered out a legal aid system, lifted trade restrictions on book printing and used English rather than Latin both to swear my coronation oath and to record acts of parliament. These moves were praised as great innovations.
“But when people hate you, want to blacken your character, they stop at nothing. I’ve long since warned Bolingbroke and his two-bit scrivener, Will Wotsit that they’re on borrowed time. First, they made me appear physically repellent; next accused me of usurping the throne and then of murdering my nephews. As if!
“And now, thanks to some new-fangled scientific hogwash, I’ve been told I may not be me. How ridiculous! All this after spending almost 530 years holed up under a dismal East Midlands car park with a load of gabbing, gawping women and no VIP permit.
“I won’t put up with it, Jo. This goes to the heart, the very essence of my identity. The short stature, aching, twisted spine and uneven shoulder bones are all mine. Believe me, no-one in his right mind would muscle in on those!
“Everyone fears the worst but hopes for the best during battle. Finally, I was outwitted by treason; a literal stab in the back of my head. It’s part of what criminally fought warfare is all about. No wonder it’s said that ‘all’s fair in love and war’.
“But to question who I am – was - is different. I’ve suffered untold pain in enforced silence for more years than I care to think and as soon as I’m back in the limelight, I face further unimaginable physical indignities to my kingly person. But even those have become almost insignificant against having doubt cast on my selfhood”.
“But Your Majesty, I guarantee that it’ll be all right from now,” said Dr Jo. “Even as I attend to you, thousands of people - your descendants, members of the society named after you, the general public – are attending great events to honour you and to ensure an interment worthy of your great status – place in British history. Even the present Duke of Gloucester, patron of your society, has argued that 'truth is more powerful than lies'”.
“Very nice. He’s a decent fellow. A bit of regal pomp is very jolly – and most proper. After all, it’s something to which I was once well accustomed. But without wishing to appear ungracious, I feel it’s been spoilt by the inane and costly quarrel as to where I should be re-buried. Don’t you see? None of it really matters”, groaned Dickon, a sudden stab of pain making him desperate to go home.
“I’ve long since made peace with those truly important to me. But what grieves me still is that I have been horribly torn asunder from my soul, the most precious part of my personal inner sanctum; that is something that should never have been in question. So as I thank you for helping to retrieve my bones from ignominy, I have one last request. Don’t hate me. Instead, recall the best of me. But for now, let me go. Please”.
(© Natalie Irene Wood 24 March 2015)