The General Meeting of 13 February 2010

   Posted by: Leslie McCawley   in Meetings

As newcomers to the Richard III Society my husband and I are still learning the basics of the 15th century milieu, and the lore surrounding Richard Plantagenet, Duke of Gloucester. Having read two Ricardian books together, The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Penman and Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, we were very sympathetic to a man treated unjustly over 500 years ago, and had wanted to join with others to learn more about him and celebrate the known achievements of his brief reign.

The Society program scheduled for the 13 February 2010 promised to be very interesting. The guest speaker was Dr Carole Cusack, from the Department of Religion at the University of Sydney, a mainstay for the local press seeking commentary regarding any happening in the religious realm. We were unaware of her reputation or stature when we attended, but came away astonished at the level of discourse to which we had been treated. My head was reeling from the new ideas and connections that had been made by this most erudite of scholars, and I was all fired up to learn all I could about the works she referred to.

Her topic was the sources available regarding the life and times of Richard III, from his era and after. She introduced us to names and works we had never heard of (e.g. Friar Dominic Mancini, The Croyland Chronicle) along with the names already on our list to read (Paul M. Kendall, Polydore Virgil, etc). Dr Cusack’s explanation of the transition from the medieval to the reformation worldviews was enough to make me gasp with admiration. I would dearly love to know enough to make those brilliant connections myself, but failing that, hearing such genuine knowledge and insight from someone else was very gratifying.

The Sydney Mechanics’ Institute meeting room was filled to capacity with members as well as guests from the Plantagenet Society and general public; and there was only one slide – but a slide so rich with information that it could fuel months of extracurricular follow-up study, being a bibliography of the literature referred to in her talk.  Dr Cusack’s speaking style is idiosyncratic, rocking with nervous energy and intellectual excitement while holding her unsipped coke and making wonderful pronouncements, the result of decades of intimacy with the source material. Her thesis was, in short, that we cannot know whether or not ‘our Richard’ was innocent of the murder of the princes in the tower from the surviving manuscripts available to us.

This Richard III Society event was one of the most interesting events I have ever attended, and I encourage readers to take any opportunity they can to hear this local treasure!

Note: Read the full text of Dr Cusack’s talk here.

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