Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Richard Plantagenet

Many cricketers have turned to Fantasy Bob in a misguided search for advice.

A chorus of worried voices has surrounded him all day, 'What should a cricketer make of the confirmation that the skeleton of Richard III has been found in a car park in Leicester?'  'Is it a cause for joy, despair or continued apathy?'

FB is uncertain.  There is no indication that Richard was a cricketer.  His impact on Scottish cricket is even less clear - his only tour to Scotland involved the recapture of Berwick on Tweed.  He never saw Grange Loan.  Richard's own physical condition, the skeleton shows a significant curvature of the spine, suggests that pace bowling might not have been an option for him.  However historical suggestions of a withered arm have not been confirmed, so a slower pace may have been possible.  But it remains disappointingly uncertain.

Not a fast bowler's skeleton

This is not idle speculation and it is a great disappointment that the researchers trumpeting their discoveries today have not properly investigated the issue.  For there are claims that early forms of cricket were played in Plantagenet times. FB's research team reports that a review of the accounts of the Royal Household in the year 1300 reveals the sums of 100 shillings and 6 pounds were spent on creag and other sports of Prince Edward. The report refers to Edward I, then aged 15, playing a game called creag in Newenden, Kent.  Creag is thought to be a game involving hitting a ball with a stick, which sounds pretty much like cricket to FB.  Edward is better known to cricketers as Longshanks or the Hammer of the Scots, and had an unpleasant propensity for bowling bouncers.  He certainly did for William Wallace in a most uncricketlike fashion, a viciousness not repeated until the bodyline series.

It is likely therefore that Richard, Duke of Gloucester and later King of England, may well have had the opportunity to play cricket.  It is a tragedy that history's understanding of his capabilities at the crease is so limited. Knowledge here might help explain his character. For had Shakespeare been aware of him as a cricketer he might not have portrayed him as such an outright villain in his play.  But Shakespeare may well have called it right - perhaps even as a cricketer Richard Plantagenet would have been a nasty lot - a sledger, a chucker and a batter who refused to walk.

Richard was the last Plantagenet king and died without issue, so descendants are hard to find.  For there are very rare mentions of the Plantagenet name in the cricket archives.  But Alan Plantagenet Stewart, aka the 10th Earl of Galloway, played for MCC between 1858 and 1864.  Subsequently he was MP for Wigtownshire and had all manner of accolades bestowed on him including becoming a Knight of the Thistle - Scotland's highest order of chivalry.  

But he was a bit of a lad. In October 1889, the Earl of Galloway appeared in Dumfries Sheriff Court on a charge of indecent behaviour towards a young girl. He was found not guilty. On 23 January 1890, the Earl of Galloway appeared again in court, this time the Glasgow Central Police Court, charged with having been 'riotous, disorderly or indecent' in his behaviour, by accosting, following and molesting Margaret Brown and one or more female passengers. The charge was found not proven.  What would Shakespeare have made of him?

So FB is uncertain to guide cricketers as to their appropriate response.  But he is sure that they will share his relief that there will be no more jokes about how much Richard owes in back dated parking fees.


  1. Richard unfortunately suffered the fate of not being a very popular skipper. He lost the only Roses match that he played in and, to make matters worse, his niece married the winning captain, Henry Tudor. Not much to celebrate there. Copping a bouncer while he was at the crease was just the final straw.

  2. Edward Longshanks was 61 in 1300. The report must therefore refer to Edward II, a rather different proposition from his father. He lost a major international at Bannockburn after which he was sent homeward tae think again. He appears not to have done so continuing his previous disastrous policy of showing favouritism in his selection policy. He was eventually deposed as captain by his wife and according to some accounts died as a result of a painful encounter with a red hot cricket bat.

    1. Well spotted - Ed 2 was born in 1284 so your inference is correct. FB misled by secondary sources - again. Marlowe's play of Ed 2 makes no reference to his cricketing prowess - though other prowesses are dwelt upon. There is disagreement among historians as to the precise method of his despatch - other than that it was almost as unpleasant as facing leg spin bowling.