THE GREATEST DICK IN HISTORY?

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Richard the First was a warmongering Frenchman who only came to England for six months. Richard the Third was a child-murdering hunchback who was discovered in a council car park. However, my favourite Dick of all, Richard the Second, was an infertile homosexual who complained about table manners and was dethroned by his cousin.

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Crowned at the age of 10, Richard didn’t initially rule. Instead, the overbearing and military John of Gaunt acted as regent. So Richard surrounded himself with young and frivolous men who indulged in ‘excesses that are not to be named’. The rebellious nobles who would eventually depose Richard complained of his passivity and willingness to accept advice from such effete men. Part of a trend to cast Richard not as a King but as perhaps less than a man. (A quick modern hospitality segue here to note that the Savoy Hotel is named after John of Gaunt’s Savoy Palace which was on the ancient processional Strand.)

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As part of the shady history against Richard the Second, Thomas Walsingham suggested that Richard had a relationship with Robert de Vere, one of his courtiers. Adam of Usk, when explaining his reasons to dethrone Richard, listed ‘sodomies’. Whilst all this plays into homosexual tropes, it is plausible that they were simply making things up to justify the outrageous act of moving against a king chosen by God. Additionally, ‘sodomy’ at the time referred to ‘unnatural acts’ more broadly not just a ‘man lying with a man as if with a woman’. Richard was perhaps simply an inexperienced and gentle man who only knew how to spend money and enjoy the high life, despised by the important men around him. 

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That’s enough history for one week. Join me next week to discover how history’s greatest Dick invented that most important tool, the table napkin.

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