For Want Of A Nail……
The link between Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, and Chris Huhne, the former UK Governement Energy Minister who has resigned as a MP in advance of a court case is a very simple one: A nail!
The “nail” in question is a Shakespearean one used as a metaphor for a “small detail”
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of the shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of the horse, the rider was lost;
For want of the rider, the battle was lost;
For want of the battle, the kingdom was lost;
And all for the want of a nail.”
So writes William Shakespeare in his epic play “Richard III,” when writing about King Richard who it was alleged was thrown from his horse in battle because the blacksmith put one too few nails into the horse’s shoe. A simple but poignant telling of a complex story.
The identification of the remains of King Richard, under the Castle car park, the prior location of
Greyfriars Church in Leicester may cause a reappraisal of the reputation of the King that has historically been cast as a tyrannical hunch back, whose two years on the throne was typified by murder, oppression and dark deeds. The most memorable and poignant accusation is that he ordered the murder in 1583 of “The Princes In the Tower” (the 12 year old heir to the throne Edward V and his younger brother Richard) who he had previously bastardised – by declaring their father. Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville as invalid – and then incarcerated her in The Tower Of London.
The perceived murder of the innocents understandably made him unpopular, and his twisted body just worked to confirm Peoples suspicions as he beheaded a long selection of Lords. When he met his end at Bosworth Field on 22nd August 1485, he had ruled for just two years but had managed to killed many of the knights of the realm with both axe and sword.
Shakespeare cemented not only his place history through his play – written beyond living memory – but also the way he would be perceived forever. He saw him cast as the villain, with no mitigation being made for the fact he was a monarch who was trying to unite a divided country in violent and brutal times.
Yesterday the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, asked Adam Long a founder member of The reduced Shakespeare company “to refashion the end of Shakespeare’s play“. This funny and absorbing “treatise” to Richard III can be read here.
It could be said he was a man who ran out of both luck and time; and because of his acts a “man who ran out of lies”. Which is the line the Daily Star used to describe the end they now predict for Chris Huhne’s political career yesterday.
To international readers Chris Huhne’s fall will seem strange and possibly a little farcical, but the UK courts take speeding offence’s seriously, and the behaviour of its politicians in all legal matters even more so. He is alleged to have lied about a speeding offence in his own car which was recorded by a speed camera, and was sufficiently quick to trigger an automatic 3 point penalty on his licence (9 – 12 can lead to a driving ban).
The lie is not related to the fact that the incident happened, but to whom it happened too. It is alleged that Huhme subsequently asked his wife Vasiliki “Vicky” Pryce to take his place and accept the 3 points on her licence to protect his own, and thereby his ability to function as a MEP.
And so re-enters something quite darkly Shakespearean; a woman scorned and seeking revenge. Chris Huhne made the mistake a few years on, of falling in love with someone else and jettisoning his now ex-wife Vicky Pryce. She unlike Lady Macbeth failed to support her husband and his ambitions whatever the price, and surrendered him to the authorities allegedly claiming she was coerced to take the points. The charge he faces is now perverting the course of justice, a much more serious charge that a simple speeding fine, and this was the “nail” in his coffin”. And his car? The “kingdom” he would sacrificed for his lack of a “horse” of course!
Which leaves just one wrong to right. The phrase : “Hell has no fury like a woman scorned” was not written by William Shakespeare but was coined by the Playwright/Poet William Congreve, in The mourning bride, 1697. In fact he originally wrote the epithet as “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned”