• My kingdom for a corpse
    February 08,2013
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    Richard III is staging a comeback.

    A skeleton identified as the last Plantagenet king of England was recently discovered underneath a city parking lot in Leicester. Richard III fans feel as though this is the start of a totally new career chapter.

    “Now we can rebury him with honor,” said Philippa Langley, a leading figure in the Richard III Society, which is dedicated to the rehabilitation of the 15th-century monarch, who’s lived on in history as the villain in a Shakespeare play. Doing a round of TV interviews, Langley told CNN that the Richard she knows is “a guy who’s loyal, brave, pious and just.”

    There’s always time to turn your life around! Even when you’re dead! People, what could be more American? Except for the part about how it’s all happening in Britain.

    Getting Richard out from under the parking lot was just the beginning. The society’s website is chock-full of information about his efforts “to provide justice for all, including the poor and the vulnerable,” as well as his work as a “talented administrator” and patron of the printing industry. This guy would make an excellent ruler today, or at the very least a credible governor of Wisconsin.

    Langley has also written a screenplay about Richard and his achievements — all of which, by the way, had to be accomplished during a two-year reign. The movie doesn’t appear to have its financing yet, but a newspaper in Scotland, where the writer lives, reported that the lead role has been offered to the actor who played dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield in the Hobbit movies, and “has also starred in a number of television series including ‘Spooks,’ ‘Robin Hood’ and the ‘Vicar of Dibley.”’

    I am telling you that last part just because I enjoy writing the “Vicar of Dibley.”

    Anyhow, what’s left of Richard has been lying in solemn dignity on a black velvet cushion in the library of the University of Leicester, preparing for the next phase. His stock appears to be soaring. The cities of Leicester and York are already flinging petitions at each other, battling for the honor of hosting the next burial.

    This is an excellent lesson in the importance of keeping your metaphorical chin up. Sure, you can lose your kingdom in the Battle of Bosworth Field, get smashed on the head with a halberd, stabbed all over the place by grudge-bearing soldiers, dumped in a hole in the ground and then ultimately become subject of an exceedingly unflattering play.

    But there’s still the chance of a turnaround. And, really, it could happen to anyone:

    Los Angeles, 2613 — Experts have confirmed that skeletal remains dug up beneath a transporter lubrication pit are indeed those of Mitt Romney, the 21st-century presidential candidate who is best known as the title character in the classic tragedy “Mitt I.”

    Supporters hope that the discovery will lead to a reconsideration of Romney’s entire life and an emphasis on achievements, such as helping to found a chain of office-supply stores and winning one presidential debate. They plan to open a theme park that will focus on the positive side of the man known to history only as a politician who once attempted to drive to Canada with his dog strapped to the roof of his car.

    “This gives us a chance to restart the conversation about one of our most unfairly vilified political figures,” said Finbar Romney, a descendant who is also known by his pen name of Figg. He revealed that he has just finished plans for a new Broadway musical about his ancestor, which would explore Mitt Romney’s little-known early life as a tap dancer who moonlighted as a superhero.

    See? There’s nothing you can’t get over if you hang in there long enough. Until now, Richard has been best known for grabbing the crown away from his young nephew and then sticking the boy and his brother in the Tower of London. It was a bad move, image-wise. But, politically speaking, it was a sin of process, like the way Lyndon Johnson stole his first Senate race, if only Johnson’s opponent had wound up locked inside a state prison, never to be heard from again.

    The Richard III Society hopes to get past all that, as well as rumors about the king’s monsterlike appearance. (One Tudor-era writer claimed he was born with teeth and shoulder-length hair, due to a two-year refusal to emerge from the womb.) A just-completed reconstruction of the long-gone monarch’s head makes him look more like an undernourished Latin teacher. “I wasn’t alone in finding this an approachable, kindly face, almost inviting conversation,” Langley said.

    In 2313, maybe the Donald Trump Society will dig up the real estate developer and discover that he had a really terrific head of hair. There’s hope for us all. We may be wrinkling now, but we’ll look great in a few more millennia.

    Gail Collins is a columnist for The New York Times.
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