Fit for a King

Funny story written by Norman Birnbach

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Ever since archaeologists found the remains of King Richard III underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, in 2012, they have spent a lot of time confirming his remains, determining what he ate and how he died. It's a real-life "C.S.I.: Leicester" or "(Really Old) Cold Case" - without the conveniently-timed third-act conclusion with moments to spare.

The researchers don't say how they knew the skeleton might be Richard III's - but we know it wasn't just a hunch. After all, the findings indicated that Richard III wasn't a hunchback, as Shakespeare depicted him, but suffered from scoliosis. That alone requires a reconsideration of Richard III (along with an updated, more PC-version of Victor Hugo's "The Scoliosis Patient of Notre-Dame").

But a public raised on celebrity news isn't satisfied with mere facts. We want the kind of insight we get from red carpet interviews since, after all, royals were the first to walk red carpets. We want to know about diet, fitness and fashion ("Who designed that tunic?")

Here are questions historians should be asking.

• Why was Richard III buried in what became a parking lot? He didn't have a car, much less a horse. In Olde English, was there some confusion between the words "burial plot" and "parking lot"? It couldn't have been between "hunchback" and "hatchback." Either way, how much did he owe in unpaid parking?

• How confident are the researchers that they really know what Richard III (1452-1485) ate? After all, he died 500 years before the invention of Twitter, Instagram and Fitbit, arguably the most reliable ways to track what people eat.

• Because Richard III ate significant quantities of swan, crane and heron, was the line in Shakespeare's "Richard III" a typo when written as "In thy foul throat thou liest"? Did Shakespeare mean "fowl"?

• Would his favorite ballet have been "Swan Lake"? Would seeing it make him hungry?

• What was Richard III's favorite cuisine? Medieval Leicester probably did not offer a range of cuisines - it would help if researchers found a 15th century equivalent of Yelp - but it's hard to imagine a time when England did not have great Indian food.

• Where did Richard III eat? If he dined out in the homes of friends, did Richard III bring a hostess gift? If he ate at a tavern, did he pick up the tab? Or did he try get out of it by asking: "Can you pay this time - I must have left my wallet in my other pantaloons"?

• Richard III killed many friends and family members on his path to the throne, he made a lot of enemies - so did anyone want to be seated next to the king or were they forced to? Were certain subjects - topics, not people - known to be off-limits? Like, "Don't mention snow or he'll talk your ear off about that 'winter of his discontent'"?

• Would he play fair when playing checkers - or would Richard III always demand that you "king" his remaining pieces?

• When it came to food choices, was Richard III a supporter of farm-to-castle? (Or should that be pond-to-castle?) I assume he preferred free-range swans and organic vegetables.

• Did he care about nutrition? Since they didn't have the food pyramid yet - just the ones in Egypt - what guidelines did he follow?

Once they answer these questions, researchers will be able to develop what we want: A royal lifestyle and fitness book. I can already suggest a title: "Fit for a King."

The funny story above is a satire or parody. It is entirely fictitious.

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