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 unidentified books seen decades ago

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whitehound
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PostSubject: unidentified books seen decades ago   Sun Apr 27, 2014 5:12 pm

This is not, per se, a request for something to buy although if anyone can identify these items, and they were for sale, I'd try to find the money.

It concerns, rather, two books which mentioned Richard and which I can't now find, but which I hope somebody else might recognise. I saw both decades ago, and didn't know that they wouldn't be there the next time I looked, so I failed to make a note of the author and title.

One was a book which was on the library of the School of Scottish Studies circa 1980. It was, or contained, a collection of traditional stories about the history of the MacGregor clan, aka the Gregara, whose motto is "I am Macgregor and my blood is royal".

It contained a story about a Scottish embassy to England in the late 15th C. A man named Macgregor who was part of the Scottish embassy team darted out and snatched the crown from the head of the King of England. He only got a few yards before he was thrown down and dragged before the king, who demanded to know what the hell he thought he was playing at. Macgregor replied that when he was born a spaewife had predicted that he would be hanged as a thief, and he didn't want to be hanged for anything petty. The king was delighted with this and declined to punish him - in fact I believe it said that the king gave him a gold collar and said it was the only halter he would place round his neck, but I might have imagined that last bit.

Although the English king isn't named in this story, internal evidence to do with dates and locations strongly suggested that it was Richard. Unfortunately, the next time I went to the library it had been reorganised, and I never found the book again.

In the early to mid 1980s there was a small public library in Shoe Lane, off Fleet Street. In that library was a set of two or three large Victorian books, with - if memory serves - dark leather spines, smooth pages, very small print and I think two or three columns per page. They were either a collection of histories of British or English monarchs, or a collection of stories about the history of London, I forget which.

It contained a lengthy section on Richard, which was not particularly positive, but which made at least two claims I have seen nowhere else. Unfortunately it didn't quote any references, although it occurs to me that there might have been cites in the final volume.

One claim was that Richard had been genuinely reluctant to accept the throne, and that it was Anne Neville who persuaded him to agree to it. The other was that on her death Richard walked behind her coffin and wept openly in the street, although it's possible that the author had got confused with Richard II of whom similar stories are told.

One day the library had moved to a new location on the other side of Fleet Street, shedding many of its less popular books on the way, and the staff couldn't remember the title of this book. I've been trying to identify it ever since.

I have no doubt that I am accurately remembering what I understood these books to mean at the time, because I incorporated this information into things I was writing at that point. Without finding the books, however, I can't double-check that I interpreted them correctly, or identify their sources.
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