Letter: The Wilton Diptych illuminated

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The Independent Online
Sir: Thank you for a fascinating article on the Wilton Diptych by Andrew Graham-Dixon (5 October). He does not mention the identity of the three saints, protecting the kneeling Richard. They are: Edmund, King of East Anglia - martyred by the Danes for refusing to share his kingdom with the invader; St Edward the Confessor (whose royal arms were quartered with Richard's own); and John the Baptist who was imprisoned and died in prison.

In 1398 Richard made the nobility renew their coronation oath of loyalty to him in Westminster Abbey, on the shrine of its builder, St Edward. Richard was deposed next year.

In view of all this I find it hard to accept that this was a picture Richard II ever prayed to in person as king. Is it not more likely that it is a piece of posthumous Yorkist propaganda?

Richard has 'abdicated', but handed the realm and banner of England into the hands of Jesus and Mary in heaven. They will keep it for the next 'rightful' successor. The dominant presence of Edward recalls that the fickle nobility have twice perjured themselves (in 1398 and at the coronation) by having accepted the Lancastrian 'invader' against their oath.

Just as John the Baptist was the forerunner of the 'king' Jesus, so Richard's martyrdom will be followed by the triumph of his Yorkist 'cousins'. Otherwise we are left with an extraordinary prescience, by the artist, about Richard's ultimate fate, and a singular masochism in Richard (the Baptist's arm around his shoulder).

Yours etc,

WILLIAM MAKIN

Great Barford, Bedfordshire

5 October

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