The flag flutters in the background, the cameras roll and the veteran actor gives the script a cursory glance before making his mark, then delivers a pitch-perfect rendition. How does he do that? I suppose if your name is Robert Hardy and you have played the parts of Siegfried Farnon, Winston Churchill and the Minister of Magic’s Cornelius Fudge in Harry Potter, you can turn your hand to anything. Despite his worldwide fame he was quick to lend a hand to the request from Towton Battlefield Society to provide a voiceover for the video trailer for our new Website. Yours truly wrote the script and it was not without some trepidation that I handed the laminated copy over to him. He read it through, cocked his head to one side and said “would you be awfully offended if I just change one small word?” I started to breath again and said I wouldn’t mind in the least. So, here it is:
There’s something about Towton. When you visit, you know something momentous happened here. It is impossible to walk on this ground and not feel the dread underfoot. If you stand in these fields, blasted by the winds of centuries, you can imagine the poor archers blowing on their nails on that bitterly cold Palm Sunday. You can picture the arrow storm, falling down like hail and hear the cries of the wounded and dying.
This was no ordinary battle. This was the biggest and bloodiest that would ever be fought on English soil. This was the meeting of two mighty rival hosts, and it was going to be settled the hard way.
The command to engage was given and the earth grew spears; billhook against billhook and poleaxe against sword:
Now one the better, then another best;
Both tugging to be victors, breast to breast.
And just as the proud house of Lancaster thought it had seized the day, the house of York, fortified by reinforcements, put their mortal foes to flight.
Many a broken band splashed through Cock Beck, winding its swirling silver train, to meet a watery grave. Others gained firm land only to be hunted down with mace and spear.
These fatal precincts, haunted by the spirits of the slain, are still there today, hardly changed from when Englishman killed Englishman and two monarchs wrestled for the crown.
Robert is nearly 85 years old but the words had a lot more resonance than when I read them, so I guess I would never have made it as an actor. The BBC producer liked the script too and asked if he could keep it. It would have been churlish to refuse him as he has done so much for us in the past. So this page is dedicated to Robert Hardy and Roger Keech of the BBC who stooped down from lofty heights to help a small, but enthusiastic band of volunteers keep alive the memory of England’s most infamous day.