Exciting news today about those old bones found in a modern car park, the University of Leicester announced that the remains found under Greyfriars car park in Leicester are indeed the remains of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England. It is an amazing piece of archaeological and scientific news and, already it reveals and confirms information about one of the most famous monarchs in history.
We’d mislaid the mortal remains of one of our kings here in England. Carelessness really but then again we’ve had so many monarchs I suppose you could loose a few of them without noticing. Poor King Richard III (1457-1485), the hunch-backed king, Shakespeare’s Richard Crook Back. Richard was on the losing side in a particularly bloody period of English history when the country was embroiled in 30 year civil war that has been called The War of the Roses (1455-1485) and, as we are often told, history is mostly written by the victors. The infamous King Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, Leicestershire, in 1485 and the leader of the rebel army, the then Earl of Richmond, Henry Tudor (1457-1509), was crowned King Henry VII on the field of battle. He is remembered as the nasty king who murdered his nephews, the “princes in the tower”, little King Edward V and his brother, and who, therefore, usurped the throne of England.
We can’t prove his nastiness or indeed the opposite, but we can now prove that the hunch-back king killed at that battle is the skeleton found last year. It also shows the grisly and undignified end of the 32 year monarch.
Geneticist Dr. Turi King, of Leicester University, confirmed today that the DNA retrieved from the ancient remains, when compared to a living descendant of the king on his maternal line, one Michael Ibsen, prove beyond reasonable doubt that this is indeed the dead king. It was also revealed that the ten wounds found on the skeleton were all administered around the time of his death. Two major wounds to the base of his skull would have produced immediate unconsciousness and then a quick death. Other superficial wounds to the face, rib and to his right buttock also suggest that his naked body was ill-treated and mutilated after death. There is a report that is now given supporting evidence that he was stripped after the battle and slung over a horse thus exposing the buttock to a humiliating postmortem mutilation.
The position of the skeleton in the grave with no evidence of shroud or coffin or of clothes or ornamentation indicates that his body was thrown naked into the grave hurriedly prepared in the local Franciscan Greyfriars Church, now itself buried under that Leicester car park, that was demolished by Henry VII’s son Henry VIII in the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
There is also the possibility suggested by the position of the hands that they were tied in front of him. Henry Tudor, on his way to the throne, obviously made sure that his rival was buried without any pomp or circumstance.
Further analysis of the skeleton not only shows that he did suffer from curvature of the spine, probably developed after he was ten years old, and that he was unusually slender and delicate for a man of his age and rank. There was also proof that he didn’t have the withered arm that legend described. For a man who is also remembered as a fiery warrior on the battlefield, his slight physique and painful spinal condition, gives a poignancy to his memory, he must have had a powerful personality to overcome those disadvantages and to become king in the macho world of Plantaganet England.
Fascinating stuff and, for a nation obsessed with its history, a great discovery but, unless there are new discoveries, none of his mortal remains tell us any more about Richard’s personality or whether he was the wicked monarch of Shakespeare’s play. I, for one don’t believe Shakespeare whose history plays paint the Tudor descendants of Richard’s successor, Henry VII, in a glowing light. He was writing, let’s not forget, when Henry’s granddaughter, Elizabeth I, sat on the English throne.
We can now look forward to a regal ceremony next year when King Richard III will be re-interred, with more dignity this time I hope, in Leicester Cathedral after lying naked and mutilated for 500 hundred years and finally found under a social services car park.