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Richard III remains identified

posted at 8:28 am on February 4, 2013 by

For lovers of Shakespeare and of history, this is a fascinating tale indeed.  Few British monarchs have been as reviled as Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England, whose death in battle brought the Tudors to the throne and ended the War of the Roses.  Researchers have confirmed that the bones found under a parking lot where an abbey once stood — an abbey demolished by Henry VIII, the Tudor king who seized abbeys and churches in the split with Rome — really are those of Richard III, the last English monarch to fall in battle:

A team of archaeologists confirmed Monday that ancient remains found under a parking lot belong to long-lost King Richard III, successfully ending a search that sparked a modern-day debate about the legacy of the reputed tyrant.

Details of the findings were released hours after DNA tests came in late Sunday. The 500-year-old remains were discovered five months ago, using ancient maps and records to uncover the ruins of the old friary where Richard III was laid to rest.

“It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in September 2012 is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England,” Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist of the University of Leicester, said at the announcement Monday in the city north of London.

Some believe this will prompt a re-evaluation of Richard III, depicted as a monster by Shakespeare and of historians in the period following his downfall:

The debate that has risen out of this finding has provoked the nation to rethink the legacy of Richard III, cast in British history by Shakespeare as a deformed villain, who locked his young nephews — rivals to the throne — in the Tower of London, where they are thought to have met their demise.

If I recall correctly, the skeletons of both boys — who had claims to the throne superior to Richard — were discovered in the Tower of London centuries later, in a room that had been bricked up and forgotten.  Any rethinking of Richard’s legacy has to account for their deaths while in Richard’s custody, and that will be difficult to reconcile no matter how much rethinking takes place.

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Alison Weir wrote a very fine nonfiction book about Richard III and the princes
The Princes in the Tower
http://www.amazon.com/dp/B007I5QO50

vityas on February 4, 2013 at 8:49 AM

If I recall correctly, the skeletons of both boys — who had claims to the throne superior to Richard — were discovered in the Tower of London centuries later, in a room that had been bricked up and forgotten. Any rethinking of Richard’s legacy has to account for their deaths while in Richard’s custody, and that will be difficult to reconcile no matter how much rethinking takes place.

Which explains reports that Richard III will be re-buried in Leicester rather than brought to London.

Steve Eggleston on February 4, 2013 at 8:51 AM

Any rethinking of Richard’s legacy has to account for their deaths while in Richard’s custody, and that will be difficult to reconcile no matter how much rethinking takes place.

If the two nephews were alive after the Tudor victory at Bosworth Field they wouldn’t have long survived. It may have been Henry who had them murdered.

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 8:53 AM

No, you’re wrong about the skeletons of the boys being found in a bricked-up room–that seems to be mythology.

In the 17th century, workmen who were removing a staircase in the Tower of London discovered some bones buried underneath that were assumed to be that of the two boys, but that was never established. They are now in an urn in Westminster Abbey. In the 1930s a very cursory examination was done where it was claimed the bones were of ages that would match that of the two boys if they had died during Richard’s reign. However, those findings have been challenged, and since the queen, for unknown reasons, has not allowed any new examination of the bones, it is an open question whether or not these remains are of the two princes, and, if so, how or when they died.

In short, the fate of the two boys remains a complete mystery.

Undine on February 4, 2013 at 9:03 AM

I believe the theory that the skeletons found in the Tower were the dead prices has been disproved.

Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III is based on Thomas Moore’s writings. At the time, Moore was Henry’s butt boy and he was trying to legitimize the Tudor control of the throne by disparaging Richard.

Blake on February 4, 2013 at 9:15 AM

Plantagenet: a member of the royal house that ruled England from the accession of Henry II in 1154 to the death of Richard III in 1485.

You’re welcome. If you already knew this, kudos to you.

I’m having flashbacks to the bricking scene in the Canterville Ghost.

Fallon on February 4, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Henry III wasn’t really pegged as the Princes murderer until Shakespeare wrote the play bearing his name – after the Tudors were already installed on the throne.

An early version of spin.

No one knows what really happened.

Washington Nearsider on February 4, 2013 at 9:35 AM

No one knows what really happened.

Washington Nearsider on February 4, 2013 at 9:35 AM

What we do know — as Winston Churchill wrote in his History of the English Speaking Peoples — is that Richard insisted on taking custody of both boys, and then they disappeared from view, never to be seen again, while Richard sat on the throne, and declared himself king rather than regent.

Ed Morrissey on February 4, 2013 at 9:39 AM

What we do know — as Winston Churchill wrote in his History of the English Speaking Peoples — is that Richard insisted on taking custody of both boys, and then they disappeared from view, never to be seen again, while Richard sat on the throne, and declared himself king rather than regent.

Ed Morrissey on February 4, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Yet the Act of Attainder passed by Henry made no mention of the two boys which is rather odd. Besides, if Richard the Third was going to start killing potential claimants to the throne wouldn’t he have included his brother’s son Edward Plantagenet? Henry certainly had Edward Plantagenet sent to the Tower of London where he was later executed.

Thomas More claimed that James Tyrell murdered the princes under Richards orders, but James Tyrell was favored by Henry which is also odd if he was the one who murdered the princes at Richards order. Not so odd if he was the one who murdered them at Henry’s order. Or he may have had nothing to do with it at all.

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 10:00 AM

For a fun read (fiction) on this subject, try The Daughter Of Time by Josephine Tey. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

ramblingirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Researchers have confirmed that the bones found under a parking lot

A space! A space! My kingdom for a space!

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 10:37 AM

What we do know — as Winston Churchill wrote in his History of the English Speaking Peoples — is that Richard insisted on taking custody of both boys, and then they disappeared from view, never to be seen again, while Richard sat on the throne, and declared himself king rather than regent.

Ed, Richard did not “declare himself king.” Parliament ruled–on pretty good evidence–that the two boys were illegitimate, thus making Richard the rightful ruler. It was all quite legal and aboveboard.

And as for the boys “disappearing,” it is true that we don’t know for certain what happened to them, but it is not at all certain that they were “never seen again.” There is some evidence suggesting they were sent abroad to the court of Richard’s sister Margaret of Burgundy. And, of course, there is still the possibility that “Perkin Warbeck” really was, as he claimed, the younger of the two boys.

Undine on February 4, 2013 at 10:50 AM

A space! A space! My kingdom for a space!

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 10:37 AM

That was actually the slogan of Richard the III’s successors, the House of Two-Door.

Shy Guy on February 4, 2013 at 11:00 AM

For a fun read (fiction) on this subject, try The Daughter Of Time by Josephine Tey. It’s an oldie but a goodie.

ramblingirl on February 4, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Indeed, it is wonderful.

Ed, don’t fall for Tudor propaganda. It’s akin to a history of the George W. Bush administration written by David Axelrod. Not that I equate More and Axelrod in any way, but let’s just say the Tudor perspective was strongly anti-Plantagenet, especially in the years immediately following Richard III’s death.

Missy on February 4, 2013 at 11:26 AM

That was actually the slogan of Richard the III’s successors, the House of Two-Door.

Shy Guy on February 4, 2013 at 11:00 AM

Boom! :)

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 11:28 AM

He should be buried at York.

M240H on February 4, 2013 at 11:28 AM

We need a good old flame war over something that happened over 500 years ago and in another country. lol!

Whites vs. Reds!

Blake on February 4, 2013 at 11:39 AM

They shouldn’t bury the remains! They should be put on display at the British Museum as part of history!!

samazf on February 4, 2013 at 11:51 AM

If the two nephews were alive after the Tudor victory at Bosworth Field they wouldn’t have long survived. It may have been Henry who had them murdered.

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Edward would have been 15 or thereabouts, and Richard 12 if that were the case. The bones would tell the tale.

However Elizabeth Woodville, the boys’ mother, was told in 1483 or thereabouts by Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, a defector from Richard III’s side that both boys were killed.

Sekhmet on February 4, 2013 at 11:52 AM

This turns the accepted history of the automobile on its head.

keep the change on February 4, 2013 at 11:54 AM

However Elizabeth Woodville, the boys’ mother, was told in 1483 or thereabouts by Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, a defector from Richard III’s side that both boys were killed.

Sekhmet on February 4, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Where did you read this?

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Ed, Richard did not “declare himself king.” Parliament ruled–on pretty good evidence–that the two boys were illegitimate, thus making Richard the rightful ruler. It was all quite legal and aboveboard.

And as for the boys “disappearing,” it is true that we don’t know for certain what happened to them, but it is not at all certain that they were “never seen again.” There is some evidence suggesting they were sent abroad to the court of Richard’s sister Margaret of Burgundy. And, of course, there is still the possibility that “Perkin Warbeck” really was, as he claimed, the younger of the two boys.

Undine on February 4, 2013 at 10:50 AM

That “evidence” comes from an anonymous source! You really want to say that’s “pretty good evidence”?

Here are the facts.

Richard wanted to be king.
The two boys were ahead of him in the succession.
Richard takes them both into custody and suddenly they disappear
Richard failed to open any investigation into the matter, which would have been in his interest if he was not responsible for the deaths of his nephews
Richard has them declared illegitimate through “anonymous evidence” And is declared king.

Fast forward. Sir Thomas More says the bodies of the two princes were buried in stairwell in the tower, and admittedly proclaims they were also removed.

Two bodies of two boys approximately the same age of the princes are found in near the exact place as the two princes. Their bodies were found with bits of velvet cloth around the bones, something ONLY those of high nobility/royalty could afford at the time.

So no, we don’t know for if these are the two princes and we don’t have near enough evidence to convict Richard.

But we certainly have enough to say he is the most likely suspect.

NerwenAldarion on February 4, 2013 at 12:04 PM

Where did you read this?

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:03 PM

Admittedly, Wikipedia under the entry for Elizabeth Woodville.

Stafford’s rebellion and execution happened in 1483, the same year Woddville started to go along with putting Henry on the throne by pledging her daughter to him. Would she have gotten behind Henry Tudor if her sons were still alive?

Sekhmet on February 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Any rethinking of Richard’s legacy has to account for their deaths while in Richard’s custody, and that will be difficult to reconcile no matter how much rethinking takes place.

Richard had absolutely no reason whatsoever for killing the two boys; Henry VII had every reason.

Following the death of Richard’s brother, Edward IV, evidence was produced proving that Edward had been betrothed to another woman before he married Elizabeth Woodville. The Church ruled that Edward’s marriage to Elizath Woodville was invalid because of the provious betrothal. (Back then, betrothal was regarded as the same thing as a marriage; some of the paperwork simply hadn’t been completed yet.) The result of Edward and Elizabeth’s marriage being declared invalid was that the two young princes became bastards, thus ineligible to inherit the throne. On an even more practical note: Richard was a grown man with a long record of successfully ruling northern England on his brother’s behalf, allowing him to instantly step into Edward’s shoes and fully perform all the duties of the King of England. Had Prince Edward been recognized as King of England, England would have faced a long regency with all the jostling for position and international weakness such a situation entailed. Richard would have been regent, but would have faced a great deal of resistance and sabotage, mainly from Elizabeth Woodville’s relatives.

Henry VII’s claim to the throne was pretty shaky, and was based on his mother, Margaret Beaufort’s, descent from John of Gaunt, a younger son of Edward I (Longshanks). After Henry VII vanquished Richard in battle, he married Elizabeth of York, Edward IV’s oldest daughter by Elizabeth Woodville, to solidify and legitimize not just his but his descendents’ claim to the throne of England. Both Henry VII and Henry VIII worked pretty hard at killing off any poosible claimants to the throne of England, demonstrating a real desire to solidify the Tudor grasp on England.

In the motive department, Henry VII had a lot more to lose if the boys surived than Richard.

catsandbooks on February 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM

Admittedly, Wikipedia under the entry for Elizabeth Woodville.

They don’t seem to source it and may only be referring to the rumors of their deaths.

Stafford’s rebellion and execution happened in 1483, the same year Woddville started to go along with putting Henry on the throne by pledging her daughter to him. Would she have gotten behind Henry Tudor if her sons were still alive?

Sekhmet on February 4, 2013 at 12:08 PM

By the same token would she have reconciled with Richard and trusted him with her daughters if she knew Richard had murdered her sons?

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:18 PM

catsandbooks on February 4, 2013 at 12:15 PM

kinda funny how some random priest shows up w/ a story about bethrotal no one had heard about. just when its convenient for richard to need a way to steal the throne.

if the princes had still been alive after richard was killed his supporters would have raced to produce them claiming edward v was the legitmate heir over henry tudor. the boys were dead, killed due to their uncle needing no loose ends.

and john of gaunt was the son of edward iii not edward i (longshanks)

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Richard had absolutely no reason whatsoever for killing the two boys; Henry VII had every reason.

WHAT????

Richard became KING! That isn’t reason enough??????

Like I said, the evidence of Edwards betrothal was produced by “an anonymous cleric” so can we really trust that?

Henry VII had no reason to kill the boys, by the time he ever had any chance of claiming the throne the boys had already disappeared!

Richard III more than likely had the boys killed even though he had them proclaimed illegitimate. Claims of illegitimacy and betrothals aren’t worth the paper they were written on. I can site both MAry I and Elizabeth I, BOTH were declared illegitimate due to previous pre-contracts, As soon as they took the crown their first acts were to declare themselves legitimate.

SO having them declared illegitimate wasn’t enough, he had to make sure they didn’t come back and take the crown from under him.

Who has more reason? The King that is only king by a shaky piece of paper or the man who wasn’t even attempting to take the crown yet?

NerwenAldarion on February 4, 2013 at 12:25 PM

By the same token would she have reconciled with Richard and trusted him with her daughters if she knew Richard had murdered her sons?

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:18 PM

she couldve reconciled if she was in fear of her life and her remaining children’s lifes. richard did promise to keep them safe. the backroom machinations and politics of that time are on an order we have never seen! even after “reconciling” she still promised her daughter to henry tudor if he became king. and henry’s mother was married to a yorkist who watched the battle of bosworth for hours before making his move and supporting henry. the backstabbing and doulbe crossing was epic in the war of the roses.

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 12:29 PM

if the princes had still been alive after richard was killed his supporters would have raced to produce them claiming edward v was the legitmate heir over henry tudor.

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 12:25 PM

How would they do that if the boys were in the Tower, their army scattered, Richard dead, and Henry was king?

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM

The’Boys in the Tower’ were indeed doomed no matter who became king, if it wasn’t one of them. That’s the price of having a claim to the throne. No one had a better motive for seeing them disappear than Richard III. His crown was illegitimate no matter what. Parliament crowned whoever had the biggest army near London. Henry VII’s crown was won on the field of battle.

Buckingham almost certainly acted as Richard’s agent in this regard.

However, given that people still are arguing about Kennedy and Lincoln, the debate will never end about Richard and his nephews.

doufree on February 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM

she couldve reconciled if she was in fear of her life and her remaining children’s lifes.

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 12:29 PM

She could have fled to Brittany or France as many did.

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:35 PM

How fun that we are still tossing this around centuries later. It’s a fascinating look into human nature and the desire for power and dominance. The monarchies of today wouldn’t stand a chance.

ramblingirl on February 4, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Put him in the Tower of London, make him part of the tour! – Men in tights. :-)

American Patriot1980 on February 4, 2013 at 12:37 PM

I had a hunch it was him.

Ted Torgerson on February 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM

I

had a hunch it was him.

Ted Torgerson on February 4, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Badda bing …

doufree on February 4, 2013 at 1:00 PM

Reading about this story is very interesting. I am struck by how ruthless England’s prior rulers were. Then we have the real deal today, Prince Charles the lame.

arnold ziffel on February 4, 2013 at 1:01 PM

So, if we find Hitler’s remains will that cause the world to re-consider his legacy as a monster?

I’m not making the connection others have. What does the finding of some old bones have to do with how those bones behaved centuries ago?

How about Pol Pot? Maybe he’ll get unearthed in the year 2500 and historians will question how people felt about him too.

BobMbx on February 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM

Plus, isn’t this guy started the fashion of wearing a bulging piece of metal to make it look like he had a pair of horse balls?

Cod piece, wasn’t it? The big 4×4 of the Renaissance.

BobMbx on February 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM

Leave us not forget: Whether or not Richard III was evil, Shakespeare was a shill for Elizabeth and her family.

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 1:30 PM

So, if we find Hitler’s remains will that cause the world to re-consider his legacy as a monster?

I’m not making the connection others have. What does the finding of some old bones have to do with how those bones behaved centuries ago?

How about Pol Pot? Maybe he’ll get unearthed in the year 2500 and historians will question how people felt about him too.

BobMbx on February 4, 2013 at 1:14 PM

You aren’t honestly making the comparison between Richard III and Hitler or Pol Pot, are you?

On the one hand we have an English king whose reputation is largely based on Shakespeare’s plays which are in turn based on pleasing the nobility and not telling a history. The Tudors won the War of the Roses and Shakespeare knew that a little bit of “poetic license” would go a long way in justifying that victory as the legitimate outcome for the good of England.

On the other hand, we’ve got contemporary accounts of what Hitler and Pol Pot did.

Happy Nomad on February 4, 2013 at 1:39 PM

And somewhere, Henry Tudor laughs and laughs…

mojo on February 4, 2013 at 1:42 PM

If you can ignore his very leftist politics, Ian McKellen was an absolutely brilliant RIII here.

annoyinglittletwerp on February 4, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Plus, isn’t this guy started the fashion of wearing a bulging piece of metal to make it look like he had a pair of horse balls?

Cod piece, wasn’t it? The big 4×4 of the Renaissance.

BobMbx on February 4, 2013 at 1:17 PM

To be fair, the codpiece started out as a triangle of fabric to cover certain parts on tights (hosen), because the “tights” of the day were not very stretchy—think wool cut on the bias. It was not worth removing ones pants to go #1, so the tailors figured the best way to have “give” enough to walk in tight hosen without mooning the world was to have an empty joint in front, covered with an easy-to-untie codpiece in the front. Male nature demanded it be decorated. :)

Sekhmet on February 4, 2013 at 1:46 PM

Richard III more than likely had the boys killed even though he had them proclaimed illegitimate.

NerwenAldarion on February 4, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Court intrigue has always been a favorite spectator sport. But let’s remember that Shakespeare’s plays where so much of Richard III’s reputation is based, is as much political correctness as anything. Let’s not forget it is another Shakespeare Play, Richard II, that the rebels used to try and whip up popular outrage against a distant and evil monarch.

Happy Nomad on February 4, 2013 at 1:51 PM

But let’s remember that Shakespeare’s plays where so much of Richard III’s reputation is based, is as much political correctness as anything.

Can you blame him? There were heads on pikes at all the entrances to London. And again, Shakespeare got his facts from Thomas Moore’s bias writings.

Blake on February 4, 2013 at 1:59 PM

You aren’t honestly making the comparison between Richard III and Hitler or Pol Pot, are you?

Happy Nomad on February 4, 2013 at 1:39 PM

Not at all.

How does finding of ones’ bones require a re-assessment of that persons history is my point.

Without bones, RIII was an ass or something. With bones…well, lets take another look.

I don’t see the connection.

BobMbx on February 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Without bones, RIII was an ass or something. With bones…well, lets take another look.

I don’t see the connection.

BobMbx on February 4, 2013 at 2:29 PM

Well, for starters, the remains would be able to show if Richard III was a hunchback or something. But I really think you’re missing the point. It is less about the physical evidence as it is to use the discovery to put fresh eyes on the historical assessment of Richard III. There will never be a way to determine if he had a hand in killing his nephews but this will lead to renewed academic interest and scholarship. And BTW Richard III has had a fan club for years trying to disprove the idea he was an “ass or something.”

Happy Nomad on February 4, 2013 at 2:51 PM

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:31 PM

grab your nearest soldiers, household guards, etc whoever and ride like crazy for london. henry spent several weeks before he made it to london. he was consolidating support, etc so he wouldnt be stopped at the gates when he did get to london.

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 3:18 PM

sharrukin on February 4, 2013 at 12:35 PM

only if richard didnt already have custody of her, which he did.

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Incidentally, the hunchback was made up, too. No contemporary accounts mention it. But he did have a withered arm.

Missy on February 4, 2013 at 3:22 PM

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