Green Room

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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Heh. All this talk of bones & reputation & Shakespeare reminds me…

The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones

Julius Caesar, Act 3 scene ii

apostic on February 4, 2013 at 3:33 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.

Chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 12:25 PM

Funny or not, the Church declared the two princes bastards. It’s not as if the Church never made decisions that profitted the current ruler. It’s entirely possible that the Church establishment in England looked at the choice between a regency strongly influenced by the Woodvilles followed by a reign strongly influenced by the Woodvilles and an adult male with ruling experience and no Woodville relations to dote on and decided to go with Richard.

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.

Had the battle occurred in the north of England, that might have happened. But Bosworth Field is in the south which remained loyal to Edward IV and regarded Richard as an usurper. Henry’s supporters were quick to grab control of the Tower of London, preventing Richard’s supporters from gaining access to the princes.

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

My bad. Monday morning, the 49ers lost and I’d had to get up earlier than usual this morning for a doctor’s appointment. (Not to mention by brain turned to absolute mush the day I hit 50.)

catsandbooks on February 4, 2013 at 3:40 PM

…and Francisco Franco remains dead.

dirc on February 4, 2013 at 3:42 PM

Thanks for all those comments….really appreciate your knowledge and interest in our history. Much better informed then many of my fellow citizens night be here in the UK.Strangely enough Richard ruled that any tax had to be ratified by Parliament and he also introduced the concept of bail…..hardly the acts of a tyrant

callingallcomets on February 4, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Edward, George and Richard (York) were their own worst enemies.

mojo on February 4, 2013 at 3:54 PM

While certainly Richard III was no saint, neither were many kings who were glorified over the centuries.

I seem to recall reading or hearing in a documentary that many of the bad kings really weren’t all that bad and many of the good kings really weren’t all that good. A lot of it can be chalked up to who’s in power. Those in control have the power to shape history to their own ends. Truth may or may not always find its way to the surface.

Considering the Plantagenet/Tudor aspect and a playwright making plays to favor his Tudor ruler and whose works become utterly famous, is it any wonder that Richard III is seen as nothing more than a cruel villain with absolutely no redeeming qualities.

This doesn’t discount the murder of two innocent children out of political plotting, but perhaps it does move him a bit higher up than Dante’s lowest level of Hell.

Logus on February 4, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Ed, you need to do some research on the subject of the Princes before writing about it. It has never been proven what happened to them NOR that the bodies found during the reign of Charles II were even the princes – kind of funny that could easily be resolved with DNA testing against either their mother or sister using mDNA, yet permission will not be granted for testing. Please don’t rely on Tudor hack William Shakespeare for your history – or St. Thomas More, who was SIX when Richard died, yet claimed to be writing from first-hand knowledge. I admire St. Thomas More for many things, but his hatchet job on Richard is not one of them.

A very good, even-handed modern biography of Richard III is by Paul Murray Kendall. For a fictional look at Richard’s guilt (or lack thereof) in the Princes’ death, read the previously suggested The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey. Also check out The Sunne in Splendor by Sharon Kay Penman, which covers Richard’s life from about age six until his death. It is 900+ pages (although it doesn’t feel like it) and, having read all of her books, I’d trust Penman over many “historians” (her books are always meticulously researched and very historically accurate – and this particular book has turned many people into ardent Richardians). And as someone else pointed out, Richard instituted many legal reforms which are still in use today.

Alia on February 4, 2013 at 4:18 PM

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

Ummm, why do I think Her Madge will be unimpressed by the suggestion that deceased British monarchs’ bones be put on display in the British Museum, rather than receiving a Christian burial?

quikstrike98 on February 4, 2013 at 4:22 PM

All very interesting. The history of monarchs is filled with with such ghastly stories.

SC.Charlie on February 4, 2013 at 4:43 PM

I seem to recall reading or hearing in a documentary that many of the bad kings really weren’t all that bad and many of the good kings really weren’t all that good. A lot of it can be chalked up to who’s in power. Those in control have the power to shape history to their own ends. Truth may or may not always find its way to the surface.

He who wins the war writes the history… No?

Illinidiva on February 4, 2013 at 4:45 PM

Ummm, why do I think Her Madge will be unimpressed by the suggestion that deceased British monarchs’ bones be put on display in the British Museum, rather than receiving a Christian burial? – quikstrike98 on February 4, 2013 at 4:22 PM

Ah, the strange history of Oliver Cromwell’s head – from Wikipedia:

Following the death of Oliver Cromwell on 3 September 1658, he was given a public funeral at Westminster Abbey, equal to those of monarchs before him. After defeating and executing King Charles I after the English Civil War, Cromwell had become Lord Protector and ruler of the English Commonwealth. His legacy passed to his son Richard, who was overthrown by the army in 1659, after which monarchy was re-established and King Charles II, who was living in exile, was recalled. Charles’ new parliament ordered the disinterment of Cromwell’s body from Westminster Abbey and the disinterment of other regicides John Bradshaw and Henry Ireton, for a posthumous execution at Tyburn. After hanging “from morning till four in the afternoon”,[1] the bodies were cut down and the heads placed on a 20-foot (6.1 m) spike above Westminster Hall. In 1685 a storm broke the pole upon which his head stood,[2] throwing it to the ground, after which it was in the hands of private collectors and museum owners until 25 March 1960, when it was buried at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge.
The symbolic value of the head changed over time. While it was spiked on a pole above the London skyline, it gave a potent warning to spectators. In the 18th century, the head became a curiosity and a relic. The head has been admired, reviled and dismissed as a fake throughout the centuries. After Thomas Carlyle dismissed the head as “fraudulent moonshine”,[3] and after the emergence of a rival claimant to the true head of Oliver Cromwell, scientific and archaeological analysis was carried out to prove the identity. Inconclusive tests culminated in a detailed scientific study by Karl Pearson and Geoffrey Morant, which concluded, based on a study of the head and other evidence, that there was a “moral certainty”[4] that the head belonged to Oliver Cromwell.

SC.Charlie on February 4, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Ummm, why do I think Her Madge will be unimpressed by the suggestion that deceased British monarchs’ bones be put on display in the British Museum, rather than receiving a Christian burial?

quikstrike98 on February 4, 2013 at 4:22 PM

If you are going to do it for the rich and famous, then do it for everyone. I don’t want to even hazard a guess how many skeletons that have been exhumed and are kept in labs and museums in the UK.

Blake on February 4, 2013 at 4:58 PM

catsandbooks on February 4, 2013 at 3:40 PM

bosworth field is NOT in south england, it is in the midlands. well north of london.

chasdal on February 4, 2013 at 6:27 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

The picture of the bones on the internet show that the skeleton had adolescent onset scoliosis. Pretty severe actually. It also shows multiple headwounds and what they call, “humiliating” wounds.

txmomof6 on February 4, 2013 at 8:37 PM

Pope Benedict should offer to perform the religious portion of the memorial service.

After all, Richard III was a Catholic.

patch on February 4, 2013 at 9:41 PM

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

An excellent read that raises the likely suggestion that Richard was the victim of vicious Tudor propaganda, and the Tudors were actually responsible for the deaths of the two boys.

talkingpoints on February 4, 2013 at 11:38 PM

The Daughter of Time just came out on Kindle for those who want to check it out (which was good for me, as I can’t find my paperback of it).

Alia on February 5, 2013 at 12:06 AM

The Daughter of Time just came out on Kindle for those who want to check it out (which was good for me, as I can’t find my paperback of it).

Alia on February 5, 2013 at 12:06 AM

It’s out of copyright.

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks09/0900271.txt

Or a zip file…

http://gutenberg.net.au/plusfifty-n-z.html

sharrukin on February 5, 2013 at 12:15 AM

I suppose the next hook in a popular rediscovery of Richard III will be a claim that he was gay.

apostic on February 5, 2013 at 4:34 AM

Sharrukin! You are the best! I was going to run to the used book store today and see if I could find a copy and now I don’t have to. Thanks a bunch!

ramblingirl on February 5, 2013 at 7:06 AM

Alia, many thanks for introducing me to Sharon Kay Penman. I just downloaded The Sunne in Splendour to my Kindle. 950 pages to get immersed in!

Trafalgar on February 5, 2013 at 8:49 AM

You’ll enjoy it, Trafalgar. If you’re pn Facebook, she has a page where she is very interactive with the fans

Alia on February 5, 2013 at 9:14 AM

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