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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