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Now Is The Winter of His Content

February 4, 2013

R3On 22 August 1485, King Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth Field, ending the Plantagenet dynasty and securing victory for Henry Tudor, who later became known as King Henry VII. In order to secure the footing of his new house, Henry embarked on a smear campaign against the previous King, and reports on Richard III from Tudor times tend to paint him in a strongly negative light, as opposed to the much more favourable accounts from earlier. Ultimately, Shakespeare himself took on the task with the play Richard III in the 1590s, and forever cemented the past King in popular culture as a mean, twisted deformed man who among other things declared his nephews illegitimate bastards, then killed them. Then killed most of the people around him, to become King until the land was saved by the Tudor hero. He ended up being known and hated as one of history’s greatest monsters. He, and the whole system of political intrigue around him, the ‘War of the Roses’ were later used as the basis for a popular series about a certain type of game using royal seats.

Richard III was the last king to die in battle, and the only ‘recent’ English monarch whose final resting place was neverR3carpark known. Due to being such a reviled figure in history, there was never really any desire to respect his remains until relatively recently, when certain groups decided to try and clear Richard’s name. They have said that Richard III was actually a good king, who was just misunderstood, that his deformities were never as bad as were stated, that the horrible things attributed to him were actually done by others, and that he was actually doing his best to try and reform the kingdom for the better. Sifting through historical records, they decided that the King’s body may have been interred in the Grey Friars church in Leicester. They then tracked what they believed to be location of the now-destroyed church, and placed it under a modern-day carpark. Last year, using sonic methods, they located coffin-less human bones buried at some point below the carpark, and had them dug up.

King Richard III in his resting place for the last 500 years

King Richard III in his resting place for the last 500 years

The bones have then, over the last few months, undergone extensive testing. Using all the latest scientific methods available, everything that could be discovered about the body which owned the bones was uncovered, including tracking down and taking a DNA sample of the King’s only surviving relative, now living in Canada, who was also apparently the last of their line, meaning that had all this happened in another couple of decades, the opportunity for DNA comparison would have been lost.

And just this morning, the results have been released. The body found under the carpark was a male in his 30s somewhere in the years 1455-1540. He shared the correct DNA, with a feminine figure, curved spine and several wounds to the skeleton which would be consistent with death in battle, including chopping blows to the head and an arrowhead in the back. There is also what seems to be a stabbing wound in the buttock, which matches with the accounts of the humiliation of his body after death.

With everything together, the researchers have stated that beyond all reasonable doubt, they have now found the remains of the last missing monarch, Richard III. That’s pretty cool stuff.

A photo of the body is available here.

The skeleton of Richard III

The skeleton of Richard III

2 Comments leave one →
  1. catlady permalink
    February 5, 2013 2:37 am

    this is all so interesting , I have loved the unravelling of the mystery , and I am amazed at the good condition of a skeleton from so long ago , it is fascinating , and to see how propaganda was alive and well even that long ago , guess human nature hasnt changed much over the centuries .

  2. February 5, 2013 9:26 am

    “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” Shakespeare really had it in for R. Plantagenet, which has made me think at times that The Bard himself shouldn’t be as unassailable a figure as he’s become.

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