Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Has Richard III Been Unearthed?

I'm not talking about "Richard III," the Shakespeare play, which has never really been hidden. You know that view of Richard, painted as a hunchback and murderer, scheming to do away with anybody (including the sweet little princes in the tower) who stands in his way, the one yelling "My horse! My horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

Nope. Not him. I'm talking the historical Richard III, the last of England's Plantagenet kings, the one who lost on Bosworth Field in 1485, leaving the door open for a line of Tudor kings and queens, including Queen Elizabeth I.

The real Richard, felled at Bosworth Field, was supposed to have been buried in the Grey Friars Church in Leicester. That church was closed and its stone ruins carted away, which meant that nobody was actually sure where Richard III was buried or if his remains were still there. But earlier this year, archaeologists from the University of Leicester decided that a car park (i.e., a parking lot) in the middle of Leicester was the most likely spot for Grey Friars, and they started a dig last month. They found what they believe to be the Grey Friars choir stalls, and then found human remains. And today, in a press conference, Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University of Leicester, revealed that they believe those remains might very well belong to Richard III.

Taylor said, "The articulated skeleton found in the Choir is of significant interest to us. Dr Jo Appleby has carried out a preliminary examination of the remains. There are five reasons for our interest:
  1. The remains appear to be of an adult male.
  2. The Choir is the area reported in the historical record as the burial place of King Richard III. John Rous, reports that Richard 'at last was buried in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester.'
  3. The skeleton, on initial examination, appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull which appears consistent with (although not certainly caused by) an injury received in battle. A bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull.
  4. A barbed iron arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back.
  5. The skeleton found in the Choir area has spinal abnormalities. We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback and did not have a 'withered arm.'
"Both sets of remains are now at an undisclosed location where further analysis is being undertaken.

"I need to be very frank. The University has always been clear that any remains would need to be subjected to rigorous laboratory analysis before we confirm the outcome of the search for Richard III.

"We are not saying today that we have found King Richard III. What we are saying is that the Search for Richard III has entered a new phase. Our focus is shifting from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis. This skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive further detailed examination."

So there you have it. Remains of a man with a curved spine and a significant injury consistent with a battle wound have been found where Richard III was supposedly buried. Is it him? They'll be doing DNA tests and trying to find a match with a known descendant of Richard's older sister. The descendant is a Canadian furniture maker, who is probably feeling very odd right now, to be in the center of this historical storm. Stay tuned for more news from Leicester!

And thank you to my friend, the wonderful author and blogger Margaret Evans Porter for the story.

No comments:

Post a Comment