Isn’t it fascinating how the remains of a king of more than 500 years ago can turn up in a parking lot? Must be one of the most significant finds in archaeological history – certainly in the British archaeological history.
I think it is amazing how archaeologists have traced a friary where King Richard III was rumoured to have been buried, and which now lies beneath a car park in the town of Leicester, England. Then they made sure the remains were indeed those of the missing king by having DNA tests done on some living descendants. Well there was also the curved spine of the skeleton and its ten battle-related injuries to take into account.
According to history Richard III died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and was only 32 years old when he died. He was also only two years King of England, from 1483 until his death in 1485. After his brother, Edward IV, died Richard was ‘Lord Protector’ of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year old Kind Edward V, who was still a minor so he needed a Protector. Before the young king could be crowned, his father, Edward IV’s marriage to his mother, Elizabeth Woodville, was declared invalid, making the children illegitimate and not entitled for the throne. That made the brother, Richard III, the king. Apparently the princes were not seen in public after August 1483 and there were rumours that the boys had been murdered on their uncle’s orders. But will we ever know the truth?
There is also Shakespeare’s play about Richard III – King Richard the Third, portrayed also by the famous British actor, director and producer Laurence Olivier. Will this historical find make actors decide to play King Richard less of a villain, less of an outrageous king? I doubt it. The fact that Richard III’s remains were found doesn’t change the picture of him in the Shakespeare play. Also Shakespeare was a dramatist, not a historian, so his play is not based on facts.
In Shakespeare’s play Richard III is severly deformed, as the character Richard, Duke of Gloucester describes it in the opening scene:
“I- that am curtail’s of this fair proportion.
Cheated of feature by dissembling nature,
Deform’d, unfinish’d, sent before my time
Into this breathing world scarce half made up,
And that so lamely and unfashionable
That dogs bark at me as I halt by them-“ etc
…you almost feel sorry for him!
The play, believed to have been written in approximately 1592, depicts Richard’s jealousy and ambition. He plots to get his hands on the crown no matter what and succeeds – with consequences.
With this find however, I do believe search engines will work overtime with interest in King Richard III, in Leicester, in England, in Shakespeare and everything else related to this.
And maybe he’ll get a belated state funeral, over five centuries late.