King Richard III by an unknown artist, late 16th century. Photo: National Portrait Gallery, London.
I’ve just watched the live news conference about the discovery of remains at the dig in Leicester which is hoping to discover the last resting place of Richard III.
I’ve been following this with keen interest as I am a bit of a Richard fan – mostly because it is in my nature to champion what I believe to be the misunderstood of history but also because my grandmother, who raised me, was a HUGE Richard III fan. Many are the hours that I have spent tactfully looking the other way as she wept on the site of Bosworth field or did a lot of bored tramping around Middleham Castle, where he used to live.
To be honest, when they first started excavating the site, which was used as a car park for many years, I didn’t really think they’d find anything other than a few pots, some coins and maybe a shoe so I was pretty astonished when they found first the remains of the Church of Grey Friars where he was said to be buried and then, today, came the announcement that two bodies had been found.
The first body was that of a woman and so clearly couldn’t have belonged to Richard III (although I expect someone somewhere is now working on an alternative Queen Richarda novel even as I write this) but the second seems to have got everyone involved very VERY excited and rightly so.
As they just revealed in a press conference, it is the body of a man who had been seriously injured before death, possibly in battle, and who suffered from Scoliosis or curvature of the spine but did NOT have a hunchback (in YOUR face, Thomas More). He was also discovered buried ‘simply but with honour’ in the choir of the church, the exact location where Richard was said to be interred.
This is all VERY exciting news.
Richard Taylor, Leicester University’s Head of Internal Affairs had this to say:
“I am going to be really frank with you. The University has always been clear that any remains would need to be subjected to rigorous laboratory and DNA 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 the search for Richard III it has entered a new phase.
The skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive, further and detailed examination.
Clearly we are very excited by these latest discoveries. We have said finding Richard was a long shot. However it is a testament to the skill of the archaeological team… that such extensive progress has been made.
It is a powerful and extraordinary story. It needs proper and rigorous testing. There is strong circumstantial evidence. It is potentially a big find.”
Of course they can’t say for absolute certain that the remains belong to Richard III and so they’re now off for genetic testing thanks to the discovery of a descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne of York (I bet all the ‘I’m descended from Richard III’ crew one encounters in the dark corners of the internet are gutted right now not to have been contacted about this) who is able to supply precious matrilineal DNA for comparison with whatever they manage to extract from the skeleton. I believe they also said that they have someone working on a picture of what the man may have looked like, based on his skeletal features.
There’s now some talk about what will happen to the remains if they are indeed proved to be those of Richard III. Will they be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral or is there any chance that his final resting place could be the altogether more fitting York Minster? I do hope so.
My grandmother and I were completely estranged at the time of her death but even so I like to think that she would be really thrilled by all of this.
What do you think?