‘Let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of Kings’. Well we could do that but the ground outside is frozen at this time of year and besides, the previous sentence refers to King Richard II.
Getting to the point, history is being re-written today as archaeologists have confirmed that a body found under a council car-park in the city of Leicester is beyond reasonable doubt that of King Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England.
For centuries the body of King Richard has been missing ever since he became the last English king to die in battle in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
Whether you know much about this King or not it is possible that you have heard his legendary cry “A horse, a horse my Kingdom for a horse” as mentioned by Shakespeare.
In fact Richard III has suffered 500 years of bad press and much of this is due to Shakespeare who described him as being hunch backed and with rather deficient character traits. To be fair to Shakespeare, he was only building on the prevailing trend to cast Richard as the villain. Another example of history being written by the victors.
Following his death in Battle, King Richard III was thrown over the back of a horse and hastily buried at Greyfriars Church in Leicester. His body might never have been lost but then during the later Dissolution of the Monasteries by King Henry VIII the church was destroyed and rumours were that the body of the former king was thrown into a river.
However recent investigation by a member of a group dedicated to Richard III followed all the clues and stated their belief that the Kings was still buried under the choir of the church. The only problem being that the church had vanished centuries ago and in the intervening years, the city of Leicester had undergone many changes so the precise location of the church wasn’t known although it was thought the specific area of the kings hasty burial was under a council car-park.
In September of 2012 excavations were made and against all expectations the skeletal remains of a man was found. Matching some though not all of the physical descriptions of him, the skeleton was of a male but very slightly built, almost like a woman. The skeletal remains revealed that he had suffered absolutely terrible mortal wounds including that of his his skull. He was found to be suffering from severe scoliosis with one of his shoulders much higher than the other meaning in effect he was disabled. Additionally the placement of the body in the tomb indicated that he had been buried in a hurry which is in keeping with contemporary records.
However leading this information is, it was not enough to definitively prove that the body was that of the much maligned King and so a DNA test was done with DNA take of a Canadian carpenter now residing in London who is descended on his mothers side from Anne St. Leger, the niece of King Richard. The DNA test was conclusive and proved that the remains in the Leicester car park was most likely to be that of King Richard.
It is possible that history will have to be re-written further as it is a well known historical fact that the bodies of 2 princes, thought to be those related to King Richard III were found buried in the walls of the Tower of London. The remains of these two bodies now lie in a tomb with an inscription stating they were murdered by Richard III although there is no certain proof. Now with the DNA of King Richard III confirmed it would be possible to identify these remains although this would require the permission of Queen Elizabeth and the Church.
British school children learn the colours of the rainbow from the rhyme “Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain” but much of the other information we know about him is derogatory propaganda by his successors. Given that he suffered from a deliberating condition and was slightly built at a time when disabilities were not viewed at all well it must say a lot about the man that he succeeded to become King and also that he fought and died in battle, dying whilst fighting bravely amongst a heavy crowd of enemy troop according to Henry Tudors official historian Polydore Vergil.
All this leads us to what will happen to the King now. He is a crowned monarch and would be entitled to a State Funeral in London. Some say that he should be buried in York as he was known as Richard of York and his council did a great deal to improve the conditions of those living in Northern England.
Either way, perhaps now is a good time for a historical re-evaluation of a King who for 500 years has been shown in a negative light. Perhaps this is one sad story of a death of a king which has a happier future.