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Leicester Skeleton: Effectively Proven Richard, If Not A Villain…

  • February 5th, 2013
  • Posted by EUEditor

richard-iii-skeleton.jpgThe skeleton found under a Leicester car park, in England, has been identified “beyond reasonable doubt” as that of King Richard III.

The man was killed in a civil war battle close to the city in 1485, and buried by monks at a church that was later demolished, during the religious purges of Henry VIII.

The Richard III Society assembled the work of archeologists and DNA scientists to determine where the church had been, excavate the simple grave, inspect the skeleton for identifiers, and test the DNA against descendants.

Injuries to the skeleton were consistent with wounds in battle, and then mistreatment, with “insult injuries” added perhaps before and also after death.

The dead body was propped in the hole not laid out, with no coffin or shroud, and the wrists were crossed as if bound.

Very tellingly, for the recorded history and legend of Richard III, the dead man suffered scoliosis; he was known to posterity as a hunchback king and an evil one.

richard-iii-frontispage.jpgWilliam Shakespeare’s
play Richard III, produced a little more than a century after the death in battle, took up, and perpetuated the story of a short and bloody reign. (See image, first Quarto, wikipedia).

It is not known in fact if the king was as bad as made out by his detractors, who got to tell the story; or to what extent the disability made it worse for him.

The Shakespeare story makes Richard a cynic, harmed by his bent frame, which others in that time were prepared to see as a sign of his wickedness:

“I am determined to prove a villain, and hate the idle pleasures of these days”, he would say.

He could be cruelly reassuring and seductive; he would commit or commission murders, to serve his ambition; most salaciously, in Richard III, he is made responsible for the infamous killing of the two boys in the Tower of London, the young Prince of Wales and his brother.

The death of the real-life Richard, who was able to rule for just over two years, ended the Plantagenet dynasty, making way for Henry VII the first Tudor king.

john-bell-richard-iii.jpgPlaying the character in Shakespeare with a plausible psychological demeanour has attracted the best of actors, including David Garrick, Laurence Olivier, and in Australia John Bell, (see picture).

Shakespeare’s Richard will continue to appear. The Royal Shakespeare Company has a production scheduled for the end of the year of Richard II, perhaps satisfying for now of any new taste in the “history” plays that the find at Leicester might inspire.

The remains of the real King Richard are destined for a more dignified resting place such as Westminster Abbey.


BBC News – Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king’s, 4.2.13., (5.2.13).

RSC, Stratford Upon Avon, (Home)., (5.2.13).

Pictures   wikipedia,