Richard III’s body discovered—world rejoices

Well, it sure seems like it, anyway. Practically everyone I know on Facebook, for example, which is mostly Americans, has mentioned this. As has just about every news organization in the world. There will always be an England, apparently. Anyway, for those just returning on holiday from Venus, a body discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester has been identified through DNA analysis as being that of Richard III, immortalized as the apotheosis of evil by Shakespeare. Actually, it’s not quite as casual as that makes it sound.

First of all, the parking lot is also the former site of the church where Richard was said to have been buried after he was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485—the battle that ended the War of the Roses, ended the Plantagenet dynasty and ushered in the reign of the Tudors. Richard was apparently buried in a Greyfriars church near the battlefield, but the church was destroyed in the 16th century during the Reformation, and its exact location lost. But it has been suspected for some time that the modern parking lot was put in over some of that area. So there were reasonable grounds for thinking that if a body turned up there, it could be that of Richard.

Second, as we know from our Shakespeare, Richard was a hunchback. Historians and authors have referred to Richard as being deformed, if not worse. In fact, Richard was indeed known to have had some sort of back deformity. So finding a body with such a deformity was the key—and that indeed was what was found several months ago—it looks as if it was afflicted with scoliosis. There was some initial excitement when the body was discovered, but the parties involved—led by archeologists at the University of Leicester—wanted to do the DNA testing, having found a plausible descendant. Which is now done. And it is indeed Richard.

And they’ve done one of those gee-whiz facial reconstructions they do all the time on Bones or CSI, or like what Abby does every week or so on NCIS, so now we have some idea what Richard might have looked like. Life does imitate art after all. And you know what? He looks pretty much like the portrait of him that’s hanging in the National Portrait Gallery (which has been reproduced in the stamp above)—which is notable because it wasn’t taken from life (there are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard). How cool is that?

The body is going to be interred at Leicester Cathedral. Whether we’ll get a national holiday out of this remains to be seen, but I imagine it will be proposed by someone. We do love our royalty here.

Next up? Alfred, of course!

Categories: Arts/Literature, History

6 replies »

  1. pip. pip. the similarity between the reconstruction and the portrait may not be coincidence. i’ve never quite trusted the whole facial reconstruction business anyway.

  2. I’m related to both Richard III and Alfred (according to my wife’s genealogical research). Mayhap I’ll end up as part of a parking lot or under a pile of fossilized scones….Either way – though I do like a good blueberry scone….