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TSS: Finding Richard III

It’s been all over the news in the last few weeks in the UK – archaeologists digging in Leicester may well have found Richard III. Even if it wasn’t across the internet, it’s now been covered by the magazines I read.

When a group of archaeologists from the University of Leicester began digging in a car park in a search for the Franciscan Priory where Richard was supposedly buried, I admit I was sceptical. Archaeology is fantastic and reveals tons of information that informs our understanding of the past, but searching for one person whose burial site has long been lost? I thought they were foolish to publicize the fact that they were actively looking for the king who has been the source of so much speculation because it was so unlikely that they’d find him. Yet here we are, with the archaeologists having found a skeleton that has clear evidence of unhealed battle wounds and one shoulder higher than the other, buried in the highest status position in the church and with evidence of a hurried burial without a coffin. With the dig covered in at least two of the bigger magazines this month, it’s a subject that has attracted a huge amount of attention:

richard iii magazines

I’m fascinated by this in a sort of morbid way. Like probably most others who study history, I like to visit the mortal remains of the people that I find most interesting. Plenty of them have been lost, and Richard III has always been one of those figures. Finding his bones, if the DNA analysis proves that they are his, changes a few things about history the way we’ve understood it. We may now discover if his shoulder was actually higher on one side and how the end of the battle went, but we’re still not going to know whether or not he killed the famed princes in the tower. Yet this particular king has caught public attention for hundreds of years, both as a popular villain and as a king that some feel deserves a break. He has a society devoted to him and many many works of history and fiction attempting to do one of the two.

I waver between these two attitudes. Understanding the context around the history makes the question even harder to answer, although I tend to lean towards the fact that they were murdered under his watch these days. Will that stop me from visiting his grave, if this is him and when they finally decide where he will lie (in York, as he possibly wished, or in Leicester, where he was found) after all these years? No, I don’t think so. If anything, it’s incredibly interesting to me to watch this unfold, as it will inevitably become part of Richard III’s history, more than five hundred years after his death, even if it isn’t him. It is a tiny part that I actually get to live through, and these reminders that history happens all around us, all the time, are always welcome.

Have you heard about this potential discovery? What are your thoughts?

9 comments to TSS: Finding Richard III

  • I saw a news headline about this the other day and immediately thought of you. Love your thoughts about our relationship with history and how these things are tangible reminders that it happens all around us.
    Ana @ things mean a lot´s last post …Living Color by by Nina G. Jablonski

  • Nope, I hadn’t heard that, but with the election coming up, I’ve been avoiding the news.
    bermudaonion(Kathy)´s last post …Author event and giveaway: Emily Colin

  • This is fun. My money is on no hunch. I wonder if they’ll do one of those facial reconstructions based on the skull that you sometimes see on television detective programs.
    cbjames´s last post …Sunday Salon: "In There Shoes."

  • I had no idea! How interesting. I am a Richard III fan, mostly due to The Sunne in Splendour and The Daughter of Time ;-) What makes you think now that he did do it?
    Aarti´s last post …Musings: The Chaos Walking Trilogy

  • I did hear about this (on the internets, of course), and it’s pretty cool! Honestly, I didn’t know his body was missing, but I’ve read several books debating whether or not he killed the princes. I agree, even if he didn’t order it, it happened on his watch, so in some way he is responsible. To what degree we’ll probably never know.
    heidenkind´s last post …TSS: High School Reads

  • i can see why this has historians very excited – we all like to unravel mysteries. As you say though it won’t help solve many of the main questions about his role in the disappearance of the two princes. If they do find it, no doubt it will become a visitor attraction but the reason for people wanting to go there is something I don’t really get. Just as I don’t understand why people flock to the graves of any other famous person. I don’t mean that to sound critical of them, its just something that I can’t comprehend.
    Karen´s last post …New Themes: Hum, Monster, and Timepiece

  • I’ve been following this on the news too. I think it is all rather fascinating. One news segment I watched was on about the terrible wounds inflicted on him during his last battle, he really did go down fighting if this turns out to be him. But if I’m honest I really don’t know a lot about Richard III except for the suspicion of the princes that is attached to him. I think he is someone I definitely need to find out more about.
    jessicabookworm´s last post …Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management

  • I love history, but I am so getting cremated because the idea of someone digging up my remains creeps me OUT. It’s important to do, but no one is putting my bones on display in a case (or ugh on TV).
    Bookgazing´s last post …Return to Ballou

  • I knew this was happening but hadn’t heard of the description of the skeleton, seems it’s a lot more likely than first thought! You make a good point though, that we won’t know who killed the princes. It’s so much a part of the mystery of Richard overall that maybe subconsciously we’re thinking that finding his body might lead to an answer over that question? It is amazing that this is happening today – technology and knowledge makes it easier now, perhaps – but it’s as you suggest, working on the medieval and so famous, in our 21st century.