The grave of King Richard III finally found?

Richard III has become known, perhaps unfairly, as one of the most notorious kings ever to rule England. This may be partly to do with the history written by the Tudors, whose description of him formed Shakespeare’s dramatisation. Archaeologists searching for the grave of King Richard III say they have found bones that are consistent with the 15th century monarch’s physical abnormality and of a man who died in battle.

A team from the University of Leicester said the bones were beneath the site of the Grey Friars church in Leicester, central England, where contemporary accounts say Richard was buried following his death in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Richard III, King of England

Richard Buckley, co-director of the university’s Archaeological Services, said the bones are a “prime candidate” to be Richard’s. The remains are now being examined and the team hopes that DNA can be recovered to aid identification.

William Shakespeare, writing more than a century after Richard’s death, described the king as “deform’d, unfinished,” a monster with a deformed conscience who murdered his nephews in order to gain the throne. The murder charge is a matter of historical dispute. The official royal website says the young princes “disappeared” while under Richard’s protection.

Taylor said the skeleton displayed spinal abnormalities consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. “We believe that the individual would have had severe scoliosis, which is a form of spinal curvature,” Taylor said. He said the skeleton was apparently of an adult male and in good condition. There were signs of trauma to the skull shortly before death, perhaps from a bladed instrument, and a barbed metal arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the upper back.

Buckley and his team identified a possible location of the grave through map regression analysis, starting with a current map and analyzing earlier maps to discover what had changed and not changed. Ground penetrating radar was employed.

King Richard III (1452 – 1485)

Richard was the eighth and youngest son of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and his wife Cicely Neville. He was born at Fotheringay Castle, Northamptonshire, on 2nd October 1452.  Richard was only 8 years old when his brother Edward was proclaimed king and he was created Duke of Gloucester on the eve of Edward’s coronation. He was a loyal and loving brother to the king and fought bravely in the later stages of the civil war, ending with the battle of Tewkesbury, following which his later denigrators were to allege he stabbed Henry VI’s son Edward, Prince of Wales, with his own hand.

The Chiddingly Boar, medieval silver-gilt livery badge of Richard III

On 12th July 1472 Richard was married at Westminster to the Edward’s widow, Anne, the younger daughter and co-heiress of Richard Neville, 1st Earl of Warwick (known as “The Kingmaker”). Her elder sister Isabel had married Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, in 1469. These marriages caused a rift between the two brothers as George had hoped to retain all the Warwick estates for himself, and when he died in the Tower in 1478 Richard was suspected of having a hand in his death, although the charge remains unproven as do so many others brought against him.

Richard III and Anne Neville

Edward IV’s death made Richard Lord High Protector of the Realm for his nephew. Richard conducted 12-year-old Prince Edward to London with every sign of loyalty and they were met outside the city by the Lord Mayor and leading citizens, who escorted them to the Tower, which it is alleged the young king never left again.

Princes in Tower – Edward, Prince of Wales and Richard, Duke of York

Some weeks later Robert Stillington, Bishop of Bath and Wells, questioned the marriage of prince’s parents, king Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. The Parliament declared the marriage invalid and their children bastards. It followed that young Edward V was no longer king and he was declared deposed on 25th June 1483. His uncle being proclaimed the King Richard III in his place at Westminster Abbey on 6th July 1483.

Death of princes in Tower

Richard was a small, slightly built man in contrast to his brother. He had one shoulder slightly higher than the other, but was far from being the malformed hunchback described by the Tudor propagandists. His portraits, all of one type, reveal a not unpleasant face with a rather worried expression. Richard showed every sign of being a competent ruler, but was never destined to prove his worth.

Richard III at Bosworth Field

The king and queen suffered a great blow on 9th April 1484 when their only child, Edward, Prince of Wales, who had always been sickly, died at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire. Queen Anne, always in poor health herself,never recovered from the shock and died at the Palace of Westminster on 16th March 1485, age 28. She was buried in Westminster Abbey and in recent years the Richard III Society commissioned a wall plaque in her memory to be affixed near the site of her tomb.

Henry Tudor

Richard nominated his nephew John de la Pole, earl of Lincoln, as heir presumptive, but the Lancastrians had found a new champion in the person of Henry Tudor, whose claim to the throne was tenuous to say the least. Henry landed at Milford Haven in August 1485 and travelled through Wales gaining support. Richard was in the north, but marched to Leicester with his army. The two armies met at Bosworth Field on 22nd August. The king’s army was twice the size of Henry’s, but the turning point of the battle came when Lord Stanley (Henry’s stepfather) and his 7,000 men deserted Richard and went over to Henry. Richard fought bravely to the last, but was finally cut down. The crest crown from his helmet fell off and rolled under a thorn bush, whence Stanley retrieved it and placed it on the head of  Henry Tudor.

Death of King Richard III

Richard’s body, stripped of its armour, was laid across the back of a packhorse and taken back into Leicester, where it was buried in Grey Friars Abbey. At the Dissolution, his bones were dug up and thrown into the River Soar. He now has a monument in Leicester Cathedral, placed there by the Richard III Society.

Other related articles you might like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *