I would be a sad, sad history major indeed if I didn’t comment on THE biggest news of the day (sorry, Ravens fans) for we Anglophiles and lovers of all things history-related.
A skeleton found in a car park in Leicester was confirmed to be the remains of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England.
Richard III (1452-1485) was the youngest brother of King Edward IV, and Duke of Gloucester until his brother’s death in 1483. Edward IV’s heir, his son, Edward V, was 13 years old, the product of his illicit marriage to a commoner, Elizabeth Woodville. Richard, acting quickly, took up the position of Lord Protector during the minority of his young nephew, and had both the young King Edward V and his little brother, Richard Duke of York, sequestered in the Tower of London, ostensibly for their safety. Shortly after, he declared that his brother Edward IV’s marriage to Elizabeth Woodville was bigamy (as Edward had been betrothed to another woman when he married without Parliaments’ assent), which rendered her son illegitimate and unfit to rule. Richard III was formally crowned on July 6, 1483. Edward V and Richard Duke of York were never seen again.
Richard’s reign was plagued with tragedy — the death of his son and heir, the death of his wife, and the constant taint of scandal that followed him, not only concerning the Princes in the Tower, but of the execution of his former friend and ally, the Duke of Buckingham, without trial, and of his misconduct with the Princes’ sister, Elizabeth of York, whom Richard was accused of attempting to seduce and marry in order to cement his claim to the throne.
Richard’s infamous reign came to an end at the Battle of Bosworth Field, when he met rival claimant to the throne Henry Tudor. Though Richard fought bravely, and according to reports, nearly tangled with Henry Tudor himself, he was killed reportedly by a blow to the head. Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII, married Princess Elizabeth of York, and brought an end to the infamous Wars of the Roses between the rival houses of Lancaster and York. Henry VII and Elizabeth of York had four living children, one of whom would grow up to be Henry VIII, England’s most famous male monarch.
Richard III is the last English king to die on the field of battle, and the conclusive identification of his remains does much more than just provide England the opportunity to bury their fallen king in a more fitting and dignified grave than a pit under a car park. It also lays to rest some of the more disturbing legends about Richard’s physical appearance, made notorious by such writers as William Shakespeare.
The skeleton (seen above) shows clear signs of serious scoliosis or curvature of the spine. But the bones of both of Richard’s forearms seem intact and healthy, as do his shoulders…putting to bed the rumors that Richard was a deformed hunchback with a withered arm.
This BLOWS MY MIND. I am so excited by this find, something I never expected to happen and barely hoped for when the announcement that excavators may have discovered a skeleton that belonged to Richard III. It’s an incredible find, and I look forward to hearing about any other forensic discoveries that may be found, and seeing what happens to the royal remains concerning where and how they are laid to rest.