Daily Archives: February 4, 2013

Richard III, DNA and Josephine Tey

How exciting! There really is a King in the car-park! It’s Richard III!

Richard III

Richard III

Last September, bones were excavated from under a car-park in Leicester, UK, where in the 15th Century there once stood Greyfriars Church. Richard III was killed nearby in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field and, it turns out, was buried, somewhat hastily according to the Lead Archaeologist, Richard Buckley from Leicester University. He says that the grave was clumsily cut with sloping sides and not big enough for the body and he said, “There was no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would have left the bones in a more compact position.Unusually, the arms are crossed and this could be an indication the body was buried with the wrists still tied.”

We already know that after death, Richard was stripped naked on the battlefield and thrown over the back of a horse and that he did not receive the burial of a King but, until now, we didn’t know exactly where he was.

There seems to be plenty of evidence following ‘rigorous academic study’ to support this identification:

  • The skeleton is that of a man aged late 20s – early 30s according to Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist and we know that Richard was 32 when he died.
  • The bones have been carbon dated to between 1455 and 1540
  • The skeleton’s spine is curved (Contemporary Historians describe Richard as having a curved posture and of course, Shakespeare has him as a hunchbacked villain)
  • The injuries are many and consistent with a violent death  -10 injuries including 8 to the skull at ‘around’ the time of death. Some may have been inflicted after death and that too is consistent with historical accounts. There is also evidence of some “humiliation injuries’ which would have been inflicted after death.
  • But, best of all, the genealogists have been able to trace an ancestor and to match the DNA! They found a 17th generation descendant of Richard’s sister in Canada! Unfortunately she died a few years ago but her son is right here in London and gave a DNA sample.   Dr Turi King, project geneticist, said, “There is a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Greyfriars dig.  In short, the DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III.”

Isn’t that just remarkable?  I’ve long been a defender of Richard! As a youngster, I read Josephine Tey’s ‘The Daughter of Time” and was convinced by the fictional Inspector Grant’s conclusion, after researching reference books and contemporary documents, that Richard was totally innocent of the murder of the Princes in the Tower!

Actually, history shows that despite being King for only 26 months he passed significant legal reforms that protected the ordinary citizen.  He introduced the idea of bail and he outlawed the introduction of taxes without the assent of both Houses of Parliament. He had a reputation for fairness and mediation. He was known to be a skilled and valiant knight in battle. He was loyal to his brother, King Edward IV, who loved him and entrusted him with the care of the young Princes and he was much loved by the people especially in the North of England.

To me, Richard was no villain and Shakespeare and the rumour-mongers have much to answer for!

I wonder what you think? Was Richard a murderous villain or a much maligned man of his times?

I know this is not my usual post but to me a series of beautiful things led to this discovery!



Posted by on February 4, 2013 in History, Postaday2013, quotations


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