Richard III, DNA and Josephine Tey

04 Feb

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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19 responses to “Richard III, DNA and Josephine Tey

  1. Mrs. Miniver

    May 4, 2014 at 3:29 am

    Richard’s motto: Loyalty binds me. It makes no sense that Richard III killed his own nephews – he was their protector and also loved his family, including his brother Edward IV. After gazing at the portrait of Henry VII (crafty, wispy-haired old thing, husband of Edward IV’s daughter (yuck) and father of Henry VIII) I definitely concur with Tey that Henry VII and subsequent Tudors murdered all the Plantagenets they could get their hands on. And in his mad rush to legitimize his “claim” to the throne, used-car salesman Henry VII named his first-born son Arthur. Cor blimey.

  2. thoughtsfromanamericanwoman

    February 6, 2013 at 3:31 am

    I am finding this whole story very interesting. British history has always fascinated me.

  3. saymber

    February 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I was really surprised about this news – kind of when they found all of the Russian Royal families remains (finally Annastasia!).

  4. Don

    February 5, 2013 at 11:25 am

    I’m afraid I too do not accept Shakespeare’s portrayal of him. I do believe it’s Tudor propaganda. Lovely post – thank you.

  5. Don

    February 5, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I’ve been following the story of Richard 3 – Absolutely wonderful.

  6. petit4chocolatier

    February 5, 2013 at 10:58 am

    One of my favorites parts of history! Wonderful 🙂

  7. Yvonne

    February 5, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Gosh this is well put, much more interesting than the articles I have seen so far in the press on this matter. DNA is a wonderful discovery, isn’t it? I often wonder how many people in years gone by would not have been executed had DNA been around at the time to prove their innocence, or how many guilty people would have been sentenced.

  8. Choc Chip Uru

    February 5, 2013 at 4:56 am

    I was so excited when I heard about it it’s incredible!!!
    I love their history!

    Choc Chip Uru

  9. valeriedavies

    February 5, 2013 at 4:52 am

    Dear Sally, I’m not totally convinced yet of Richard’s innocence or un-involvement in the deaths of his nephews! Can see I’ll have to do some more reading!
    But what I found so fascinating about the find of his grave was the playwrite who was researching him, should have felt so strange and cold and have chills running up and down her spine which convinced her that she was standing on top of his grave, and she was!

  10. El Guapo

    February 5, 2013 at 3:17 am

    I know next to nothing about Richard III. But I was astounded that the DNA they used to match was of a direct descendant of Richard’s sister.
    The thought of a direct line to history like that always amazes me.

  11. mixedupmeme

    February 5, 2013 at 12:37 am

    So interesting. And you have explained it better than some other places I read. 🙂

  12. Patricia Jane

    February 5, 2013 at 12:33 am

    Fascinating!! And I do enjoy your blog!

    • mybeautfulthings

      February 5, 2013 at 2:09 pm

      I’m glad to hear that! Thank you for calling in and taking the time to comment – much appreciated! 🙂

  13. jenyjenny

    February 4, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    Fascinating! Thanks for your post!

  14. babyjill7...Marilyn Griffin

    February 4, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    interesting indeed!

  15. john zande

    February 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    All hail the King! It’s a wonderful discovery, and a ringing endorsement of DNA science. Win, win!

  16. Hilary Auty

    February 4, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Totally agree. I also read Daughter of Time many years ago and it really ignited my interest in Richard III. Xx

    Sent from my iPad

  17. Purnimodo

    February 4, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    Read this today in the Daily Mail. Such awesome news!!


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