Richard III’s Kingly Corpse Unearthed Under Parking Lot; Where Will He Be Reburied?
Richard III's remains were unearthed underneath a parking lot in Leicester in August, but the DNA confirmation took five months and researchers announced today that, indeed, the remains belonged to Richard III.
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"It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in September 2012 is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England," Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist of the University of Leicester, said at the announcement Monday in the city north of London.
Richard III was the last English king to die in battle, losing his life against the forces of Henry VII during the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. Although Richard possessed superior numbers, several of his key lieutenants defected. The remains found in Leicester included a cleaved skull, indicating that Richard III died of blunt force trauma to the head. In addition, Richard III's remains also had ten other battle wounds, many of which were believed to be "post-mortem humiliation injuries," according to Jo Appleby, project osteologist of the University of Leicester.
Richard III's death marks a significant moment in British history, when the royal line changed from Richard III's House of York to Henry's House of Tudors. After he died, Richard III's body was taken to Leicester where it was buried at Greyfriars Church in a Franciscan Friary which was subsequently destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. His final resting place was lost to history, until now.
"For me it's an absolute privilege to be a part, even in a small way, of such a historically significant series of events," said Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of Anne of York, Richard's elder sister and the subject used by researchers to confirm the DNA results.
Richard III's legacy involves a good deal of infamy, thanks to the Shakespeare play "Richard III." In the play, Richard III is a malevolent, deformed tyrant who locks his nephews away in the tower of London so that they will die and he will become king. This is partly based on the truth, Richard III did sequester his nephews to the Tower but it was for their safety; however, he started a smear campaign against their father so that he could ascend to the throne after casting his nephews as illegitimate heirs. Much of the anti-Richard III sentiment in British history is the result of Tudor propaganda spread shortly after his death.
Now that researchers have confirmed the remains are King Richard III, the next question is where to re-bury him. According to the Washington Post, Church of England protocol suggests that the bones stay where they were found and be reburied in nearby Leicester Cathedral. But some supporters insist that his remains be reinterred at the Anglican cathedral in York, where history suggests that he wanted to be buried.
Others argued that Richard III should receive a royal burial at Westminster Abbey, saying it is the only appropriate place to hold a funeral for a British monarch. However, that idea has been dismissed by Queen Elizabeth II, whose royal lineage would not exist if not for the actions undertaken by Henry VII.
"We understand the queen has suggested that she doesn't want him there," said Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society. "But it would be nice if we could at least have a procession, with the coffin being carried in a stately carriage."
However, the fate of Richard III seems to be inexorably tied to Leicester. The mayor of Leicester, Peter Soulsby, announced an agreement Monday to bury the king's remains at Leicester Cathedral. The Leicester City Council approved the plan, hoping it would bring more tourists to Leicester to see his final resting place, as well as a soon-to-opened exhibit at the excavation site.
Richard III's legacy receives a new chapter with hi re-burial. But his persona will rage on inside the lines of Shakespeare's play "Richard III," which was responsible for some of literature's most memorable lines:
"Now is the winter of our discontent." Richard III Quote (Act I, Scene I)
"A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!" (Act V, Scene IV)
"Conscience is but a word that cowards use, devised at first to keep the strong in awe."(Act V, Scene III)
"So wise so young, they say, do never live long." (Act III, Scene I)
"Off with his head!" (Act III, Scene IV)
"An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told." (Act IV, Scene IV)
"The king's name is a tower of strength." (Act V, Scene III)
"The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch." (Act I, Scene III)
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