Exhuming Richard III

Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library

Exhuming Richard III

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.

-- from William Shakespeare's Richard III

Image from Black Adder stating "Really Baldrick?  Under a car park?  That was your cunning plan?"

The news this last weekend was remarkable. A team of archaeologists in Leicester were excavating a parking garage, presumed to be the site of a former cathedral and found the remains of the English King, Richard III.  Richard was the last of the Plantagenet kings, and his death was the final blow in the long and bloody "Wars of the Roses" between the houses of Lancaster and York. Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the crown passed to the leader of the Lancastrians, Henry Tudor (Henry VII).*  His death at Bosworth is noteworthy for two reasons:

  • He was the last British monarch to die in battle, and
  • the injuries on the skeletal remains are consistent with the same type of weaponry used in the field of that era.

Most of us have heard of Richard III through Shakespeare’s portrayal of him in his eponymous play, and that depiction of Richard as a violent, deformed and overthrown man begging to trade his kingdom for a horse has lived with us till this day. Folks at the Richard III Society have been working for nearly a century to change that image. 

But all of these pieces of evidence in literature and historical accounts of the aftermath are only pieces of what led to determining these remains to be those of the English king. Another piece of the story can be found in the mitochondrial DNA that links a matrilineal chain of ancestors to the remains found in Leicester. And while the evidence is not 100 percent conclusive, it is still 98-99 percent conclusive, which makes this combination of evidence so compelling.

If you’d like to know more about Richard III, we have a metric ton of resources for you to peruse.  Check these out!
News about the archaeological find

The Wars of the Roses

Blood and Roses

Richard III in History

Richard III in Literature

The Daughter of Time

Richard III in Film
Richard III
Looking for Richard

DNA Evidence and History

The Lost King of France

* You may not remember Henry VII but you certainly have heard of his Tudor lineage, Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

-- Eric S. Riley