Tuesday, 24 March 2015


Richard of York gave battle in vain.

Indeed he did, at Bosworth in 1485 - although whether the acronym refers to King Richard III or his father, another Richard, Duke of York, who died at the battle of Wakefield and thus failed to become King of England, is uncertain.

What turbulent times those were, back in the 15th century.  England was riven apart by the Wars of the Roses in which the Tudors of Lancaster vied with the Plantagenets of York for the throne.  They were called the Wars of the Roses because each side had a rose as an emblem, the red rose of Lancaster and the white rose of York.  Bosworth was the final battle in the wars which led to the death of Richard, the last of the Plantagenets, and the rise of the Tudors.  (One needed to be pretty tough to be a king back in those days; the king was expected to lead his army into battle.)

Richard's body, stripped naked, was dragged from the battlefield and buried in a shallow grave at a monastery in Leicester.  The monastery eventually gave way to a car park (though I assume other buildings were there in between) and an architectural dig discovered the skeleton some two and a half years ago.  It was proved to be the skeleton of Richard III by DAN comparison, as explained by the University of Leicester:
"Cecily Neville, Richard’s mother, would have passed down her mitochondrial DNA type to all of her children. This means that Richard III and Anne of York inherited the same mtDNA from their mother - and as long as Anne’s daughter(s) had a daughter, who had a daughter (highly likely in an age when eight to ten children was common!) and so on, the mtDNA type (or a near identical type) will have been passed down those lines of descent. Michael Ibsen and Wendy Duldig are two such female-line relatives of Richard III."
Anyway, the remains are to be re-interred later this week. Last Sunday, the coffin containing the skeleton was taken from the University to Bosworth and then back to Leicester where it is to lie in state in the cathedral.  I was amazed how many people turned out to watch:

Copied from telegraph.co.uk

There is still some confusion - and, indeed, argument -over whether or not Richard was the evil man portrayed by Shakespeare who was responsible for the murders of his two nephews, both of whom were before him in the line of succession and by whose deaths he became king.  It has been suggested that this story was made up by the Tudors, the last of whom was still ruling when Shakespeare is believed to have written his play (1592).  The Bard would not have wanted to cause offence to the sovereign, so he would have toed the party line - he probably knew no different anyway.

On the other hand, Richard is said to have been a good king and was responsible for introducing a number of significant changes to English law, including the presumption of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and a reformation of the jury system.  But history is written by the victors.

Either way, on Thursday this week, King Richard will receive a proper burial - 530 years after his death!


Mike @ A Bit About Britain said...

I'm fascinated by the reinvention of Richard III and much amused by the emotion on the part of some of his 'fans'. It was a brilliant piece of work finding him, though. We missed the ceremony - amazed by the crowds - probably close to the population of Tudor Leicester!

Sarah said...

I guess the jury will always be out on what kind of man he really was but it does seem fitting that he was removed from under the carpark.