The King: Is it or isn’t it Richard Plantagenet?
The news this week has been exciting. (Understatement)
First, congratulations to University of Leicester multi-discipline crew who have performed such detailed research over a number of years to reach this point! The few publicly available clips of a press conference Sept. 12, indicate that the crew can barely contain their excitement. While measuring their words, as all professional scientists and historians must do. (I have been bouncing on My couch (NOT Oprah’s) while reading the media reports.)
However, it seems that the choir area of the Greyfriars church has not only been identified from artifacts found, but yes, human male remains were discovered. (Burial in the choir area indicates the presence of a high-born personage.) Further visual indications strongly suggest a violent death. The skull has a cleavage, consistent with having been subjected to a battle weapon. An arrowhead has been found in the rib area. Again, this is consistent with a contemporary account of the king’s death at Bosworth.
An interesting find is that the skeleton appears to indicate scoliosis, a spinal curvature, again consistent with descriptions of Richard III. But far from the Tudor/Shakespeare description of a hunch-backed cripple with a withered arm. Difficult to imagine a one-armed, crippled hunch-back as the battle-hardened warrior also described in contemporary and near-contemporary accounts. If these proves to be the remains of Richard III, it is amazing to imagine the strength of mind and spirit required to build the strength and skill, in the face of the pain and difficulty of managing a severe spinal problem.
For me, an additional personal interest (apart from having been deeply interested in this king and his times for decades), are some Canadian connections. The MtDNA is belongs to a British lady who moved to Canada following WWII. Her DNA sample, following a genealogical trace some years ago, indicates her descent from Richard’s maternal family. Dr. Turi King, of the University of Leicester forensic team, is Canadian. Small details, but adding to the personal excitement. The Canadian media has already posted accounts to date of this project.
Now, a wait for the MtDNA results. Even if a match does not prove true, or indecisive, the dig will have provided a light into 14th C history. At the least, the probability that this Richard III is high. Remember, the truth of the deaths of his nephews remains unknown, and unproven. Despite disputed origin of bones found at the Tower.
A wonderful aspect has been the convergence of history experts, archaeologists, forensic scientists, a university, and Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society, to push this project to this point. And to have been rewarded (understatement) by the current results. And congratulations to all the other supporters of the project.