Skip to comments.Body Under British Parking Lot May Be King Richard III
Posted on 12/29/2012 12:47:51 AM PST by nickcarraway
Search for infamous monarchs remains is the latest in the rush to dig up the dead and famous
For centuries, William Shakespeare seemed to have the last word. His Richard III glowered and leered from the stage, a monster in human form and a character so repugnant "that dogs bark at me as I halt by them." In Shakespeare's famous play, the hunchbacked king claws his way to the throne and methodically murders most of his immediate familyhis wife, older brother, and two young nephewsuntil he suffers defeat and death on the battlefield at the hands of a young Tudor hero, Henry VII.
(Related: "Shakespeare's Coined Words Now Common Currency.")
To shed new light on the long vilified king, a British scientific team has tracked down and excavated his reputed burial spot and exhumed skeletal remains that may well belong to the long-lost monarch. The team is conducting a CSI-style investigation of the body in hopes of conclusively identifying Richard III, a medieval king who ruled England for two brief years before perishing at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Results on the investigation are expected in January.
But the much maligned monarch is not the only historical heavyweight to be exhumed. Since the 1980s, forensic experts have dug up the remains of many famous peoplefrom Christopher Columbus (video) and Simón Bolívar to Jesse James, Marie Curie, Lee Harvey Oswald, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Bobby Fischer. Just last month, researchers in Ramallah (map) disinterred the body of Yasser Arafat, hoping to new glean clues to his death in 2004. Rumors long suggested that Israeli agents poisoned the Palestinian leader with a fatal dose of radioactive polonium-210.
(Read more about poisoning from National Geographic magazine's "Pick Your Poison12 Toxic Tales.")
Indeed, forensic experts have disinterred the legendary dead for a wide range of reasonsincluding to move their remains to grander tombs befitting their growing fame, collect DNA samples for legal cases, and obtain data on the medical conditions that afflicted them. Such exhumations, says anatomist Frank Rühli at the Centre for Evolutionary Medicine, University of Zurich, always raise delicate ethical issues. But in the case of early historical figures, scientists can learn much that is of value to society. "Research on ancient samples provides enormous potential for understanding [questions concerning our] cultural heritage and the evolution of disease," Rühli notes in an emailed response.
Franciscan Resting Place?
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester began actively searching for the burial place of Richard III this past August. According to historical accounts, Tudor troops carried Richard's battered corpse from the Bosworth battlefield and displayed it in the nearby town of Leicester before local Franciscan fathers buried the body in their friary choir. With clues from historic maps, the archaeological team located foundations of the now vanished friary beneath a modern parking lot, and during excavation, the team discovered the skeleton of an adult male interred under the choir floorexactly where Richard III was reportedly buried.
The newly discovered skeleton has scoliosis, a curvature of the spine that may have resulted in a slightly lopsided appearance, and this may have inspired Shakespeare's exaggerated depiction of Richard as a Quasimodo-like figure. Moreover, the body bears clear signs of battle trauma, including a fractured skull and a barbed metal arrowhead embedded in the vertebrae. And even the burial place points strongly to Richard. English armies at the time simply left their dead on the field of battle, but someone carted this body off and interred it in a place of honor.
Taken together, these early clues, says Jo Appleby, the University of Leicester bioarchaeologist studying the remains, strongly suggest that the team has found the legendary king. Otherwise, she observes, "I think we'd have a hard time explaining how a skeleton with those characteristics got buried there."
But much work remains to clinch the case. Geneticists are now comparing DNA sequences from the skeleton to those obtained from a modern-day Londoner, Michael Ibsen, who is believed to be a descendant of Richard III's sister. In addition, forensic pathologists and medieval-weapons scholars are poring over signs of trauma on the skeleton to determine cause of death, while a radiocarbon-dating lab is helping to pin down the date. And at the University of Dundee in Scotland, craniofacial identification expert Caroline Wilkinson is now working on a reconstruction of the dead man's face for a possible match with historic portraits of Richard III. All this, says Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on the project, "will help us put flesh on the bones, so to speak."
Digging Up History
Elsewhere, teams digging up the historic dead have contented themselves with more modest goals. In Texas, for example, forensic experts opened the grave of Lee Harvey Oswald in October 1981 to identify beyond doubt the man who shot President John F. Kennedy. A British lawyer and author had claimed that a Soviet agent impersonated Oswald and assassinated the American president. To clarify the situation, the forensic experts compared dental x-rays taken during Oswald's stint in the United States Marine Corps to a record they made of the body's teeth. The two matched well, prompting the team to announce publicly that "the remains in the grave marked as Lee Harvey Oswald are indeed Lee Harvey Oswald."
More recently, in 2010, Iceland's supreme court ordered forensic experts to exhume the body of the late world chess champion Bobby Fischer from his grave in Iceland in order to obtain DNA samples to determine whether Fischer was the father of one of the claimants to his estate. (The tests ruled this out.) And that same year, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez ordered forensic experts to open the casket of Simón Bolívar, the renowned 19th century Venezuelan military leader who fought for the independence of Spanish America from colonial rule. Chavez believes that Bolívar died not from tuberculosis, as historians have long maintained, but of arsenic poisoning, and has launched an investigation into the cause of his death.
For some researchers, this recent spate of exhumations has raised a key question: Who should have a say in the decision to disinter or not? In the view of Guido Lombardi, a paleopathologist at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, investigators should make every effort to consult descendants or family members before proceeding. "Although each case should be addressed individually," notes Lombardi by email. "I think the surviving relatives of a historical figure should approve any studies first."
But tracking down the descendants of someone who died many centuries ago is no easy matter. Back in Leicester, research on the remains found beneath the friary floor is proceeding. If all goes according to plan, the team hopes to announce the results sometime in January. And if the ancient remains prove to be those of Richard III, the city of Leicester could be in for a major royal event in 2013: The British government has signalled its intention to inter the long-maligned king in Leicester Cathedral.
Shakespeare was the MSM of his day, just doing the bidding of King Henry VII. Replace Richard III with George W Bush, and you’ll get the picture...
Interesting theory, but as far as I know Henry VII was dead more than 50 years before Shakespeare was born.
Now, it’s true, Shakespeare might have been including things that would make Queen Elizabeth and King James I happy. To openly make them unhappy may not have been a good idea. But, check it out, there are a lot of people who think that he was being subversive, if not openly so. And there’s a good case to be made Shakespeare thought those kinds of things to be trivia, to what he considered his real art. You make hims sound like some kind of spokesman for the Tudors.
He was a shill for the Tudors. Richard III had nothing to gain by killing those boys in the Tower. Henry VII had everything to gain.
A free parking spot for 527 years. Could be a record.
Interesting, thanks for that.
They found BlackAdder’s dad?
“A free parking spot for 527 years. Could be a record.”
LOL. That’s funny.....
Read “Truth is the daughter of Time” by Josephine Tey. The Tudor propaganda machine had to ensure that the Tudors were the legitimate rulers of England.
Ah, but what if he (the author of most of the plays) was really the Edward de Vere, Earl of Oxford (15501604) or alternatively, Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626)? Was the author subversive or 'recusant' (abstaining from attending the [Anglican] state church)?
Sorry just cannot resist, it helps me cope with my current angst over the world stage by remembering those past raging controversies that once ignite and destroyed! Perspective helps us better cope with our current difficulties after all.
Shakespeare relied on a book about Richard the Third by Thomas More. It was More who helped destroy Richard’s reputation. Some say inadvertantly (his book might have been a satire) or deliberately to help solidify the kingdom of the Tudors. It was never published but found upon his death.
I’ve heard that Richard’s body has already been identified at Leicester University. There is also a rumor that he was buried with a piece of jewelry that identifies him as king.
I have to disagree with your view. Even though "The Princes in the Tower" were officially disinherited by an act of Parliament, Royal History and Richard's prior historical action would tend towards Richard III having seen a necessity here. We are talking about the "War of the Roses" time, and no King's head could rest peacefully, no matter how legitimate (or not).
Edward V, was the recognized and legitimate successor to his father, until deposed by Parliament under the control of Richard, two and a half months later. By most accounts of likely death, he is the shortest lived King of England. As for Henry Tudor (Henry VII), he was in Brittany until his re-entry into Wales a year later and given that Richard would have been insane to not have assured himself that the 'Princes' were guarded by his most loyal men, it is difficult to see how he would have engineered their deaths UNLESS they were still alive when he emerged the victor at Bosworth Field in 1485. Since that was almost a year and a half since they were last seen alive, I deem it unlikely.
Interestingly enough, Richard III may again be following his nephews in history. In 1674, a wooden box containing two small human skeletons was found buried close to the White Tower in the Tower of London complex. The siting of the grave seemed to match where Sir Thomas More (Saint Thomas More RC) put it in his "History of King Richard III". Charles II had these bones placed in an urn and interred in Westminster Abbey. In 1933, these bones were examined and then reinterred. It was found that many bones were missing and the urn included some animal bones as well. Photographs of the bones indicate two individuals, 1113 and 711 years old with nothing to disclose gender. DNA analysis could do so and if Richard III is so analyzed then there should be a strong match to such near kin, if that is who they were.
A few months back I saw a live performance of Richard III — anyone who watches the denouement to that play has to realize that it was political agitprop. Lame-assed text he was required by the regime to include (”The Master of the Revels”, as portrayed in that great chick-flick “Shakespeare In Love”, was a real job, and a lucrative one) is not confined to Richard III.
Michael Wood’s documentary on Shakespeare is delightful, btw; I love how he points out that, later in his career, Shakespeare helped open a second theater, Blackfriars, that had been the site of the proceedings against Henry VIII’s first wife — and the company performed his “Henry VIII” there.
Henry VII was a usurper, that should be clear and obvious — Richard III was the recognized monarch, confirmed and reinforced by parliament, Henry landed with an army. Henry was a ruthless schemer who married the sister of the little princes in order to have a claim to the throne — but she had to be relegitimized, and that process would also relegitimize the little princes, nullifying his grasp. So, they had to die. Richard III, who had been murdered on the field by traitors in the employ of Henry, made the ideal fall guy.
Of course, all this is of only historical interest, since monarchy is itself both antiquated and illegitimate.
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Thanks nickcarraway for the topic, and thanks moose07 for the ping! This doesn't appear to be an update per se, merely a synopsis. The DNA studies have for months been rumored to be inconclusive due to the poor condition of the samples.For some researchers, this recent spate of exhumations has raised a key question: Who should have a say in the decision to disinter or not? In the view of Guido Lombardi, a paleopathologist at Cayetano Heredia University in Lima, investigators should make every effort to consult descendants or family members before proceeding. "Although each case should be addressed individually," notes Lombardi by email. "I think the surviving relatives of a historical figure should approve any studies first."Ridiculous, and the same stupid argument as NAGPRA supporters use. "Oh, you can't dig that *unknown remains*, because *I* say it's *my* relative!"
Henry VII - died 1509. Shakespeare - born 1564.
Was he buried in a handicapped space?
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