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.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.
Shakespeare, Richard III

Richard the Third was either the most evil man ever to sit on the throne of England, or was the victim of a political hatchet job by William Shakespeare and others.  Nevertheless the remains of the Monarch who died in 1485 were found five and a half centuries later under a parking lot in the city of Leicester.

Perhaps he was buried under a parking lot where people kept their horses.

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University of Leicester researchers say tests on a battle-scarred skeleton unearthed last year prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that it is the king, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and whose remains have been missing for centuries.

“Richard III, the last Plantaganet King of England, has been found,” said the university’s deputy registrar, Richard Taylor. Bone specialist Jo Appleby said study of the bones provided “a highly convincing case for identification of Richard III.”

And DNA from the skeleton matched a sample taken from a distant living relative of Richard’s sister. Geneticist Turi King said Michael Ibsen, a Canadian carpenter living in London, share with the skeleton a rare strain of mitochondrial DNA. She said combined with the archaeological evidence, that left little doubt the skeleton belonged to Richard.

Ibsen said he was “stunned” to discover he was related to the king — he is a 17th great-grand-nephew of Richard’s older sister.

“It’s difficult to digest” he said.

Richard III ruled England between 1483 and 1485, during the decades-long tussle over the throne known as the Wars of the Roses. His brief reign saw liberal reforms, including introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.

His rule was challenged, and he was defeated and killed by the army of Henry Tudor, who took the throne as King Henry VII.

The Richard III society hopes the finding of the Kings remains will, open up the debate about the king and his reputation.

It would make such a difference if people would start to look into the history of this much maligned monarch without the old prejudices. Perhaps, then, they will see past the myth and innuendo that has blackened his name and find the truth. No one is going to suggest that he was a saint – I have said on many occasions that we are not the Richard III Adoration Society – but even a cursory reading of the known facts will show that the Tudor representation of Richard III, especially that in Shakespeare’s well known play, just doesn’t stand up. 

Shakespeare wrote a great play but even he must have been aware that he was twisting the facts in order to make it more dramatic. After all, he called it a “tragedy” not a “history.” His Richard III is a villain and a superb villain at that, but Shakespeare was not writing history, no matter what the Duke of Marlborough might have thought. There are many instances where the portrayal just does not fit the historical record. For instance, in one of his three plays about Henry VI, Shakespeare has Richard of Gloucester, later Richard III, killing the Duke of Somerset at the first battle of St Albans. At the time of that fight, Richard Plantagenet wasn’t Duke of Gloucester and, more cogently, he wasn’t yet three years old!

On the other hand if  Shakespeare is to be believed Richard was an evil hunchback who killed his two nephews so he could be the king (actually Richard had no need to kill the boys since they had already been declared bastards).   But keep in mind when the Bard of Avon was writing the bulk of his plays it was the Tudors (the royal line who took over from Richard) who were ruling England.  In other words, history is written by the victors.

According to the reports the remains did have signs of scoliosis but no where near as bad as depicted by Shakespeare. 

Appleby said the 10 injuries to the body were inflicted by weapons like swords, daggers and halberds and were consistent with accounts of Richard being struck down in battle — his helmet knocked from his head — before his body was stripped naked and flung over the back of a horse in disgrace.

She said some scars, including a knife wound to the buttock, bore the hallmarks of “humiliation injuries” inflicted after death.

It will be interesting to see if we learn anything else about this infamous ruler from his remains and burial site.

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