Does Richard III skeleton discovery have relevance in the 21st Century

Richard's face, facial resconstruction
Richard's face, facial resconstruction

King Richard III

A skeleton discovered under a Leicestershire car-park in September 2012 caused excitement. It was not from a recent death but is was an exciting find for archaeologists working at the site. Early indications were that it was the skeleton of King Richard III, who had died more than 500 years ago. Richard was killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field and his demise led to a change of direction for the British monarchy. Out went the Plantagenets and in came the Tudors.

King Richard has been derided by history. He is known to most people for his alleged cruelty to two young Princes and as a Shakespeare character. Reportedly his demise at the Battle of Bosworth Field barely raised a tear. He allegedly cried out 'a horse, a horse, a kingdom for a horse' before he was summarily executed.

History may have been unnecessarily cruel to Richard though.

When Henry VII succeeded to the throne of England one priority was to demonize the previous King. Deposed, popular leaders often lead to insurrection. Even if said leader is dead there could be people willing to fight in that person's name.

So was all of the 'bad press' surrounding Richard anything more than bad publicity or propaganda? The answer appears to be no. The Tudors wanted to ensure longevity on the throne of England and used what means were available to them to remain in charge.

What if anything though can we, in the 21st Century, learn from Richard's skeleton?

  • How the mighty fall. The death and location of his resting place show that money and power do not matter, in the great scheme of things. His 'grave' may not have started out as a car-park but there was no elaborate headstone, pomp nor ceremony for this King.
  • Long before the Internet, and rolling 24/7 news, propaganda was manipulating our view of the world. In fact long before news reporting, full-stop.
  • We should never read one report and take for granted that is impartial and unbiased. Nine times out of ten the author has a hidden agenda.
  • In the great scheme of things wealth and power do not matter. They may offer you comfort in life but they are transient.
  • The discovery, identification and subsequent facial reconstruction of Richard III has answered a number of questions. History needs facts.
  • The use of DNA to identify a person dead for more than 500 years is, as we say nowadays awesome.
  • No matter how long it has taken it is just and right that the record is out straight, as far as Richard the man goes.
  • Once again it reinforces the view that war is sometimes pointless and always costly.
  • It shows life is fleeting but our legacy is not.
  • It shows you cannot trust your so called allies.
  • It shows that mankind is unable to live in peace.

In the past wars were fought over tin-pot heroes such as Princes and Kings. These days has much changed? Yes, we fight with more sophisticated weapons and cause more widespread destruction but all too often we become embroiled in propaganda led wars.

Richard III will be laid to rest at a future date. He will be afforded the necessary pomp and ceremony he was denied in the past. No doubt there will be unnecessary expense.

History, however, is an important part of all our lives. It is our foundation. Tying up loose ends in this case will not have real and positive effects on our lives. It is however the 'right thing' to do.

Richard died August 22, 1485, aged 32.

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Comments 10 comments

ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 3 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Well said. As a Yorkshire woman I know where I would like to see his remains buried but we will have to wait and see


stonelord 3 years ago

Well, I hope it does. In recents years that has been too much maginalisation of our history and heritage (and I say that as someone born outside the UK, although I have lived here for more than a third of my life.)

What has been heartening is that 50,000 people have visited the display about the find in Leicester, which shows there is considerable interest.

Although it is unfortunate that there has become a 'fight' about the possible place of interment, people have shown a great deal of passion for both sides, which seems to show that there is certainly a sustantial group who believes this does have relevance--and for a lot of them it's quite personal too.

I am proud to say that wherever the funeral will take place, I will be there to offer my respects to the last English king to fall in battle.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 3 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Thanks Tony. Yes I saw this week that family members are planning to challenge his burial site.


tonymead60 profile image

tonymead60 3 years ago from Yorkshire

They were very lucky to hit the right spot in that car park.

I think an interersting thing is that people have opinions on what should happen now with the bones. Wakefield has more of a claim than York, because I believe Sandal castle was one of his favourite haunts.

Good hub, interesting topic voted up

regards

Tony


Davidwork 3 years ago

I have mixed views on this.

I've always been fascinated by history and archaeology, but I was a little dismayed the other day to visit HM Government E-Petitions and find that there were two petitions amongst the top 60 about where Richard III's remains should be interred. (For the benefit of US readers, E-Petitions is a website in the UK where people can petition the UK Government to look into issues that concern them). There are more important things that the UK Government needs to be petitioned about right now, like high unemployment and economic hardship.

The discovery, and verification by DNA that the remains ARE those of Richard III is of academic and historical interest, and it satisfactorily answers some old mysteries.

The decision on where to bury him should be based on whatever accounts survive in the national archives to indicate where he would have wanted to be buried, or where he had his close family ties, though I would hope that in these times of austerity, it is done quietly and without a lot of costly pomp.

As to propaganda being nothing new, well, that goes without saying. Throughout recorded history, rulers, regimes, those in power, etc, have always written history as they see fit, especially to put them in a favourable light. King Akhenaten established the first state religion based on one god in Ancient Egypt 3,300 years ago, and imposed it in an almost dictatorial way. When he died, the then Egyptian priesthood, of the old multiple gods effectively wrote him out of history and condemned him as an heretic.

2,100 years ago in Han Dynasty China, the historian Tsu Ma Chien tried to write an honest and balanced history of the previous dynasty, the Qin. The Han Dynasty ruler of the time had him imprisoned and tortured, because Chien's writings did not make the old dynasty look as bad as Han rulers wanted it to... so you see, this sort of thing, demonising previous rulers or regimes, has been going on throughout history, long before even the Tudors.

We may never know the full truth about Richard's level of guilt in the disappearance of the young princes, but even if fully guilty, in that respect he was no better or worse than many rulers throughout recorded history who've had people, including their next of kin, bumped off in power struggles.


Silkekarina 3 years ago from Germany

As far as I am concerned this discovery has a great deal of relevance. Most of our monarchs are accounted for and we know the whereabouts of their resting places. Richard III was an exception to this rule. We are fortunate enough to look back upon a very colourful history and one that sparks a great deal of interest in the world today. The white, North American population would, I am sure, not share your disinterest in your heritage. The North Americans I have known, have always envied the Europeans regarding their heritage.


ethel smith profile image

ethel smith 3 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull Author

Thanks for all the interesting comments.

As an aged Yorkshire woman I was taught about Richard, the Tudors etc at school but it was such a long time ago. Yes I think the discovery will rekindle an interest in history of this era.


alancaster149 profile image

alancaster149 3 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

Will Shakespear maligned more than one of the Tudor and Stuart rivals, but let's take Richard III first.

His popularity lay broadly in the North and North Midlands, but especially in the North. Following the demise of Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick , after he changed sides and was badly defeated at another bloody Plantagenet battle at Barnet, Richard Plantagenet, by now King took over much of the Neville possessions. He also married the earl's daughter Anne and had a son, Edward of Middleham by her.

Henry made a show of uniting his kingdom, going as far as to have a 'Tudor' rose designed, part red and part white, overlapping. Behind the scenes, however everything was all but 'hunky-dory'. All the Yorkist Plantagenet heirs were rooted out except one, whose descendent migrated to Australia and voted against the monarchy in a landmark poll. He still would have precedence over Elizabeth II, should he change his mind (remember the programme with Tony Robinson?) But it's not likely and we have a move now not to inter Richard's remains in York Minster (pending permission from the queen). Richard's personal arms can be seen on Lendal Bridge from the wall gardens.

Unlikely as it sounds, I am a Yorkist, and would like to see 'our Rich' returned to Yorkshire turf.

Amen.


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 3 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

The discovery of the remains of Richard III will have real and positive effect on people's lives if it encourages them to read and learn a bit more history, investigate forensic anthropology or even just make them think a bit more about life. Life always amazes me and it is things like this that show that you never know what is going to happen or how things are going to work out.

Hopefully there will not be to much wrangling about his final burial place and he will be able to rest in peace.


thewritingowl profile image

thewritingowl 3 years ago from Ireland

I saw a documentary about this the other night and it was definitely very interesting to watch. The whole dig in this car-park was instignated by an English woman who had a particular interest in the history of this king and eventually this led to the dig. None of the archaeologists at the time thought they would really find the dead King's body but they did. As you say there were historians in the documentary who said his name had been unfairly sullied due to the 'politics of the time.' I thought that was interesting too i.e. that the old wheels of propaganda were turning even back then. I think finding him was definitely worthwhile and it sets history straight about him too.

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