The Late Mr. Plantagenet

by wjw on September 14, 2012

So it looks as if the body of Richard III may have been found.

One is tempted to write “Shakespeare’s Richard III,” because that’s our impression of the character.

After Richard was killed at Bosworth, his body was supposedly stripped and displayed for a few days, then buried at Grey Friars church, some distance from the battlefield.

The hard job for archaeologists wasn’t finding Richard’s body so much as locating Grey Friars, which has vanished over the centuries, but which has now obligingly reappeared beneath a Leicester car park.

The body has been shot in the back with an arrow, and the back of the head bashed in with a bladed weapon, which is reasonably consistent with the reported death of Richard at the hands of Welsh soldiery in 1485.  (Supposedly he was hit so hard that his helmet was bent into the wound.)

There are any number of bodies lying around England with heads bashed in, but this one is afflicted with scoliosis, which would account for legendary Richard’s crooked back.

The body fortunately has very good teeth, which will provide DNA that can be compared with latter-day Plantagenets, at least one of whom lives in Canada.

Another body was found in the remains of the church, a young woman who had been dismembered.  (Whether before or after death, the account does not say.)  Unfortunately the woman was not immortalized by Shakespeare, and we know nothing more about her.

(For my own part, I am willing to forthrightly state that I stand ready to be immortalized by Shakespeare, whenever he cares to go about it!   Hero or villain, it matters not to me!)

Even if the body is found to be that of Richard, it still won’t answer the biggest question about Richard, which is whether he liquidated his two nephews in order to take the throne.

Pretty clearly, he did.  He denied it, of course, but nobody believed him— and all he had to do, in order to refute the stories, was to let the children be seen by the public.  If he’d done that, he would have turned instantly from Twisted Dick to Kindly Uncle Richard, to the acclaim of all.

(Sorry about that, Miss Tey.)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Urban September 14, 2012 at 4:20 am

Not “Mr”: European royal families don’t have surnames.

Here in Sweden you even lose your surname if you marry the crown princess and get a * in the surname field in computerised records. I’m not quite sure how it works in school when pupils are ordered to line up in surnameorder.

wjw September 14, 2012 at 4:38 am

I’m very much a small-d democrat, so dead, deposed kings can be “mister” as far as I’m concerned.

“And how are you today, Mrs. Mountbatten?”

Ralf The Dog. September 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

“For my own part, I am willing to forthrightly state that I stand ready to be immortalized by Shakespeare, whenever he cares to go about it! Hero or villain, it matters not to me!”

Last I checked, you were a science fiction author. Last time I checked, you also write historical novels. Write a time travel novel where some guy meets Shakespeare and talks him into writing a play about some writer in the distant future named Walter. It might make a slightly less than atrocious short story.

Some time, if I run into you at a science fiction convention and I am a bit more drunk than I currently am, get me to talk about a relative, who I met only once, that watched a number of first performances at the Globe. I remember my Grandfather talking about how, he was an old, old man, when my Grandfather was a very young child.

He was more of a scoundrel than a Count or a Saint, however, he pretended to be both.

Pat Mathews September 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

Not that idiot Buckingham? Some pretty good cases have been made out for him, too.

wjw September 14, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Well, the idiot Buckingham didn’t have access to the Tower, or so I understand.

Opposition to Richard went in several stages or waves.

First, he got rid of the grasping Rivers clan, his brother’s in-laws. (To general cheers from the rest of the nobility.)

Then he purged Hastings, which happened just before he declared himself king. Presumably Hastings had no problem with Richard as Lord Protector for the youngster Edward V, but was unwilling to consent to the usurpation.

Then something happened to turn Buckingham against Richard. Buckingham, who had been his loyal ally to that point.

I’m inclined to think it was the murder of the princes that made Buckingham realize he was dealing with a monster. And Buckingham’s rebellion might well have succeeded if storms hadn’t turned back Henry Tudor’s fleet.

Or so I theorize, anyway.

Ralf The Dog. September 15, 2012 at 12:51 am

People wonder why, the name John is not popular with the British royal family.

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