Richard III may be the Rodney Dangerfield of sovereigns. He “got no respect” by Shakespeare (in my favorite play, Richard III) and appears to have gotten even less respect in his burial. Indeed, if a recent human skeleton recovered under a parking lot proves to be Richard III, he came close to be dug up and thrown out by a construction crew in the nineteenth century. Indeed, the Queen mother’s words to her hated son in the play appears to have been an omen: ““Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end; Shame serves thy life and doth thy death attend.”
The grave escaped destruction in the nineteenth century by only 12 inches. If true, people later parked daily over the grave of the sovereign best known for exclaiming in the play: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”
The location fits with historical accounts. Richard III was believed to have been buried at Greyfairs, a medieval church, after he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field during the War of the Roses. The church later disappeared, but was traced by Leicester archaeologists to beneath the parking lot for the Leicester City Council offices.
In 1612, a man named Christopher Wren (it is not clear if he was related to the famous architect who was born in 1632) said that he found a 3-foot (1-meter) tall stone pillar in the garden that was inscribed, “Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.”
Even more intriguing is the fact that the skeleton shows signs of trauma to the skull and back before death, which would be consistent with a battle injury. Richard was struck down (only the second such king to die on a English battlefield) in August 1485 in facing Henry Tudor, 2nd Earl of Richmond and later King Henry VII. Accounts indicate that Richard III fought exceptionally bravely and well in the battle. By some accounts, Sir Wyllyam Gardynyr killed King Richard III with a poleaxe to the head. The Welsh account says “Richard’s horse was trapped in the marsh where he was slain by one of Rhys Thomas’ men, a commoner named Wyllyam Gardynyr.”
If found, Richard III is more fortunate than his alleged victims, the sons of his brother the late King Edward IV who were believed murdered upon the order of Richard while in the Tower of London. He had previously arranged them to be declared illegitimate to clear his own path to the Crown.
At last, Richard can have one more day in the sun: “Shine out, fair sun, till I have bought a glass, That I may see my shadow as I pass.”