Has Richard III Been Found?

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.”

Source: History

33 thoughts on “Has Richard III Been Found?”

  1. I understand that at the 521-years point, what you have left are small sections of the DNA — which computers can figure out how to put back together to a great extent, by matching up overlapping elements; and of course they now have the basic template of the human genome to work with. The computers also know how to screen out bits of viral and bacterial DNA which may be present. That’s how you get Neanderthal (and other) DNA!

    I think also that the large ends of long bones (which have no natural openings, and are quite thick masses) are more favored for DNA hunting than teeth. Teeth are good for other things: I remember very clearly a couple of instances when TIME TEAM (wonderful British archaeology series) used dental material to determine where individuals had grown up because of the minerals deposited in the enamel!

  2. Malisha – the way I heard the story was that one of the great actors was doing DickIII (may have been Gielgud or Olivier or someone else I forget). When he gets to the “horse” line someone in the audience laughs. The actor steps down stage points into the crowd and says “Saddle yon braying ass!”

    May just be apocryphal but its a funny story.

  3. Oh I know, Gene. We have a pretty good theatre[summer outdoor] in Spring Green, Wi. which is also home of Frank Lloyd Wright. The Theatre[APT] is ~ 2 miles from his Taliesin home. They did a production of Midsummer recently but I was so busy w/ work I missed it.

  4. You should really correct that, nick. It’s one of the cornerstones of his comedies. Personally I preferred Much Ado About Nothing, but A Midsummer Night’s Dream is excellent.

  5. Misummers Night Dream is one I’ve never read or seen. I’m very pleased we didn’t bang heads on this one.

  6. “I then started incorporating Shakespeare into my history classes” (Nick S)

    I had a female history teacher at the college level who did that. It was a fascinating class as she got into propaganda and the need to keep Elizabeth I happy. Hooked me on the Tudor period and Shakespeare’s role.

    “That very time I saw — but thou couldst not —
    Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
    Cupid all arm’d: a certain aim he took
    At a fair vestal throned by the west,
    And loos’d his love-shaft smartly from his bow
    As it should pierce a hundred-thousand hearts:
    But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
    Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
    And the imperial votaress passed on,
    In maiden meditation fancy free.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

  7. Blouise, I didn’t say ALL, I said, “MANY”. That you are not part of this myopic mindset is consistent w/ my impression of you. But to deny many feminists marginalize the Bard is merely denying reality. Hell Blouise, just Google Skaespeare feminist criticism. I had mind blowing discusions w/ English teachers I worked w/ about this. There haughty reply was, “You’re a history teacher.” As you might expect, I then started incorporating Shakespeare into my history classes. The Good Sisters instilled in me during high school a deep respect for the greatest writer to ever live. The Bachlorette post from yesterday that made the supreme evolution to Shakespeare is ironically where I commented about it earlier today.

  8. This is the answer I was looking for: ” […] enough to establish general qualities, such as species, even if individual identities are not possible… Usually they look for the best protected DNA sample, which is typically found in the pulp of a tooth, assuming there are teeth […].”


    What I didn’t know is how degraded DNA can be and still be instructive; and, where in organic remains instructive DNA could be found after tens of thousands of years.

  9. enochwisner,
    521 years is the known half-life of DNA. That means there is about a 50 degradation over that time, leaving about 50%. That much degradation would not be enough to clone something, or to make a 100% positive DNA identification match. If you do the math, there can be traces of DNA left after several thousand years, enough to establish general qualities, such as species, even if individual identities are not possible. A lot depends on the quality of the DNA found. Usually they look for the best protected DNA sample, which is typically found in the pulp of a tooth, assuming there are teeth and those that remain had no caries.

    Absent DNA, forensic anthropologists study skeletal remains and may be able to make general assumptions about race, gender and other traits.

  10. nick spinelli

    AY, Shakespeare is not being taught by many feminist English teachers because he is considered sexist. That’s one of the reasons the respect for this genius has waned.


    That is soooo not true:

    More often than not, modern literary feminist critics are questioning assumptions that Shakespeare was an unmistakable misogynist, and more importantly, they are approaching the literary giant from a cultural standpoint, his cultural standpoint. In doing so, they are carving out a new voice in feminist Shakespearean criticism, an appreciative one.

    In the mid 1970’s, perhaps the most noteworthy literary critic to lend her voice in support of Shakespeare’s feminism was Juliet Dusinberre. Dusinberre’s novel, Shakespeare and the Nature of Women, marked a new literary revolution concerning feminine criticism of Shakespeare’s plays. She argued that Shakespeare supported feminist ideas and developed them in his plays, that the feminism of the time, mainly Puritan feminism, had an influence on his work. In the preface to the second edition of Shakespeare and the Nature of Women, Dusinberre writes that during Shakespeare’s time there was a ” . . . Puritan insistence on the spiritual equality of man and wife, and on a concept of relationship which stressed equal fellowship in preference to subjection of the woman” (xvi). Shakespeare reflects these Puritan ideas most notably in his comedies. For instance, by the end of Much Ado about Nothing, it is apparent that Beatrice will not be subdued by Benedict. In As You Like It, we are treated to Rosalind, a truly independent thinker who leaves little doubt that she will be an equal force in her marriage to Orlando. Dusinberre believes that ” . . . this revision of traditional thinking about women . . . created a ferment of new questions which animated the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, and deserves the name feminist” … “And while on the subject of “distinctive” women, there is also growing support for using Shakespearean women, like Rosalind, as tools to help female teens learn about their own identity, an identity that more and more over the last thirty years or so has matured to include traditional male-like qualities. Concerned with a growing gender identity crisis among young adults, one article, “Revisiting Shakespeare and Gender,” suggest that Shakespeare’s plays should be used in the classroom as a tool to promote self-awareness, especially among young women. This article suggests …”(Deidre Parris)


    And I can continue giving you quote after quote and cite after cite from women/men professors all over the country doing just the opposite of what you claim.

  11. AY, Shakespeare is not being taught by many feminist English teachers because he is considered sexist. That’s one of the reasons the respect for this genius has waned.

  12. OS,

    “DNA has a half life of only 521 years.” I read that just this last week. Very interesting. At least we don’t have to worry about dinosaurs unless someone builds one from scratch.

    “I told my son about the birds and the bees? He told me about his mother and Edward of Westminster! I tell you, I get no respect!” – King Richard III (allegedly)

  13. My father used to tell this alleged joke:

    A Shakespearean actor was performing in Richard III on stage in a small theater. He intoned, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” and someone from the balcony shouted: “Will a jackass do?” The actor gazed into the balcony at the heckler and shouted, “YES, Sir, come right down!”

    I met Rodney Dangerfield when I worked as a waitress at Sarge’s [24-hour] Deli in NY. I gave him respect and he tipped very well.

  14. “A girl phoned me the other day and said… ‘Come on over, there’s nobody home.’ I went over. Nobody was home.”

    Roger Dangerfield

  15. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer fellow. I am not sure how they will verify the remains to be that of Richard III. DNA has a half life of only 521 years. Establishing identity beyond a reasonable doubt will probably require the archaeologists to find some sort of positive identification with the remains. I somehow doubt he wore dogtags.

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