Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Last Plantagenet King

The final charge of Richard III on Bosworth Field
The remains of Richard III have been identified. From The Daily Mail:
Richard, depicted by William Shakespeare as a monstrous tyrant who murdered two princes in the Tower of London, died at the Battle of Bosworth Field, defeated by an army led by Henry Tudor. According to historical records, his body was taken 15 miles to Leicester where it was displayed as proof of his death before being buried in the Franciscan friary. The team from Leicester University set out to trace the site of the old church and its precincts, including the site where Richard was finally laid to rest. They began excavating the city centre location in August last year and soon discovered the skeleton, which was found in good condition with its feet missing in a grave around 68cm (27in) below ground level. It was lying in a rough cut grave with the hands crossed in a manner which indicated they were bound when he was buried. To the naked eye, it was clear that the remains had a badly curved spine and trauma injuries to the rear of the head. But archaeologists were keen to make no official announcement until the skeleton had been subjected to months of tests.

Speaking at today’s press conference, University of Leicester geneticist Dr Turi King described how researchers had traced Richard’s descendants to confirm the body was indeed that of England’s last medieval king. These were Canadian born furniture maker Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of the Richard’s sister Anne of York, and a second person who has asked to remain anonymous. Dr King said: ‘The DNA sequence obtained from the Grey Friars skeletal remains was compared with the two maternal line relatives of Richard III.

‘We were very excited to find that there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Grey Friars dig.’

The analysis showed the individual had a slender physique and severe scoliosis - a curvature of the spine - possibly with one shoulder visibly higher than the other. This is consistent with descriptions of Richard III's appearance from the time, the researchers said today. Trauma to the skeleton showed the king died after one of two significant wounds to the back of the skull - possibly caused by a sword and a halberd. Dr Appleby said this was consistent with contemporary accounts of the monarch being killed after receiving a blow to the head. The skeleton also showed a number of non-fatal injuries to the head and rib and to the pelvis, which is believed to have been caused by a wound through the right buttock. Dr Appleby said these may have been so-called ‘humiliation injuries’ inflicted after his death.

‘The skeleton has a number of unusual features: its slender build, the scoliosis and the battle-related trauma,’ she said. ‘All of these are highly consistent with the information that we have about Richard III in life and about the circumstances of his death.
‘Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.’ (Read entire article.)
To quote a description of the Battle of Bosworth Field from BBC News:
Robert Woosnam-Savage is curator of European edged weapons at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds and has also studied Richard's skeleton. He said: "Medieval battlefields saw an array of weapons used, from swords, battle hammers, maces, arrows and even early firearms.

"Most of the 'common' foot soldiers would have used staff weapons, such as bills or halberds, which have heavy cutting blades, often with a spike, mounted on a long wooden haft.

"Many of these were designed to be able to punch through elements of armour, or at least damage it in such a way that it no longer functioned."

Mr Woosnam-Savage said using the physical evidence and historical accounts, a possible scenario could be imagined. Halberds were among the most common weapons used by foot soldiers at Bosworth. "Richard probably got within a few yards of Henry before his horse probably became stuck in marshy ground or was killed from underneath him. On foot, with foot soldiers closing in, the fight becomes a close infantry melee.

"It would have been difficult to get through the armour, so attackers would have gone for gaps, or tried to break pieces off.

"The skeleton only shows the minimum number of injuries - the soft tissue has gone - and he is likely to have taken many more wounds of which there is now no trace.

"At some point he loses his helmet and then the violent blows start raining down on the head, including a possible blow from a weapon like a halberd, including the one which I think kills him.

"Then I think it possible that someone has come along, almost immediately afterwards, possibly with his body lying face down and stuck a dagger into his head.

"From becoming unhorsed, it probably only took a matter of a few minutes, before he was dead - not a long time at all." (Read entire article.)
 In the meantime, a facial reconstruction of Richard III has been made, based upon his skull. The BBC reports:
Dr Ashdown-Hill, who wrote The Last Days of Richard III, said: "The most obvious features in portraits are the shape of the nose and the chin and both of those are visible in the facial reconstruction." Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, originator of the search, said on a Channel 4 documentary earlier: "It doesn't look like the face of a tyrant. I'm sorry but it doesn't...."

The facial reconstruction is particularly important because there are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard III. Dr Ashdown-Hill said: "All the surviving portraits of him - even the very later ones with humped backs and things which were obviously later additions - facially are quite similar [to each other] so it has always been assumed that they were based on a contemporary portrait painted in his lifetime or possibly several portraits painted in his lifetime." (Read entire article.)

 A facial reconstruction of Richard III
Some well-wishers have started a petition for Richard III to receive a Catholic burial, HERE. Share

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