Remains dug up in Leicester were those of Richard III

I’d known via The History Blog that coming out today was an announcement on whether the remains dug up in Leicester were those of Richard III, and I wasn’t surprised that the skeleton did turn out to be his. I wasn’t happy, however, that the remains will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral rather than in the cathedral of York Minster. After Richard was killed on Bosworth Field in 1485, the city of York wrote in its records, according to Josephine Tey, “This day was our good King Richard piteously slain and murdered; to the great heaviness of this city” (p. 186, 1982 Penguin reprinting of The Daughter of Time). The King had been well thought of in the North of England.

It was Tey’s novel, published in 1951 and never out of print since, that made me think well of Richard III, many decades ago. I’ve scanned the cover of my edition because I’ve never found a cover I liked so well (and the portrait is referred to in the book, so the image is essential). The book’s title is derived from a saying of Francis Bacon (1561–1626): “Truth is the daughter of time—not of authority.”

The University of Leicester’s page on the archeological dig in which Richard’s remains were found (under the floor of a monastery destroyed by order of Richard’s great-nephew, Henry VIII) is here.

All the same, Richard’s undeservedly villainous reputation is unlikely to be rehabilitated. I can’t see David Starkey redoing his Monarchy series (2004–07), for example, to recant his assertion that Richard “probably” murdered his nephews, the Princes in the Tower. (I almost threw something at the TV when Starkey came out with that, and had to content myself with some robust Anglo-Saxon language.)

Other lost causes I espouse include Harold II (c. 1022–66), last Saxon King of England; Constantine XI Palaiologos (1404–53), last Byzantine Emperor; and Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658), Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland.

It might be observed that all four were brave in battle and that three of them, indeed, died there. (Lord Protector Cromwell died in his bed; the cause seems to have been septicemia.)