Poor Richard's bones

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.*
― William Shakespeare, Richard III

Richard III —Duke of Gloucester, Shakespeare's hunchbacked villain—was the last king of the House of York. His notoriety originates in his succession to the British throne: When his brother Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Lord Protector for Edward's son and successor, the 12-year-old King Edward V. Edward and his younger brother were housed in the Tower of London. Arrangements were to be made for the boy's coronation on June 22. Somehow, by June 25, with arrests of the princes' maternal uncles and other family supporters, an assembly of officials had endorsed claims that the brothers were illegitimate. The following day Richard III officially began his reign. He was crowned on July 6. The two young princes were not seen in public after August and their ultimate fate is unknown. (There are alternative interpretations of the events— see The Richard III Society.)

Richard's defeat at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485 was the decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses, the struggle between 2 branches of royal families. His defeat opened the way to the establishment of the Tudor dynasty (cf. Henry VIII, Elizabeth I). He was summarily buried at the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars which was then demolished in the 1530s. Thereafter his remains were thought to have been thrown in the river, scattered or otherwise lost.

As of September 2012, archaeologists believe *he's turned up buried beneath a car park in Leicester.
The skeleton— cleaved through the skull and shot with an arrowhas fairly dramatic scoliosis, meaning that while not hunchback, one shoulder would be significantly higher than the other.

images from top: Earliest surviving portrait of Richard III c. 1520, Society of Antiquaries of London; Kevin Spacey, Ian McKellan, Laurence Olivier, Steve Weingartner, Antony Sher as Richard III; Richard III wax figure portrait by Hiroshi Sugimoto; the Princes in the Tower by John Everett Millais 1878; descendant of Richard III's eldest sister swabbed for DNA to positively identify the bones just discovered.


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