[Marxism] My kingdom for a horse
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Feb 5 07:26:21 MST 2013
NY Times February 4, 2013
Bones Under Parking Lot Belonged to Richard III
By JOHN F. BURNS
LEICESTER, England — Until it was discovered beneath a city parking lot
last fall, the skeleton had lain unmarked, and unmourned, for more than
500 years. Friars fearful of the men who slew him in battle buried the
man in haste, naked and anonymous, without a winding sheet, rings or
personal adornments of any kind, in a space so cramped his cloven skull
was jammed upright and askew against the head of his shallow grave.
On Monday, confirming what many historians and archaeologists had
suspected, a team of experts at the University of Leicester concluded on
the basis of DNA and other evidence that the skeletal remains were those
of King Richard III, for centuries the most reviled of English monarchs.
But the conclusion, said to have been reached “beyond any reasonable
doubt,” promised to achieve much more than an end to the oblivion that
has been Richard’s fate since his death on Aug. 22, 1485, at the Battle
of Bosworth Field, 20 miles from this ancient city in the sheep country
of England’s East Midlands.
Among those who found his remains, there is a passionate belief that new
attention drawn to Richard by the discovery will inspire a reappraisal
that could rehabilitate the medieval king and show him to be a man with
a strong sympathy for the rights of the common man, who was deeply
wronged by his vengeful Tudor successors. Far from the villainous
character memorialized in English histories, films and novels, far from
Shakespeare’s damning representation of him as the limping, withered,
haunted murderer of his two princely nephews, Richard III can become the
subject of a new age of scholarship and popular reappraisal, these
“I think he wanted to be found, he was ready to be found, and we found
him, and now we can begin to tell the true story of who he was,” said
Philippa Langley, a writer who has been a longtime and fervent member of
the Richard III Society, an organization that has worked for decades to
bring what it sees as justice to an unjustly vilified man. “Now,” Ms.
Langley added, “we can rebury him with honor, and we can rebury him as a
Other members of the team at the University of Leicester pointed to Ms.
Langley as the inspiration behind the project, responsible for raising
much of the estimated $250,000 — with major contributions from unnamed
Americans — it cost to carry out the exhumation and the research that
led to confirmation that indeed Richard had been found.
Ms. Langley’s account was that her research for a play about the king
had led her to a hunch that Richard’s body would be found beneath the
parking lot, in a corner of the buried ruins of the Greyfriars Priory,
where John Rouse, a medieval historian writing in Latin within a few
years after Richard’s death, had recorded him as having been buried.
Other unverified accounts said the king’s body had been thrown by a mob
into the River Soar, a mile or more from the priory.
Richard Taylor, the University of Leicester official who served as a
coordinator for the project, said the last piece of the scientific
puzzle fell into place with DNA findings that became available on
Sunday, five months after the skeletal remains were uncovered. At that
point, he said, members of the team knew that they had achieved
“We knew then, beyond reasonable doubt, that this was Richard III,” Mr.
Taylor said. “We’re certain now, as certain as you can be of anything in
The team’s leading geneticist, Turi King, said at a news conference that
DNA samples from two modern-day descendants of Richard III’s family had
provided a match with samples taken from the skeleton found in the
priory ruins. Kevin Schurer, a historian and demographer, tracked down
two living descendants of Anne of York, Richard III’s sister, one of
them a London-based, Canadian-born furniture maker, Michael Ibsen, 55,
and the other a second cousin of Mr. Ibsen’s who has requested anonymity.
Dr. King said tests conducted at three laboratories in England and
France had found that the descendants’ mitochondrial DNA, a genetic
element inherited through the maternal line of descent, matched that
extracted from the parking lot skeleton. She said all three samples
belonged to a type of mitochondrial DNA that is carried by only 1 to 2
percent of the English population, a rare enough group to satisfy the
project team, pending more work on the samples, that a match had been found.
When she studied the results for the first time, she said, she “went
very quiet, then did a little dance around the laboratory.”
Even before the DNA findings came in, team members said, evidence
pointed conclusively at the remains as being those of the king. These
included confirmation that the body was that of a slight, slender man in
his late 20s or early 30s — Richard was 32 at his death — and an
analysis of his bones that showed that his high-protein diet had been
rich in meat and marine fish, characteristic of a privileged life in the
Also strongly indicative, they said, was the radiocarbon dating of two
rib bones that showed that they were those of somebody who died between
1455 and 1540. In addition, team members said, the remains showed an
array of injuries consistent with historical accounts of the fatal blows
Richard III suffered on the battlefield, and other blows he was likely
to have sustained after death from vengeful soldiers of the army of
Henry Tudor, the Bosworth victor, who succeeded Richard as King Henry VII.
The fatal wound, researchers said, was almost certainly a large skull
fracture behind the left ear that was consistent with a crushing blow
from a halberd, a medieval weapon with an axlike head on a long pole —
the kind of blow that was described by some who witnessed Richard’s
death. The team also identified nine other wounds, including what
appeared to be dagger blows to the cheek, jaw and lower back, possibly
inflicted after death.
But perhaps the most conclusive evidence from the skeletal remains was
the deep curvature of the upper spine that the research team said showed
the remains to be those of a sufferer of a form of scoliosis, a disease
that causes the hunchback appearance, with a raised right shoulder, that
was represented in Shakespeare’s play as Richard III’s most pronounced
and unappealing feature.
The sense of an important historical watershed was underscored when
reporters were escorted to a viewing of the skeletal remains, laid out
in a locked room in the university’s library, lying on a black velvet
cushion inside a glass case. Two members of the university’s
chaplaincy’s staff, one of them in the black-and-red robes of a Roman
Catholic priest, sat beside the remains as reporters filed silently by,
cautioned by university staff to behave with the “dignity” owed to a king.
Members of the Richard III Society have said in the past that they
believed he should be reburied, once found, alongside other British
monarchs in Westminster Abbey in London, the traditional venue for most
royal weddings and burials. But in Leicester, officials said that plans
were in hand to bury the bones early next year in the city’s Anglican
cathedral, barely 200 yards from where the skeleton was found, with a
visitors’ center dedicated to Richard to be opened in the cathedral
grounds at the same time.
Alan Cowell contributed reporting from London, and Nicholas Wade from
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