Richard III: comments and coverage

Posted by mjs76 at Sep 14, 2012 11:25 AM |
In Leicester, across the UK and indeed around the world, everyone is talking about our search for Richard III.

School of Historical Studies

Comment from Professor Norman Housley and Dr Andrew Hopper from our School of Historical Studies

"If, as we all hope, the skeleton found in the Leicester dig is shown within a reasonable margin of doubt to be that of Richard III, this discovery’s historical significance will be threefold.

"Firstly, we will have found the remains of the last English monarch killed in battle. This will be particularly exciting for the thousands of members of the Richard III Society, for whom establishing the truth about his personality and reign has always been clouded by the disappearance of his corpse after Bosworth. Intellectually and emotionally, this will mark a new chapter in their work on behalf of Richard’s memory.

"Little reliable contemporary evidence has survived for the nature of his kingship because his reign proved so short and because his Tudor successors legitimised themselves by encouraging literary works (of which Shakespeare was not the first) that depicted him as a caricature tyrant. So, if it proves possible to nail the Tudor slander of the ‘hunchback king’ with medical evidence of severe scoliosis rather than kyphosis, it will be gilt on the gingerbread because efforts during the last three centuries to restore his reputation have never fully succeeded in undermining this enduring popular image.

"Secondly, irrespective of the Richard myth, the discovery of the body will be significant because of what is already being indicated about the cause of death. The evidence of an injury to the back of the skull and the discovery of the arrowhead between vertebrae of the upper back will stimulate debate about exactly how Richard was killed at Bosworth, and beyond that, about close combat in medieval battles. This is fitting because Richard polarised opinion during his life and from beyond the grave; his reliance on a northern regional powerbase to maintain his rule fostered a north-south divide in allegiance partially reflected in the historiography since.

"Thirdly, it will bring a pleasing sense of closure to our knowledge of the vicious civil war which Bosworth itself brought to an end. The rather whimsical name, ‘The Wars of the Roses’, has had the unfortunate effect of disguising the sheer bloodiness of this conflict. Historians have often commented on the high frequency of battles that characterized this war at a time when commanders usually avoided battles because they were so risky."

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