Voices from Russia

Monday, 27 August 2012

Richard III’s Remains may be Under Car Park

A Portrait of King Richard III

Unknown Artist

late 16th century


The Shakespeare play Richard III is one of the most popular on the English stage. At its centre is the domineering terrifying figure of the hunchback king. Today, archaeologists hope they’ve found the body of the real King Richard. Still, the medieval king isn’t in a very regal resting place. Shakespeare’s Richard III is alive and well, currently playing at the Globe Theatre in London. However, the real king died at the age of just 32. He fell at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. No one ever found his body. Now, a team from the University of Leicester thinks they know where his royal remains may lie… in Leicester town centre, buried deep below the concrete of a council car park.

Richard Buckley, the co-director of the Archaeology Service at the University of Leicester, said, “In the middle of an industrial town, the friary where Richard III is said to have been buried after Battle at Bosworth was long demolished. It disappeared after 1538, when Henry VIII dissolved all the monasteries. That’s where the record suggests where Richard III was buried. Therefore, what we’ve done… we’ve looked at lots of map evidence and we’re doing ground-probing with radar. Then, we’re going to try to dig to see if we can locate the remains of the church buried underneath”.

The consequences of the discovery could re-write history. Philippa Langley certainly hopes so. She’s a member of Richard III Society. On what should be the excavation site, she told me what she really wants from the dig, “For me, it’s actually finding him, because then we can give him a proper resting place to make him a real man. There’re so many fables surrounding him, that he was born with withered arm, that he was two years in mother’s stomach before he was born, and that he was born with hair, teeth, and nails. There’s just so much out there. We just want to roll that back and start painting the true picture of the man”.

State-of-the-art radar technology and DNA analysis will increase the chances of the excavation being a success. However, there’re complications, archaeologist Buckley said, “Although we know that Francisco buried Richard III at a ceremony in the church after Bosworth, when the friary was demolished, we don’t know what happened with the remains, whether they stayed there or… stories were circulating years later which say that his remains were exhumed and thrown in the river. So, hopefully, that isn’t the case and they’re still here”.

“So wise is so young, they say, do never live long!” These prophetic words were lines spoken by King Richard in Shakespeare’s play… as Richard himself didn’t live long. After his death, the King’s reputation was slashed, with Shakespeare as the chief culprit, but this dig could give the King’s reputation a second chance, rescuing him from the terrifying picture drawn by Britain’s best-known playwright.

27 August 2012

Voice of Russia World Service



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