February 4, 2013

Digging Up Richard III: A Man for Our Season

Now is the parking lot of our discontent: The History Blog's Liveblogging the Richard III announcement is the best of many, many sites and news sources covering this.

"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here at this ungodly hour to find out as soon as humanly possible whether the skeleton discovered underneath a Leicester parking lot can be conclusively identified by a combination of DNA analysis, radiocarbon dating and forensic analysis as the remains of King Richard III."

As Richard III is now:


As Shakespeare had him:

The soliloquy given here by Olivier is an amalgam of a tyrant's thinking taken from sections in both Richard III and Henry the 6th Part III. Still it sounds eerily familar when we dwell on present day proto-tyrants whose sic semper scene is always delayed:

And yet I know not how to get the crown,
For many lives stand between me and home:
.... And from that torment I will free myself,
Or hew my way out with a bloody axe.
Why, I can smile, and murder while I smile,
And cry, 'Content,' to that which grieves my
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occasions.
.... I’ll play the orator as well as Nestor,
Deceive more slyly than Ulysses could,
And, like a Sinon, take another Troy.
I can add colours to the chameleon,
Change shapes with Proteus for advantages,
And set the murd'rous Machiavel to school.
Can I do this, and cannot get a crown?
Tut! were it further off, I'll pluck it down.

UPDATE: BBC News - Richard III dig: Facial reconstruction shows how king may have looked


HOME PAGE OF WEBSITE: The Search for Richard III by the University of Leicester

Posted by gerardvanderleun at February 4, 2013 4:45 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

Oh yeah? It you were really with it you would have gotten "solioquy" too. So there.

Posted by: vanderleun at February 4, 2013 2:43 PM

Hitler wound up in a parking lot too.

Posted by: james wilson at February 4, 2013 4:37 PM

Richard was a good king. Shakespeare's play is just the real tyrant's drive-by media at work.

Posted by: Punditarian at February 4, 2013 7:19 PM

Richard was a good king. Shakespeare's play is just the real tyrant's drive-by media at work.

Posted by: Punditarian at February 4, 2013 7:19 PM

Two good arguments for Richard III being a good king, and not at all like Shakespeare's RIII, are Thomas B. Costain's "The Last Plantagenets" and Josephine Tey's mystery "Daughter of Time". Both books are really, really excellent. Sir Thomas More, among other things an advisor and secretary to Henry VIII, wrote the biography of Richard III that Shakespeare used as history; but, Henry VIII’s father, Henry VII, was the one who beat Richard III in battle and claimed the crown, and it was important for the new Tudor line to make Richard III look like a monster.

Gee, why does this sound familiar—the claim that one’s predecessor was the one to be blamed for every evil . . . .?

Posted by: Minta Marie Morze at February 4, 2013 10:56 PM

Plucking good characters out of medieval English kings is a dicey business.

Posted by: james wilson at February 5, 2013 12:05 AM

I have explored the U of L site and it is well done and worth your while. That being said I didn't see any commentary on the missing feet. Weird.

Posted by: Sherlock at February 5, 2013 6:55 AM

Dude had some serious scoliosis. He was measured as 5' 8" with the bent spine. How tall would he have been with a straight one? At his "twisted" height he was at least a couple inches taller than average for men of 15th century England.

Posted by: Don Rodrigo at February 5, 2013 9:49 AM

Plucking good characters out of medieval English kings is a dicey business.

The were very much men of their times, where "goodness" could quickly earn a man a knife in the back, or a poisoned dinner. They learned to survive the almost casual brutality prevalent in their day by becoming equally brutal. If one king or prince was worse than another, it's more in degree (eg. Richard's contemporary Vlad Tepes) than in kind.

Posted by: waltj at February 5, 2013 10:02 AM

Waltj has it. When you were voted out as a monarch you were carried out.

Posted by: vanderleun at February 5, 2013 10:17 AM

I read that they think some Victorian construction destroyed the feet. It was just luck that the rest of the skeleton wasn't disturbed. He wasn't very far below the surface, and a Victorian building was erected just inches away from him. I suppose no one noticed a few small bones when they dug the foundation. Those bones are probably pretty fragile now and just were crushed when the digging reached them.

Posted by: Dr. Mabuse at February 5, 2013 5:39 PM