Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Looking for a bad king

Shakespeare and in a much lesser part Josephine Tey have a lot to answer for in creating the modern perception of king Richard III. The king famously perished in the battle of Bosworth (also mentioned in this blog), in 1485 while in Shakespeare’s play (Richard III, Act 5, scene 4, 7) he uttered the famous words “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”. After his death he was taken back to Leicester to a Franciscan Friary in the city.

Now a University of Leicester archaeological team is digging in the city's Greyfriars car park where they think he may have been buried. The precise location of the burial has been long lost but with the modern methods they hope to pinpoint the right location. The project team says that their work is “the first ever search for the lost grave of an anointed King of England”.

This was headline archaeological news presented with some Bosworth re-enactors giving a play battle in the car park. Richard Buckley, the co-director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, revealed the real archaeological aim behind the news-grabbing quotes. The main thing is to find the foundations of the Greyfriars church and place it in the matrix of the Medieval town.

The trial trench (photo: University of Leicester)

A ground-penetrating radar was looking for the lines of the foundations in the car part and now the team has two weeks to reveal any structures. So far they seem to have found what they were looking for - the church, not the body, yet. However, one element of the project has to be pointed out. Somebody had been ploughing through the archives and tracked down a full female line of the descendants of Richard III. A male descendant had been found, and on cameras he took a swap in order to give a DNA sample for the team. However, nobody praised the traditional historical ancestry research, which was required for any more modern analyses.

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