A blog by the staff of the Thomas Ford Memorial Library
Among the most interesting stories of 2013 was that the body of King Richard III was discovered under a parking lot in Leicester, England, not far from where he had died in battle on Bosworth Field. How he was found and what his remains tell scientists and historians are explained in The King’s Grave: The Discovery of Richard III’s Lost Burial Place and the Clues It Holds by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones.
The debate about the crimes and character of King Richard III has raged since his death in 1485. William Shakespeare’s popular play Richard III vilifying Richard has set generations against him. Langley and Jones, however, argue that much of what is believed about the king who ruled England slightly for over two years and died at age 32 was fabricated by the Tudor court that followed his death. Henry VII needed to belittle Richard to justify his own shaky claim to the crown.
The skeletal remains found in Leicester clearly show that Richard was not a hunchback and did not have a withered arm. Historical period documents suggest that he was probably well-liked in his time, especially in Northern England, where he had been an effective and compassionate regional administrator. He was not more violent or crueler than his contemporaries and might have been an effective ruler if he had lived longer.
Of course, the most asked question is whether Richard III killed his nephews in the Tower of London. The authors disagree on this point. Their positions are included in a special appendix, that also points out that both Henry VII and Henry VIII imprisoned and assassinated young royals who might challenge their crowns. Neither has been so vilified as Richard.
Using alternating chapters, the authors tell both the story of finding Richard III’s remains and the story of his life. They also include two useful sections of photographs and maps. Look for The King’s Grave in our history section. – Review by Rick