Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

So have they found King Richard III?

It looks possible, indeed probable, that the excavations in Leicester on the site of the Greyfriars which I mentioned some weeks ago may indeed have yielded what the archaeologists hoped for - the physical remains of King Richard III.
In the middle of the choir in which he was buried they have found the skeleton of a man who had suffered a serious head injury, had an arrow in his spine and displays scoliosis - curvature of the spine - which have caused the right shoulder to be higher than the left. All of that fits with what we know about King Richard's death and physical appearance. Modern archaeological science may be able to his identity and tell us much more about his medical history and about his actual appearance.
The latest BBC report on the archaeological findings can be read here.There are more details here in the Daily Telegraph report which can be read here.  In the report in the Times the story is told that the King's white horse became stuck in a marsh and that the monarch was killed by a blow delivered by a Welshman, Wyllyam Gardynyr, with a pole axe.
There is talk of reburying the remains, after DNA testing, in Leicester Cathedral, in whose parish the site of the Greyfriars lies. I wonder if such a reburial will be accompanied by rites the King would have been familiar with - or in communion with. As Desmond Seward pointed out in his book on him he was a King notable for establishing requiems for those in whose deaths he might well be regarded as having participated or benefited thereby. The unkown sailor from the Mary Rose was buried with a Sarum Rite requiem as would have been offered in 1545. Will King Richard III in death, assuming that the bones are indeed his, receive a rite he would have known in life?


Lapinbizarre said...

Wyllyam Gardynyr was father of the future bishop of Winchester & Lord Chancellor, whose mother may well have been the illegitimate daughter of Jasper, duke of Bedford, uncle of Henry VII - the Tudors could be a tight-knit little group. Obviously there is a high probability that the corpse is Richard's. The presently outshone disarticulated female in the presbytery - evidently, if contemporary with the friary, a burial in a place of honour - might, it seems to me, have been removed from a confiscated reliquary at the Dissolution and interred there by the friars. Are there existing records that might identify any saintly cults associated with the Greyfriars?

Lapinbizarre said...

Checking DNB I find no reference to the William/Stephen Gardiner connection. Evidently a Tudor urban legend & yet another warning not to believe everything you read on the internet. My observation on the disarticulated lady remains, however.