Friday, May 24, 2013
The forensic dramas that have become so popular on our TV screens in recent years have whetted the public's appetite for this particularly morbid line in detective work, but the discovery of the skeleton of Richard III beneath a Leicester car park trumps any work of fiction. It ranks as one of the most dramatic archaeological discoveries of modern times.
A story that began more than five centuries ago with Richard's death at the Battle of Bosworth Field has been concluded with the use of the most advanced techniques.
The University of Leicester, whose coup this is, used archaeology, genealogical research, carbon dating and DNA-matching to conclude that the huddled skeleton with a twisted spine and severe head injuries is, beyond reasonable doubt, that of the last monarch of the House of York. One of the great mysteries of our history -- the fate of Richard's corpse -- has been resolved.
This extraordinary work of historical detection would not have been possible a decade ago, because DNA technology was not well enough advanced. Nor would it have been possible in the years ahead, because the direct bloodline traced by Leicester's researchers is going to die out.
A monarch who has become a by-word for regal villainy -- largely because of the effectiveness of the Tudor propaganda machine, aided and abetted by William Shakespeare -- will now be re-interred. Leicester Cathedral has been chosen for his final resting place, though some may think that York Minster would be more appropriate.
Wherever he is laid to rest, the last English monarch to die in battle, who was "killed fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies" in the words of one chronicler, deserves the fullest pomp and ceremony. We will never again have a chance to entomb a sovereign five centuries after his death.
-- The Telegraph, London, Feb. 4