The Hide and Seek King

Hello!  So a while back I found a pin on Pinterest which showed a picture of Richard III and said on it “Hide and Seek World Record Holder 1485-2013”.  Haha, clever! :)  I thought this was super funny and when I tried to describe why it was so accurate to my friends I had to explain to them all about the “car-park king” and his discovery.
 
This  is my purpose in writing here – to share historical things that I think are really cool.  I love reading about history, watching historical films and shows, and visiting historical places.  And then I babble incessantly to my family who has no idea what I’m going on about.  So I will write about it here for any of you who are interested and want to know more.
 
So then, back to Richard III.  He was born in 1452, the fourth son of Richard, Duke of York, part of the Yorkist family which was involved in the Wars of the Roses against the Lancastrian faction (supporting King Henry VI).  By the end of the first phase of the war in 1461, Richard’s brother Edward had became King Edward IV.  At the end of the second phase of the war in 1471, Edward had finally and completely defeated Henry VI and his son and heir the Prince of Wales and was now secure on the throne.
 
Upon his death in 1483, Edward IV had two sons.  The elder son, also named Edward, was about 12 years old when he became King Edward V, and his brother Richard, Duke of York, was about 10 years old.  These two boys are referred to as the “Princes in the Tower” because they were put away in the Tower of London by their uncle, Richard III, who usurped the throne and became king in the summer of 1483.  The boys were never seen after that summer and nobody really knows exactly what happened to them.
 
Henry VII (Henry Tudor) was then the only surviving male of the Lancastrian family (after the death of Henry VI and his son) and had only a very shaky claim to the throne through his mother, Margaret Beaufort.  Basically every nobleman at the time who had been loyal to Edward IV turned on Richard III (because he took the crown from Edward’s sons and possibly had them murdered, which isn’t something that helps you make friends) in favor of Henry Tudor.  The two fought at the Battle of Bosworth Field on August 22, 1485.  Henry Tudor won, and then married Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth of York, thus uniting their two dynasties of York and Lancaster and creating the Tudor dynasty.
 
So why was Richard III seen as so bad that nobody bothered to remember where he, a king of England, was buried?  Well to start, his nephews disappeared after he usurped the throne from them – looks a little suspicious, does it not?  He would have good cause for them to be dead of course – the peace and stability of the country and all would be more easily accomplished if there was an adult in charge, not a child, but he never discussed their death – whether it be by murder or through natural causes, which is also a possibility.  In fact, there has never been any definitive explanation; blame is thrown around but there is no clear answer, only a mystery.
 
Henry VII also had good cause for the princes to be dead, because they would have been a great threat to the security of his reign.  Some even believe that Henry had the boys killed – not Richard III, so then why take the blame for murder when you can blame it on someone who’s dead?  Henry may have just placed the blame on Richard to save his own reputation.  Whether he did commit the murder or not, Henry portrayed Richard badly so that he himself would look better.  After all, history is written by the victor.
 
After Henry’s victory in the battle, Richard’s body was taken to Greyfriars Priory near the battlefield and buried in a manner fit for a dishonored, murderous king – which he has certainly been seen as in the centuries since;  Shakespeare especially portrays him as a villain, and this image has contributed to the public’s image of Richard since.  Although Richard will always be remembered – as good or as bad – the location of his burial was quietly left alone and forgotten for centuries.
 
The skeleton of Richard the Third being excavated.
The skeleton of Richard the Third being excavated.
It was not until 2012 that Richard’s body was found under a parking lot in Leicester (hence the aforementioned pin :).  The excavation was initiated by Philippa Langley of the Richard the Third Society and conducted by the University of Leicester.
 
The skeleton was studied in numerous ways, my favorite being the DNA testing conducted.  A family tree beginning with one of Richard’s sisters was constructed up to the present in order to find a modern descendant of the family with whom to compare mtDNA (DNA located in the mitochondria, the part of the cell which produces energy) from the remains and determine if there is a familial relationship or not – and there is!
 
The skeleton itself shows several major wounds from weapons, possibly swords and a halberd, one of which was perhaps cause of death.  It is also clear from his skeleton (even in the picture above) that he did have scoliosis which formed during adolescence and contributed to his reputation as a hunchback, although he may not have been as severely hunchbacked as he has been portrayed.
 
Now there is a huge debate over where Richard should be reburied – the main choices being York and Leicester.  Before the excavation, it was agreed between the University of Leicester and the city of Leicester that if Richard was found during the excavation in the car park that he would be reburied in Leicester.  But York also wants Richard buried in its city because he had many lands and support in the area during his life.
 
There has already been a design chosen for Richard’s burial in Leicester Cathedral, which has now been delayed because of the controversy.
 
Here are some of the sources where I read the news of Richard’s discovery:
 
Richard III dig: ‘Strong evidence’ bones are lost king
Bones Under Parking Lot Belonged to Richard III
The Discovery of Richard III
 
The Smithsonian also did an excellent documentary about the entire research process:
 
The King’s Skeleton: Richard III Revealed

Other sources:

De Lisle, Leanda. “Burying the Princes in the Tower.” BBC History Magazine Oct. 2013: 20-26. Print.

Richard III.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 22 Dec. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/502498/Richard-III>.

Royle, Trevor. The Wars of the Roses. London: Abacus, 2009. Print.

“Wars of the Roses.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 22 Dec. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/509963/Wars-of-the-Roses>.

Weir, Alison. The Princes in the Tower. New York: Ballantine, 1992. Print.