LIC Blog

What now remains?

From the research findings released by the team at the Richard III Project we discovered that there was a strong possibility the body recovered from the Grey Friars Priory  was submitted to at least one humiliation injury after death. The injury described is that of having a dagger of some form rammed into his pelvic area with such ferocity as to leave a mark in the bone of the pelvis. We should not really be surprised by this. Only a few years previously we know that Richard's father, the Duke of York, and his elder brother Edmund were both submitted to far worse humilitiation after the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. Their heads were struck from their bodies and carried to the nearby city of York, where they were placed on spikes above Micklegate Bar, the Duke of York's head adorned with a crown of paper or straw in cruel mockery.

This kind of treatment of high ranking prisoners killed in battle was sadly not unheard of. In 1283, Llewelyn the last Welsh Prince of Wales was killed in a skirmish in south Wales, and his severed head was sent to the Tower of London where it remained for many years. It is sad to think that the head of this noble prince looked down near the scene of his father's death during an abortive escape from the Tower.


Llewlyn's head was placed here at the order of King Edward I. Edward had waged a bitter war in Wales, a war which had been sparked by the treachery of Llewelyn's younger brother Daffyd who had once sworn loyalty to Edward. A kindly historian could make the argument that under extreme provocation Edward had wished to make a cruel example of Llewelyn (the fate reserved for Daffyd was far worse). Sadly though, Edward was not unknown for such treatment of the dead, even those of his own close family. He went into the Battle of Evesham in 1265 with the intent of ensuring the death of his Uncle, Simon de Montfort, Fifth Earl of Leicester. After the battle we know that:

And straight-away all the knights of importance turned away from him, and then some others beheaded him, cut off his hands and feet, and riddled his body, long since dead, all over with wounds. And no such torment has been head of: they cut his private parts clean off.

The Last Hours of Simon de Montfort

Although not performed personally, this was the treatment Edward permitted to a man who was his godfather, a man whom he had known well. Sadly, Simon's remains were disinterred from their place before the choir at the Abbey church of Evesham on Edward's orders and their final resting place is now lost.

The Tudor's also were not known for their compassion and restraint. The death of Simon de Montfort as a rival for control of the kingdom of England, although separated by 220 years closely parallels that of Richard III. Both men came to control of the kingdom in controversial circumstances, both men died violently in one last heroic charge.

So what can learn from the treatment of the Earl of Leicester corpse with regard to Richard III?

We have no reason to believe that missing feet of the Grey Friar's skeleton was a humiliation injury, since it seems unlikely that frenzied men would have stopped at only one such mutilation. The hands, though possibly bound, are present, as is the head. We have no way of knowing about any soft tissue injuries sustained other than those that have left their mark in the bones.

Perhaps we should in some small way be grateful that these remains appear to have been left relatively undisturbed, both by the men responsible for his untimely death and that they have retained their dignity in an unmarked grave for over 500 years.

Now that the hew and cry of the media circus has subsided it is fitting that these earthly remains be laid to rest quietly in the immediate future, rather than remain as a public spectacle until their eventual re-internment in Leicester Cathedral. The exhibiting of the remains of the fallen in Medieval times was usually to prove to the general populace that they were dead beyond doubt. After more than 500 years there is little doubt that Richard III is dead. May he now rest in peace.