LIC Blog

Is there really something fishy about Richard III?

In Richard III: The King in the Car Park, aired on Channel 4 last Monday, the radiocarbon dating of the remains discovered in Leicester gave the "wrong" result, for those who wanted them to be the remains of Richard III. One test suggested 1430-1460 and another 1412-1449, both well outside the actual year of the King's death, in 1485.

Professor Buckley swiftly changed the result to give the dates 1475-1530, with a 69% confidence. He did so by stating that it was all to do with fish.

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Footsteps to War: Part 3 - The Welsh Connection

Wales and England were countries governed by different laws and customs. The latter had been unified under the merciless hands of first Norman and then Angevin kings. Wales was governed by many lords and its people lived in villages rather than towns.

In 1240 Llywelyn the Great died. He had brought a greater degree of unity and cohesion to the land than any previous lord. Llywelyn had married Joanna, illegitimate daughter of King John. They had two sons Gruffydd and Dafydd. According to Welsh law each should have shared in their late father's estate, but Llywelyn ensured that the lion's share passed to Dafydd. To make doubly sure Dafydd imprisoned his elder brother in Cricieth.

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The Judgment of Richard III

We lose sight of our purpose in pursuing the life and character of Richard III, when we make such a fuss about whether his bones have, or have not, been found. The Lord God Almighty knows where the remains of his child are laid and will raise him to glory at the last day.

What matters is the truth. Digging out bones does not tell us whether he was a malicious deceiver, who engineered the death of his brother, Clarence, stabbed Henry VI to death with his own hand, murdered his nephews, stole the crown, poisoned his wife, lusted after his niece and died manfully fighting those, who had betrayed him.

These, and these alone, make the man. And these elements are outside the competence of pseudo-scientific methodology. These matters cannot be decided with mattocks and DNA.

Making Monsters out of Men

This essay is not about Richard III. And yet it is. It is about a man who has suffered similar damage to his legacy, a man whose name - just like that of Richard III - has been attached to an unchallengeable stereotype, and yet a man who would very probably have been a better neighbour and more loyal friend than most.

William Cowper was an athletic youth. He excelled in every sport at school. He was bright. He liked girls, at least the few the schoolboy knew. He was inclined to make pranks on them and had sufficient charm to be forgiven.

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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.

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A Shadow of a Doubt

The history of mathematics is riddled with good practitioners, who were convinced that they had proved a theorem, only to find a fatal error buried in their algebra.

So, when the University of Leicester announces that the skeleton on display is "beyond reasonable doubt" that of King Richard III, this mathematician reaches for a bottle of caution.

Proof is a tricky business.

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How do we determine identity?

It is an old adage that fossils are dated by the rocks in which they are found and the rocks are dated by the fossils inside them. It is a flaw and difficult to overcome. Our preconceptions colour our conclusions and we are fools to think it is otherwise.

The evidence from Leicester today raised one problem in my mind: did preconceived ideas contribute to the conclusions?

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What is Idiopathic Structural Scoliosis?

This condition begins in childhood or adolscence (often 10 to 12 years) and tends to increase progressively until skeletal growth is complete. It can lead to severe deformity, especially when the chest (thoracic) region is affected. In adults with longstanding deformity it may be accompanied by pain.

The skeleton (from the photographs) exhibits mainly a thoracic scoliosis with the curve to the right. This would be accompanied by rotation of the vertebrae on a vertical axis, thrusting the ribs backwards on the convex side, increasing the appearance of the deformity.

The cause is unknown.

Dr. F. J. Fox

Unanswered Questions

Following the evidence presented in Leicester this morning:

1. Richard III did not have a withered arm and a hunchback. Paintings of him were known to have had been amended to show these and historians have been more than willing to accept both features as true. Now that the withered arm has been showed to be a lie, and the hunchback a false conjecture at best, will the historians responsible be regarded as suspect from now on? 

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Objectivity: Fact or Fiction?

More4 has just broadcast their programme "Richard III: Fact or Fiction?"

As usual this presented the establishment version of events through the mouth of Tony Robinson, who explicitly stated that Richard murdered his nephews. He said this in the same breath that he admitted that the meagre evidence against the King was only circumstantial.

The programme illustrated that objectivity is a complete myth. The historians Dockray and Pollard - both of whom in close up are far more scary than Richard III - were the spokesmen of the enlightenment, presiding god-like over the "wicked" King. Clearly their view must be right, since gods do not err.

When we produced our DVD on Sandal Castle, several reviewers were shocked by my lack of "objectivity" in uttering a precise and passionate condemnation of Henry Tudor, the upstart Welsh traitor. 

Let us be clear. 

There is no such thing as objectivity. 

All men and women are inextricably biased. 

Our loyalties bind us as surely as they did Richard.

Footsteps to War: Part 2 - Marriage and Money

2. Marriage and Money

Young Edward's household expanded as he grew. The initial grants from the exchequer had to be replaced with more permanent sources of income. In 1244, at the age of 5, his father gave him the Honour of Tickhill in Yorkshire, confiscated from the Countess of Eu. The income from this estate was augmented by the revenues of the vacant bishopric of Chichester.

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Footsteps to War: Introduction & Part 1


When we visit a castle and walk through its ruins, how often do we ask, 

"Why was it built?"

"Who built it and when?"

The castles of North Wales - in particular Conwy, Caernarfon, Harlech and Beaumaris - were all created in the aftermath of war, a war in which the English crown emerged triumphant.

But who were the protagonists?

And why did they go to war?

The answers to these questions may help us to grasp the significance of the palatial castles of North Wales.

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February Press Conference about Richard III Dig in Leicester

The latest official news about the dig in Leicester ...

The Search for King Richard III: Announcement of media conference

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 9 January 2012

The University of Leicester has today announced that it plans to reveal the results of a series of scientific investigations into human remains – which are suspected of being that of King Richard III - in the first week of February.

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Parliamentary Debate on the (possible) Remains of King Richard III

Transcript of the answers given in the House of Commons on October 25th 2012

John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab): What assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the potential Church sites available for the reburying of King Richard III. [124677]

Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South) (Lab): What discussions the Church Commissioners have had on laying to rest the remains of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral. [124683]

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If this is Richard ... why is there an arrow in his back?

According to the initial report from the archaeologists excavating Greyfriars Church in Leicester, the skeleton that they suspect is that of King Richard III has:

A barbed metal arrowhead {was} found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back.

It seems quite unlikely that the arrow entered the body after death. We know that Tudor paid scant regard to the rights due to a dead King. But if the body had been used for target practice after death, there should be more evidence in the form of nicks to ribs and other bones and possibly more arrowheads at the site where the skeleton was found.

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The Latest News from the Dig in Leicester



On Friday 31st August 2012 the University of Leicester applied to the Ministry of Justice under the 1857 Burials Act for permission to commence the exhumation of human remains found at the Grey Friars site in Leicester.

Exhumation commenced on Tuesday 4th September 2012 and has continued to this morning. The work wasconducted by Dr Turi King from the University’s department of Genetics and Dr Jo Appleby & Mathew Morris of our School of Archaeology & Ancient History.

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A Tomb for King Richard III

An archaeological dig is now underway to determine whether the mortal remains of King Richard III are under a car park in Leicester.

Over a year ago, Lost in Castles were invited to make the preliminary computer impressions for a potential tomb to re-bury the remains of King Richard, should they be discovered. The design has undergone several changes and is now being finalised.

BBC coverage is inevitably pro-Tudor: BBC and Richard III

Forgotten Lives: Catherine of Suffolk

In between the lives of the Tudors, one figure stands in the shadows.

Catherine Willoughby was the daughter of Lord Willougby and his Spanish wife, Maria. Their marriage had taken place during the period when Catherine of Aragon was still beloved by King Henry VIII and he was in the habit of rewarding noble marriages which strengthened national ties with Spain. The reward for Catherine's parents was an expansion of their estate.

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The Bishop's Tale

Following his guide Robert Stillington limped into the room below the Council Chamber. Motes of dust danced in the air. The servants had done a good job in preparing it for Lady Anne. He was pleased to see the glow of a fire in the hearth. Though it was June, even Crosby Place could not escape the dank presence of the Thames. And his frail flesh was old enough to appreciate the warmth.

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