Monday, 4 February 2013

Now is the winter of our discontent




I visited Winchester Cathedral a couple of weeks ago and whilst wandering around this wonderful Gothic church I came across plaque telling me that an ancient sepulchre had been removed for restoration.  Apparently this stone coffin contained a jumble of  bones belonging to some ancient Kings of Wessex – Canute and his wife Emma, a number of Ethelred and Egberts most of whom had the unhappy suffix ‘the unready’.  I am not sure how one restores a pile of old bones but it is clearly important work.  



After looking round and on our way to a wonderful lunch at The Wykeham Arms  my wife mentioned how sad it was that we had missed the sepulchre and the bones.  I made the mistake of asking how these old bones might enrich our lives and I am reminded of her frosty response by the recent discovery in Leicester.
News that we have laid our hands on the remains of Richard lll, the last Plantagenet King of England, is exciting and particularly so for a little known Canadian furniture maker called Michael Ibsen who shares Richard’s DNA.  The excitement started last September, when a team from the University of Leicester announced they had found a skeleton with apparent battlefield wounds during excavations of the Grey Friars site (the historical burial place of the defeated King).  Anyway, the test are in and it’s a fact - the team have indeed found the skeleton of King Richard.  Additionally, the skeleton showed signs of injuries consistent with wounds received at battle of Bosworth (1485), where Henry Tudor defeated Richard to become Henry Vll. 

The Fields at Bosworth - where Richard fell in battle


Richard is one of our most controversial Monarchs.  He was  fingered for the murder of the Princes in the Tower by Shakespeare and his reputation has been in tatters ever since.  So how will getting our hands on his bones make any historical difference, sadly for me the inconvenient truth is that it probably will help inform the debate around this much maligned King.  The wonders of modern science will be able to tell us quite a bit about this unfortunate soul with the crocked back and broken reputation.  Already the boffins can tells us that many of his 'wounds' were a the results of blows after he was dead, which tells us something about his victor.  All of this now makes me sorry for my flippant and dim witted remarks in Winchester. 
I am still hoping this is an elaborate hoax designed by Mr Ibsen to help sell his new range of four poster beds!  Whether this proves to be true or not he should change his name to Michael Plantagenet and put his prices up.

The next question is where should he be reburied - there will be voices in favour of Westminster Abbey and York, but I think he should remain in Leicester the closest city to where he fell.  Its been good enough for 500 years, why move him!

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