Saturday, March 21, 2015
King Richard III Day at the University of Leicester
I spent some time today at the University of Leicester's King Richard III Day. There was plenty of Medieval-type fun for the kiddies and three streams of lectures for the grown ups.
I listened to three lectures. Matthew Morris, who was the site director for the dig at Greyfriars, revealed just how fortunate it was that Richard III was found.
He revealed that the famous 'R' on the car park was much fainter than photographs make it appear - besides, the king was beneath the space next door. He did use the car park markings to align the first trench though.
When I spoke to him before the lecture, he suggested that my photo I like to believe shows the moment the king was found was probably taken an hour or before that. You can see the photo in a post I wrote to advertise this day beforehand.
Dr David Baldwin is a historian who, back in 1986, wrote a paper suggesting that Richard's bones were probably still at Greyfriars and speculating that archaeologists might one day find them. That makes my blog post from June 2012 look pretty tame, even though I wrote it before it was known that a dig was planned,
He explained that the local tradition that Richard's bones had been thrown into the River Soar at some point was always mistaken. Robert Herrick, who owned a house on the Greyfriars site in the early 17th century, marked the king's grave with a pillar inscribed 'Here lies the body of Richard III, some time King of England'. He would not have done that if everyone in the city knew it was no longer there.
As to the Princes in the Tower, Dr Baldwin suggested there is evidence that Edward V was ill before he disappeared from history. It may be significant that all the later pretenders claimed to be his younger brother Richard or even the son of the Duke of Clarence.
What is remarkable is that their fate never became known. Whoever was responsible for their deaths, both Richard III and Henry VII would have demanded to know the truth. And if they knew, then their inner circles wold have known. Yet even after those kings' deaths, no one ever revealed the truth.
He also suggested that Richard III probably surprised his contemporaries my seizing the throne. Recent historical precedents in England were for a young king's uncles to act selflessly. Richard may have feared for his position and influence if Edward V fell under the influence of his Woodville relations and, once he was bound upon his course, there was no way back.
Dr Richard Buckley, who was the lead archaeologist on the dig, talked about how Greyfriars fitted into the development of Leicester. The latest thinking is that Roman remains could be seen standing here as late as the 12th century, at which point the stones were reused to build the growing city. (Except at the Jewry Wall, of course.) Certainly, Medieval streets bend around the old Roman sites,
You can hear Richard Buckley talking on this them in a video I posted on this blog in 2012.
He also explained how alien it was to an archaeologist to be looking for a named individual. He said that none of the digs conducted at Leicester Abbey have looked for Cardinal Wolsey, who was buried.
If we ever did find him, he said, then cities like Ipswich and Oxford would try to claim him. As long as his bones are not disturbed, he will stay in Leicestershire.