Thursday, August 30

Ya' Gotta Dig The English Royals

By Grant Davies

On this day (-5) 527 years ago, a man was buried after being killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field three days earlier. The poor guy was whacked in the head with a poleaxe.

His name was Richard Plantagenet, better known to history buffs as King Richard III.  He was the last English king to die in battle and he was the last of his family line to be king. It seems he was also last in the hearts of his countrymen. Particularly a guy named Henry Tudor.

Henry just happened to be in charge of the other army on that day, and conveniently he became king himself (Henry the VII) as soon as Richie's headache turned fatal. It didn't take long for him to prove what a change in leadership will do for a country. His first official act as new monarch was an order to have Richard's body brought to a town nearby, Leicester, where he had it stripped naked and hung up for all to see. (The indignity of being naked in front of your former subjects is somewhat more tolerable after you're already dead. The hanging of the royal corpse could have been a tad over the top, but maybe that's just me.)

Anyway, the reason we are revisiting this little tale is because, on this day (-5) in this year, Richard's body is being dug up. At least that's what the archaeologists from the University of Leicester will try to do. It seems that his remains have been somehow misplaced for at least a few hundred years, give or take.

That swell guy Henry didn't want anyone to be able to venerate the grave of the likable Richard, so he saw to it that his body didn't get much of a grave-site. In fact, he was buried right there in Leicester instead of London like all of his predecessors. He was interred at the Greyfriars Abbey where he remained until the Abbey was destroyed by another great guy named Henry VIII not too long afterward.

The royal burial place..maybe
The centuries went by, records got lost, people got confused about locations, and the site is now thought to be under a parking lot used by the Leicester City Council.

If they find the remains of the Royal pain in the arse under the blacktop he will be the first one ever dug up. So in that at least, he will be the first, instead of the last.


Background information for this article was gleaned from the fine site The History Blog. You can glean a lot of cool things from there.

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