The King in the Parking Lot

Skull of Richard III

Skull of Richard III

So it was him – it was Richard III, the last Plantagent King of England who the archaeologists found underneath a car park in Leicester in the East Midlands of the UK.  If you don’t care for the romance of history, then look away now, but if you do then like me you’ll have wondered at it all.

Of course, when he was buried there it was a church, which was destroyed at the Reformation, and the site was lost over the years. That the first trench dug by the archaeologists should have yielded his bone was the equivalent for them of a lottery win.

There exists a Richard III Society which sponsored the dig, which seems to think the man was next door to a saint. They react violently to Shakespeare’s fictional portrayal of the king, not seeming to realise that the point of a play is that it is fiction, not history.  One of their claims is that the King was not a hunchback. Well, tough, because this skeleton was; this seems not to have gone down well with some ‘Ricardians’; but they are, themselves, writing fiction.

Richard did not, they say, kill his nephews, the Princes in the Tower. Well, they disappeared from view under his reign, when he took the throne from his eldest nephew, Edward V, and if we ask the simple question of what happened to deposed kings in those days, the answer is that the man who deposed them had them killed: it happened with Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI, so why not with Edward V? The answer of the Ricardians, that their hero wasn’t that sort of guy, won’t wash. They claim the man who defeated Richard at Bosworth, Henry VII did it. There’s no proof at all that the Princes were even alive in 1485, but to exonerate their hero, the Ricardians will blame anyone, even when the obvious is just that – obvious.

That’s what you get with people who already know the conclusion they want before they read the evidence; they read it in the light of their own conclusion; it is why it is pointless to argue with conspiracy theorists and atheists – they already know the truth, they just select the evidence to support it.

There is certainly a mystery with Richard.  As the youngest brother of King Edward IV he won a reputation as a gallant knight and a reliable supporter, and yet, on the sudden and unexpected death of Edward, he seized the throne, imprisoned his nephews, had his enemies executed and declared himself King.  The Ricardians claim that he’d become convinced that stories about his brother’s marriage not being legitimate were correct. When did that one happen? Oh, when Edward IV was dead – how convenient. Isn’t that just the sort of excuse a man with bad conscience would make to excuse himself?

Far more likely that Richard, like others, feared that the new King’s mother and her grasping and ambitious family, the Woodvilles, would seize as much power and money as they could, and that they’d try to get rid of men who stood in their way, as Richard would have done. It was a dog eat dog political world then, as now, and Richard would have acted wisely from his own point of view in seizing the throne.

If he’d won at Bosworth in 1485, no one would have cared one way or the other by now. But he lost – and ended up as the king in the parking lot. Moral of that one – if you seize the throne, better make sure you hang on to it.


About JessicaHof
Anglican Christian, evangelist, survivor, grateful

5 Responses to The King in the Parking Lot

  1. I’ve been a mild Ricardian for a while, since I read Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time years ago. I am thrilled to no end by this discovery. As for the Princes, I definitely think we should not take for granted the charge that he did it, since our entire view of Richard is colored by the Tudors’ portrayal of him and their writing of history for the next century. I do think, if he had the Princes done away with, it was on account of the Woodvilles. If he did it, it was certainly dastardly, but no worse a crime than many other a monarch has done to protect his claim to the throne. In any case, I absolutely think he was not the monster depicted in Shakespeare, but a genuine human being with major issues. For so long I’ve wondered whether he was actually hideous or deformed as portrayed, or even a “hunchback.” Now we’ve answered that question. Now I wince when I look at his spine… poor Richard. I am sure, like the emperor Claudius, he would have faced ridicule and scorn all his life, and no one expected him to become king.


    • JessicaHof says:

      Yes, it’s important to remember that Shakespeare was a playwright not an historian, and villains are more fun to write than virtuous men. I can’t see any reason not to suppose that Richard did it, so to speak, but as you say, it was no worse than others did 🙂


      • NEO says:

        I, too have been a mild Ricardian, murdering the Princes just never really seemed in character for Richard but, I’m having some second thoughts which I’ll explain tomorrow. I think part of it is that Shakespeare’s portrayal just never fit with his life while his brother was on the throne. It is rather fascinating and I think the Catholics have a pretty valid point, that he should have a Catholic State funeral as befits a crowned and anointed King of England, who was indeed Catholic.


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