I’m not a Royalist by any means, but I do have a keen interest in history and I recall the discovery of Richard III’s remains found in a car park in Leicester ten years ago in September 2012. Since this amazing discovery an exhibition centre has opened comprehensively chronicling the work of the archaeologists who found him.
Richard III was known to have been interred in Grey Friars church but, with the dissolution of the monasteries under the reign of Henry VIII, Grey Friars was razed to the ground and Richard III’s remains were thought to be lost forever. Thanks to a tenacious team of academics the location of Grey Friars was found and excavation began on finding Richard’s remains. It is something of a miracle that his skeleton was discovered almost intact. The only parts missing are his feet.
My knowledge of Richard III was confined to the play by Shakespeare which features his deformed back, his wish for “a horse, a horse my kingdom for a horse”, and the crimes of infanticide and regicide. (He is thought to have murdered his nephews Edward and Richard, as well as killing Henry VI.)
I was therefore quite surprised to learn that Richard III was only on the British throne for two years and seemed to be quite popular with his subjects as he introduced many reforms supporting rights for the common people. He abolished royal “benevolences” which were compulsory donations to the Crown. He introduced the bail and jury system and insisted judges be impartial and conduct fair trials. He also introduced new standards of weights and measures and property rights had to be recorded. Furthermore he published laws in English, not in French or Latin, so that people could read them.
He was the last king to die in battle on Bosworth Field, possibly not muttering about his horse, but with sword in hand. His death led to the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, of which I know much, much more.
Richard III was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral adjacent to the exhibition centre. I was unable to see the king’s new resting place as the cathedral is undergoing restoration and will not be reopening until next year. If I happen to be that way again, I will certainly pop in and pay my respects to a king whose alleged nefarious activities overshadow his care of the common people.