Richard III was the king of England for two years between 1483 and 1485 when he was killed in the battle that decisively ended the Wars of the Roses, which at that point had gone on for 30 years.
Richard had a spinal deformity, which earned him the title “Hunchback” by Henry Tudor, the man who defeated him and became Henry VII. He was accused of murdering the two sons of his brother who had been king Edward IV, and whose sons had prior claim to the throne until Edward’s marriage was declared invalid and the two princes deemed bastards, and therefore ineligible to ascend to the throne.
Richard is the Richard III of Shakespeare’s play by that name, which assumes that all the accusations about him are true. Modern scholars aren’t so sure, and have pointed out that during his short reign Richard actually accomplished some valuable things.
Which may be why archaeologists have been looking for his tomb. Richard III was not only the last English king to die in battle; he was the last English king before this century. Henry VII was Welsh, future kings were Scottish, and then German.
So how did Richard III get lost? As a loser, his burial was low-key, in a Grey Friars Church in Leicester near where he was killed in battle. That church is now destroyed, and in its place is a car park. The archaeologists have been digging up the car park, and they think they have found Richard’s tomb. They hope to be able to get DNA evidence to aid their claim, but they already know the man whose body they have found suffered from a spinal deformity like Richard’s and a severe injury to the head consonant with war.
The interesting thing is that people are now saying that if the body is firmly identified as belonging to Richard III that he should be buried in Westminster or in some other place suitable for royal burial — not in a car park.
It’s never too late to dig up the past and tell the story with a different ending.