Debbie Jackson: England's Richard III: His history is a mystery in time
BY DEBBIE JACKSON World Staff Writer
Monday, December 10, 2012
12/10/12 at 4:09 AM
"A very peaceful and sad place."
That's what I wrote in my travel diary after visiting the site where Richard III lost his crown on Aug. 22, 1485. A few weeks before the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field, my family made a sort of pilgrimage in 1985 to the place where the last king of England to die in battle was struck down.
I had become a fan of the misunderstood monarch after reading "The Daughter of Time," a slim volume of fiction written by Josephine Tey and first published in 1951. The book's protagonist is Inspector Alan Grant, who fights boredom while recuperating from a broken leg by trying to solve the mystery of who killed two young princes in the Tower of London in the 15th century. Suspicion has always fallen on the boys' uncle, Richard III, but the Scotland Yard inspector thinks otherwise.
The enduring mystery provides a backdrop to recent news that a set of remains unearthed from a parking lot in Leicester, England, may belong to Richard. Those who, like Inspector Grant and me, think Richard got a raw deal in history are eagerly awaiting the results of testing to see if the bones match the DNA of a Canadian descendant of Richard's eldest sister.
Jo Appleby, who excavated the burial site, told the Guardian newspaper, "I still can't quite believe it. When I saw the gash in the skull, and the twisted spine, the hair stood up on the back of my neck."
Of course, identifying the remains will do nothing to redeem the reputation of a man who has gone down as one of the most notorious villains in history. After all, William Shakespeare, described Richard as a hunchback "so lamely and unfashionable that dogs" barked at him as he passed by.
Historians agree that Richard was pious, reform-minded and courageous in battle. But even a paragon of virtue could not erase the depiction created by the greatest writer who ever lived.
As everyone knows, the victors dictate how the history books are written, and that is what Henry Tudor set about doing after his forces defeated Richard.
However, if the bones are found to be Richard's, he is destined to be given a burial more suited to a king of England. According to Church of England protocol, he is likely to be laid to rest in the cathedral at Leicester. Some people want him buried in York, his ancestral home, while others suggest that Westminster Abbey is the proper place for him.
Members of the Richard III Society, which is dedicated to reclaiming Richard's reputation, see the discovery as potentially helping to revise how history views him. If the bones found at the former site of a monastery in Leicester are his, it would disprove rumors that he was so reviled his remains were thrown into a river.
And to paraphrase Shakespeare, the winter of our discontent is made glorious summer by the discovery of this son of York.
Original Print Headline: Sometimes history is a mystery in time