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Richard III’s remains

February 4, 2013


I am impressed not only at the breaking news that Richard III’s remains have been identified, but also that the story even is currently the “top story” on my edition of Google News.

So now, onto the forensic anthropology.  I’m sure we’re all eager to find out whose view of history is more correct:  Shakespeare’s Richard III or Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time.

Shakespeare’s account is, of course, a literary masterpiece.  I note that both the Arden Second Series edition of Richard III (for those who prefer the more traditional style of annotations) and the Arden Third Series edition of Richard III (for those who prefer the latest style of annotations) are available on sale at Amazon for $6.80.  Although I have not yet read it, I’m sure the Norton Critical Edition of Richard III is great too (particularly since it includes major sections of Thomas More’s famous partisan account.)  There is no shortage of great film versions of Shakespeare’s Richard III too – of course Olivier’s version is stunning (available in Criterion DVD, Criterion box set, and forthcoming on Criterion Blu-Ray) and the Ian McKellen version is also quite good.  Al Pacino has a fun documentary that uses Richard III as a way to introduce Shakespeare to new audiences.

But I still remember my excitement as a kid when I read Josephine Tey’s Daughter of Time – it opened new vistas in my understanding of the possibility of the mystery genre.   I’m not alone in my assessment; Robert McCrum mentions that it was an adolescent favorite of his and calls Daughter of Time “possibly [Tey’s] masterpiece,” and Peter Hitchens wrote that Daughter of Time was “one of the most important books ever written.”  If you are really determined, you can read the description at Wikipedia for more information about the book, but I recommend reading the book first, so you can fully enjoy its surprises and twists without spoilers.

If you want to read a scholarly biography of Richard III, I can recommend Paul Murray Kendall’s 1955 biography; although it is already dated and will become even more so after the monarch’s remains are fully studied.  For general context on the Lancaster-York conflict (and the defeat of Richard III by Henry Tudor) there is a promising book (II have not yet read it, but it has received some favorable reviews and it is certainly mercifully short): David Grummitt’s A Short History of the Wars of the Roses.

Finish this part of history, and you’ll be ready to tackle Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy – but that will need to be a subject for a future post ….

Update:  Here is a more detailed news article about the discovery.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2013 4:00 pm

    Here is a fuller news story about the discovery:

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 4, 2013 11:37 pm

    I too remember exactly when I read The Daughter of Time. I remember it is vividly as I remember hearing of Kennedy’s assassination. Why did it make such an impact? I think, for the first time, I realized that not everything that was written down in history books was true. I must have been fairly young. In any case, I experienced a radical shift in perspective.

  3. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    February 4, 2013 11:40 pm

    As wikipedia says,

    “The book explores how history is constructed, and how certain versions of events come to be widely accepted as the truth, despite a lack of evidence.”

    Sometimes there are pithy comments in wikipedia.

  4. February 5, 2013 12:46 pm

    A Catholicity and Covenant has a nice writeup of the controversy over whether this pre-Reformation English king should be buried in an Anglican or a Roman Catholic church:

    The deputy editor of the Tablet yesterday declared, “only a Catholic church will do for Richard’s tomb”.

    Roman Catholic historian Eamon Duffy has, however, urged otherwise . . .
    This debate, of course, reflects the different Anglican and Roman perspectives on the continuities or discontinuities between the pre- and post-Reformation ecclesia Anglicana.

  5. February 5, 2013 2:05 pm

    Suzanne — since Thomas More (eager to prove himself a sycophant for new Tudor rulers) wrote the history, he got to set the tone for how later generations viewed Richard III — and that was cemented after Shakespeare’s play became popular. “History is written by the victors” and all that.

    Victoria — it is amusing in a way. Were it up to me, I’d leave his remains in the parking lot and put up some sort of memorial to him in the asphalt. It is not every day that one gets to park one’s car over a former monarch and a reputed war-criminal.

  6. February 5, 2013 10:01 pm

    Another update: added photo from Leicester.

  7. February 5, 2013 10:06 pm

    Also, York is now fighting with Leicester over the right to Richard III’s remains. The language used is reminiscent of the language one might use over a tourist attraction — how is this for inelegant English (from the chief executive of the York City Council — ironically named Ms. England):

    He funded chantries which are facilities where people pray for the souls of the departed in a number of places but he funded the one in York Minster about a hundred times more than anywhere else and it has been inferred down the centuries that that is absolutely where he wished to be buried and remembered.


  1. Re-reading “The Daughter of Time” or was Richard III a murderer? « FortLeft
  2. Top news stories of 2013? | BLT

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