Amongst the TV programmes that I enjoy/endure at home, I have to admit that I enjoy watching “Bones”. The drama that is part love story, part forensic anthropological studies gets me hooked everytime. I like dramas where there is something to solve, be it my childhood with “Jonathan Creek” or more recently with programmes such as “Elementary”.
And so, combining this with my geeky love for history and I, like many others, have loved today, because archaeologists and scientists confirmed that the skeletal remains found in a Leicestershire car park are that of King Richard III!
On the one hand, this is no different to many other people we study in History- he is still dead, after all. But to discover his remains, rather than simply knowing his “tomb lies here” could potentially lead to some interesting discoveries, none more important than how exactly he died.
The scientific process undertaken to reach such a dramatic conclusion blows my mind. The University of Leicester have said that a “wealth of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, radiological evidence, DNA and bone analysis and archaeological results, confirms the identity of the last Plantagenet king who died over 500 years ago”. The fact that the “DNA from the skeleton matches two of Richard III’s maternal line relatives”, and that a Leicester genealogist verified the living relatives of Richard III’s family to confirm this claim is simply astonishing. It actually made me consider exploring links between the Humanities and Science department, to see if we can show how the two disciplines can work together! Even if I don’t, on Richard Kennet’s recommendation, I plan on using Ian Dawson’s “discovering Richard III” activities with key stage three classes (see below for how it went!).
The car park is in for a big revamp following this news, but so potentially is Richard himself. The last King to lose the crown on the battlefield, Richard has been subject to a bad press in history, none so dramatically as that of Shakespeare himself. It’s believed that Tudor propaganda has led to the vilification of the monarch, who rather than being a evil villain, was more than likely a product of the ruthless feudal system that existed at the time.
The discovery of his grave will shed new light on his death at the 1485 Battle of Bosworth, such as the potential “humiliation injuries” he suffered (there are 10 injuries to the skeleton, and more than one could be considered fatal). But it will also shed new light on his life- the extent of his scoliosis, his overall appearance and who knows- maybe much, much more!
ADDITION 5/2/2013: So I’ve taught a lesson on Richard III today, and it was great! The students seemed engaged, asked intelligent questions and really enjoyed the videos from the University of Leicester (much better than the Channel 4 Documentary by the sounds of things!). They were able to ascertain what difference the discovery has made, and could place it in context within their topic for the first half of this year (1485-1660)- I’m already looking forward to teaching it again, although it may require some differentiation in places. You can see my PowerPoint (based on the “Thinking History” activity mentioned before) here.