Richard III, The King in the Car Park


I've been a bad blogger of late! But the coverage confirming that the bones found under a car park in Leicester do indeed belong to England's most infamous and reviled Plantagenet king, Richard III, have put me in something of a Medieval mood that I'm dying to share. 

Thanks to the wonderful The History Blog and The Richard III Society, I was able to learn some truths about Richard that go beyond Shakespeare and the image of the hunched-backed villain with a limp and withered arm, as played on film by Sir Lawrence Olivier and in the theater by numerous others. 

Forensic research and DNA testing are both remarkable ways of connecting the past with the present. In this case, the Channel Four documentary, The King in the Car Park, traced the whole process of validating the find. 
This included taking a swab from a living descendant (a Canadian-born cabinet-maker from London!) and reconstructing the face from detailed scans of the skull by Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification. 
The skin color and texture, eyes and hair were then added by Janice Aitken. This research adds up to the following, it's definitely Richard, who was a young handsome man (32 when he died), slight in build with a severe scoliosis of the spine but no hunchback and no withered arm either.  

Richard was a married man. His wife, Lady Anne Neville, (11 June 1456 – 16 March 1485), was an English noblewoman and a great beauty. 
Lady Anne's father arranged a marriage to Edward, the son of King Henry VI of Lancaster, but Edward died suddenly and then she married his brother Richard. When Richard seized the crown in June 1483, Anne became Queen.

Five months before Richard was killed at Bosworth Field, Anne died on 16 March 1485, probably of tuberculosis.
On the day that Queen Anne died, there was an eclipse, which some took to be an omen of Richard's fall from heavenly grace. She was buried in Westminster Abbey, in an unmarked grave. Richard is said to have wept at her funeral.
There was no memorial to her until 1960, when a bronze tablet was erected on a wall near her grave by the Richard III Society. It's inscription says,


“In person she was seemly, amiable and beauteous…And according to the interpretation of her name Anne full gracious” REQUIESCAT IN PACE.


In the Middle Ages, British and European women of high birth covered their heads, much as many Muslim women do today, signifying their modesty. 
In this portrait of Anne Neville, she's wearing the fashionable horned headdress. The following is from Rosalie Gilbert's blog 
A Dictionary of English Costume by Cunnington and Beard describes the horned headdress as being that which is worn with wide templers which are wired up to resemble horns from which a pendant veil curtained the back of the head. English headwear researcher, Katrina Wood has this to say:
This style of headdress was worn for many years by the middle classes and was Burgundian-French in origin. The cones or horns which projected out at roughly a 45 degree angle were called templettes or templars and over the course of the next few hundred years varied in shape and size according to fashion. The hair was completely concealed as decorum dictated. Starched white veils would then be attached to the headpiece using pins.
The late 15th century saw the return of the horned headdress for the upper classes. The primary difference between this and other previous styles of truncated head-dress, is the lack of a padded roll previously seen in earlier versions and the style of gown it was worn with. Interesting that the horns went out of fashion, and then came back in.

I found some wonderful collectable art dolls of Lady Anne Neville and Richard III by Debbie Ritter for sale on  


Finally, from the History Blog, these panels depict how Richard lost the Battle of Bosworth, died and ended up beneath the car park in Leicester!


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