Wednesday 13 March 2013

I had a Richard III bookmark before it was cool

It's true, I did. My Dad, who is a staunch supporter of Richard and convinced of his innocence in the matter of the Prince's in the tower, bought it for me a few months ago. While I remain somewhat sceptical that Richard could be entirely innocent of the deaths of the two boys, I have always found him a fascinating King and was happy to see him staring pensively at me every time I opened my book.

Now however, in leicester, he is literally everywhere. Apart from the exhibit at the Cathedral and the statue that stands in castle gardens it seems that if you turn a corner in this city you will see good King Richard staring down at you. I even saw him advertising sunglasses in the city centre sporting a pair of natty Raybans and declaring 'deals fit for a King!
The discovery of England's last King to die in battle under a very unassuming car park in the centre of Leicester is undeniably fantastic and the kind of thing that if it cropped up in fiction you may be hard pressed to believe. Its a huge achievement for the University of Leicester and the Richard III society and a great thing for Leicester as a city (although all the modern city itself can really claim to have done is been built on top of him ...) and I completely understand making the most of what is an incredible historical discovery... But that's just it, it is an incredible historical discovery. The team who uncovered Richard's remains fought a long and arduous campaign to find the lost king, carrying the scepticism of the wider historical community and facing up to the fact that in all likelihood they wouldn't find him. This is history, our history, discovered in one of the most tangible ways history can be discovered ie. physical remains, under our very noses. The amount we can learn from Richard's remains is considerable, even just the confirmation that he did indeed have some kind of physical deformity, visible or not to me is massively exciting. (I fully accept that I'm a huge geek and not everybody will find RIII's curved spine quite so enthralling). Also the possibilities opened up by DNA research in historical study are clearly demonstrated.

And yet this actual historical discovery and its relevance for the field and for our understanding of the history of our country risks being lost against the rising tide of Richard III publicity gimmicks and the fact that people are just getting a bit sick of it! The continuing argument over where Richard Should ultimately be buried arguably isn't helping either. New History Lab is seeking to break through the hype and get to the history underneath. On Friday 22nd March Dr. Turi King who lead the genetic analysis which confirmed the identity of the skeleton will be discussing the search, the find, the role of DNA analysis and the implications for history. Come along and hear a first hand account of the discovery of a King in a car park, a truly incredible thing, and appreciate again how history literally unfolded on our doorstep here in Leicester.