One year ago today and it was confirmed that bones discovered in a Leicester car park were those of Richard III. Was he a monster, as portrayed by writers throughout history? Or was he much maligned with a story shaped by the political convenience of the time? Here’s a view with thanks to Shakespeare for borrowed quotations within the poem, some altered to fit the context.
No Chance to Live So Long
In this our winter of discontent
it’s been confirmed.
In battle slain, in death uncrowned
the king’s been found.
Beneath a Leicester car-park site
the scoliotic bones of crookback Dick
have come to light.
No horse, a kingdom lost and then a life.
A mutilated body,
pierced by spear, dagger, sword and knife,
un-kingly dragged from Bosworth field,
sealed un-coffined in a simple earthy grave,
in Greyfriars church he lay.
So wise, so young they say
do rarely live so long.
The Tudors took the chance to spin
and weave a tale that much maligned
that hunchback king.
They went to every length
to desecrate that tower of strength,
the last of House of York,
Richard, crookback Dick, the third.
They spread the word.
Two princes in the tower dead.
Off with his head!
His evil deeds,
the twists and turns that history believed.
How much is history really worth?
The world had grown so bad
that wrens made prey
where eagles dared not perch.
Conscience is a word that cowards use
devised at first to keep the strong in awe.
But history has a conscience too
and truth will out
the inconvenient truth that will reveal
that what we once believed
we can believe no more.
Richard the Third,
no longer much maligned,
will now be nobly re-interred,
consigned to lie within a holy place
fitting for a king to grace.
A king so wise, so young
who had no chance to live so long.
4th February 2013 – headlines from the BBC
Notes: “Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king’s”. A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family. Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.” Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.