I, Richard: Seeking the Haunts of the Living

This is a short story I wrote for the first booksigning of my debut novel, The Rose of York: Love & War, born of my belief at the time that Richard’s bones had been thrown into the River Soar and also my deep sense that Richard III cared what we here on earth thought of him. I’ve kept it close to me for many years, but perhaps the time has come to let it go. Thanks to Philippa Langley and the successful archeological team that unearthed King Richard’s body, he will soon have a proper resting place and lay his head on silk.

Requiescat in Pace, Richard III.

So reads novelist Sandra Worth’s introduction to her wonderfully expressive and heart-rending short story, “I, Richard.” Told from the perspective of King Richard III, brutally slain in battle on August 22, 1485, it conveys the deep wounds suffered not only in life, but also those Richard carries after his death. He seeks truth where there seems to be none, and contemplates what a finality may bring.

My examination of the story’s deeper layers began as a review, and slowly united with exploration of its reflection of events and their implications in the lives of the countless people Richard has touched, before and after his death. Many know of his alleged misdeeds; what seems lacking is awareness of how his reign influenced the freedoms we know today.

Recent events have unearthed a new beginning for Richard Plantagenet, known to some only as Richard III, the king who for 500 years has been accused, amongst other crimes, of murdering his two nephews in order to claim the throne of England. His case has been most actively and openly researched since the end of the Tudor dynasty, when it was once more safe to speak other than ill of this dreadfully maligned monarch.

His detractors have upheld the charges against him, many determined also to maintain for him a grotesqueness equal, as the medieval mind would perceive, to the monstrous blackness of his inner being. While these modern-day accusers stand before us claiming to discount this antiquated notion of the physical body as reflection of the soul inside, they have yet to throw off the shackles of this belief themselves. For they repeat the hunchback and other memes as if they were important elements of the indictment to murder.

But what of Richard himself? What would he make of these and the numerous other charges against him that today remain the subject of heated debate not only between scientists and scholars but also writers, professors, students, readers, even bloggers and those participating in social media? Being late, does he simply not care any more? Or does he somehow maintain a presence here amongst the living? And does he simply observe, unable or unwilling to interact? What if he did care?

Sandra Worth, award-winning author of six novels of the Wars of the Roses, explores this territory in “I, Richard.” Opening with a nod toward the inevitable, the hour of death, Richard’s voice speaks of the crumbling of worlds with the passage of time, and disintegration of beings, both the self and those others who might remember him. Devoid of kindred comfort, why, then, is he here?

It is said, of course, that spirits who roam the realm of the living do because they are bound to something in their previous lives that keeps them from advancing to the next. Well known are Richard’s reasons for his unsettlement; perhaps the surprise is he has been at it this long. When one seeks release, however, from an unspeakable mystery and “from which I will not be free until it is revealed[,]” 500 years is a grim reminder that what comes after the end may be much worse than anything one might experience here on earth.

Richard’s end was indeed horrific; following it he must have been shattered to see his body—never mind that of an anointed king, but even simply as a human being—handled in so degrading a manner. We knew already of the awful head trauma and unseemly transport, then lately of the humiliation injuries, perhaps being bound at the wrists and no evidence of a coffin to at least have a last rest in. In our pain and grief over this new and terrible information, we must remind ourselves that Richard knew and had to endure this sight of himself since the day it happened, so achingly long ago.

Who wouldn’t go in search of something different?

And so

[s]ince my death I have traveled many haunts of the living in search of those who sense my grief, and have been heartened not to find myself friendless. When night deepens, I sometimes see a face that regards me with kindness. Hope is born in my breast. I follow them into their dreams. . . .

Richard has not been friendless indeed, and the accounts for how many came to advocate for him might be fascinating reading, not least because some, this writer included, fell into the Ricardian camp somewhat accidentally—that is to say they weren’t looking to take sides, but the sheer injustice, or simply the weight of the absurd made them sit up straight and take greater notice. Truth has a way of alerting people in this manner, and finding those who regard him other than how he last saw people treating him when on earth, must be encouraging, to say the least.

The king is portrayed in a number of studies as having been a kind and considerate individual. This is not to say he was not a product of his time, rather that kindness as we define it in our own era is quite different from what it was acknowledged to be in his. Now we take it for granted that someone accused of a crime, for example, maintains the right to make his defense and ought not to rot inside or have his worldly goods seized without a conviction in place. Surely some citizens of 15th century England approved of this consideration; largely, however, it was a foreign ideal.

This regal man having in life been so concerned with the lot of others, including those far beneath his own station, it then comes as little surprise that he may choose to follow some into their dreams, being aware of the myriad perspectives and limitations of others. Not all respond well to outright apparition. Perhaps still others could withstand watching Richard’s memories because he takes them through the experience, riding whispers on the wind.

Richard tells us, though, of two he has followed that few in his or our own era would find so savory. Remarkably this passage, given its fright factor, seems almost more poetic than any other in the story. Worth brings us to it succinctly utilizing a method that mirrors the deception of fiends, what with her elegant language depicting a revolting seizure, and we leap straight away into a pair of Richard’s after-life memories. We learn of two people who know the answers the king seeks, but their refusal to divulge what they know, even upon seeing him at their bedsides as death waits to escort them home, contributes to the hideousness of their respective ends. As the woman breathes her last, Richard sees the physical manifestation of power that had overtaken her, something that

resembled the incantation of a fiend. An eddy of darkness swirled from her, and in my mind arose the confusing impressions of a vast mental power, of avarice, coldness and malice, and of joy, of triumphant moments—and supreme despair.

A power so terrifyingly vast that it persuades the woman to believe its evil is her joy, and though she is penitent at her end, she steadfastly seals her heart from the truth that would free her from the grips of this darkness. She knows this, makes her choice, and despairs.

Heartbroken, Richard finds this reality discouraging and wonders at the apparent fruitlessness of his sojourns amongst the living. If a woman faced with the blackest of afterlife terrors chooses them rather than confess her knowledge, what hope is there? Some things are best left unsaid, and our king contemplates the imprisonment of eternal wandering, to forcibly witness the ongoing disparagement of his unsettled soul.

It has been aptly noted, however, that there are two sides to every coin, and recent events bring this notion into the fore. We tend to think of spirits as those who do the haunting, yet Richard speaks of “the haunts of the living.” Potentially embracing a number of connotations, the phrase seems to bring special significance to bear also on the results of our own contemplations. This explains the perceived wisdom of letting some issues lie, while they never truly do.

Rescuing Richard’s reputation is not a post-modern invention; people have been questioning the party line—even if in extreme secrecy—since his battered body first fell. These persons, our ancestors, had to endure life with knowledge passed to us that remains in shadows, frightening us with its power and secrecy, much of our fear residing in the realm of the unknown. At least in part it has been a willful haunting, because even after it became safe to speak of the dead king favorably, information is still withheld, defamation continually spread, academics infected with the partisan teaching of successive generations instructed to repeat rather than question.

In the end it may be King Richard himself who restores his own reputation, or at least becomes the significant stimulus that shifts enormous barriers. It was, after all, his own remains that yielded substantial clues, not least the absence of any withered arm. Other indications, noted above, also speak to the self-haunting of Henry Tudor, who required a degradation so extreme it had to commence with a bound corpse tossed into an unremarkable grave. We may never know all the answers, but there seems great hope that Richard’s truth shall set him free.

Update: The author has since removed the short story from her website and until further notice it is no longer available.

Photos of Bosworth Field plaque and Richard III to be replaced.


Book Review: We Speak No Treason

Because I sometimes have a tendency to borrow too many books from the library, it happens on occasion that I tire of keeping up with conflicting due dates and end up tossing the lot into a bag to haul them back, unread. Such was nearly the case with an older, non-slipcovered edition of Rosemary Hawley Jarman’s We Speak No Treason, a novel I’d ordered on recommendation, but didn’t remember as I was deciding my returns. I made to rid myself of this unknown book, thinking it a pity I was unaware of its content; it could be a rewarding read. Alas, could all the rest be, and so I sighed and continued with my task.

Something stayed my hand, however, and it actually hovered over the return pile as I hesitated and then finally withdrew, my curiosity unwilling to let go of what I might find between these covers.

We Speak no Treason-1

We Speak No Treason

by Rosemary Hawley Jarman

Curiosity in the Middle Ages could be a dangerous trait, as we see the characters here hover before even simple scenarios they know about or wish to know more of, perform secret observations, listen in on others’ conversations, purposefully or perchance. They, too, draw back, aware that even small choices could change the course of their lives while circumstances around them scheme to propel their destinies in other unknown manner.

The language of the tale is indeed magical yet ordinary. Many of the words we associate with medieval speech appear, and at first, perhaps, readers may perceive them as curious, though the mournful aura of the tale hangs heavier than unknown lexicon. This is perhaps especially as the deeper readers make their way into the telling, the lexicon begins to take on a more ordinary aspect. Words begin to be recognized as cousins to those we use today, their associations and nuances easily understood in the passages they inhabit. Jarman repeats them enough—in the manner people would in ordinary parlance—for us to become accustomed, while avoiding the heavy-handedness that sometimes traps medieval novels in stereotype, and she does with grace and variety, each character at times revealing his or her own patterns of speech.

Forbidden stories of King Richard III, We Speak No Treason is narrated by three who had been close to him though furthest now from any safe position to engage in such discussion: the Maiden, Richard’s former leman-turned-nun; the Fool, perilously serving under Henry Tudor following service to both Richard III and his elder brother, Edward IV; and the Man of Keen Sight, condemned to die for the crime of loyalty to his king, by way of Henry Tudor’s backdating his own reign.

We are led through the events of the years leading up to that terrible summer of 1485, which sees the slaughter of the last Plantagenet king at the hands of Henry Tudor’s impossibly outnumbered army. Treason aids the usurper, whose paranoia is so great that even in the age of Elizabeth I, his granddaughter, no Plantagenet association is too small to remove the threat of execution. Small wonder the characters, revealing to us their secrets in Henry’s time, are “diverters of necessity,” secret personal writings or whisper their tale despite an already appointed date with death.

One’s own choices do not always a destiny make, though sometimes they can seem to seal fates. The Maiden’s remembrances draw us into the tale, by way of a book she had written in and hidden for over sixteen years, knowing she should have set it ablaze long before. Like the garden she tends and loves as her own, she once knew Richard Gloucester and tended him in secret, away from the curious and prying eyes of such like Elysande, who shields her from their common mistress, Jacquetta of Bedford. Friendly with Elysande during the reign of Edward IV, she nevertheless lives within a “cold season,” as she does when telling her tale under Henry VII. For Jacquetta is the mother of Edward’s Queen Elizabeth, of the Woodvilles, Lancastrians whose enmity with Edward’s York branch of the Plantagenets is bitter and long lasting—and later allied with Tudor.

Elysande creates diversions for the lover she knows exists, though she is unaware until later this lover’s Plantagenet name. The Maiden is savvy enough to have created her own strategy to get herself to court with her mistress, but later falls victim to Jacquetta’s and the Queen’s dangerous fright when Edward is taken prisoner by his rebellious Warwick cousin. She is spared death, but packed of to a nunnery, being the only one aware that, as she journeys she “safeguard[s] one last small and secret joy. The royal child, the Plantagenet. The child of my beloved.”

The Maiden’s tale at this point is broken, and prior perusal of the book would indicate that her tale picks up again in the fourth section, “The Nun.” Not necessarily meant to be a surprise, for the Maiden herself references her nun status at the start, and modern readers have at least small awareness of medieval nunneries as a destination for widows and some women without means.

The baton thus passes to the Fool, and as we move deeper into his version of events, we begin to grasp the scope of Jarman’s skill in handling multiple narrators. Until now we have lived the Maiden’s tale with her in linear fashion, which may be the safest method but also the most effective given the sheer volume of detail. Familial relationships, names, events, rivalries, all this and more are referenced in a narrative that spans from the Maiden’s childhood, and prepares the reader for a slight shift in storytelling method as, fittingly, an actor takes the stage.

As such, the jester does not merely talk about disguisings; his life is lived as one. He “hides his wit behind idiocy and keeps a well-tuned ear,” talents that no doubt help ensure his survival under the reign of Henry Tudor. Moreover, Jarman’s technique with his storytelling reflects these methods he utilizes, giving the reader occasional pause to wonder under which King or moment the Fool now speaks. He tells of the Tudor’s paranoia manifest in a demand made after witnessing his mastiffs take on and kill a lion: ‘Hang them…Traitorous dogs shall not rise against a king.’

Piers—he reveals to us his name as well as internal conflict—nevertheless must at times strain to bear the load his lot in life has given him. “I live in past and present, then suddenly both come together with a fierce clash like an axe on armour and I am shaken into confusion[.]” He tends to confide in us some of the most horrific scenes at natural stopping points, or such when one must cease for the moment, the weight of his knowledge being too difficult to bear. We read these passages and then stop, the silence sitting with us as heavy as the terrible words preceding it. While talking about Anne’s pregnancy with the beloved Edward, Piers remembers Richard’s bastard son, and discusses at length the family’s living arrangement. John of Gloucester, he tells us, went to the block at age twenty, “brave Plantagenet. Traitorous dogs shall not rise against a King.”

If seeing so deftly into past and present while juggling to maintain a future is a curse as well as blessing, so too is there a downside to the acute vision possessed by the aptly named Man of Keen Sight, who, incidentally, meets briefly with Piers, who initially writes him off as a braggart.

However, it is so; the man has the ability to see into a long distance with greater acuity than most any other person. This aids greatly in his riding skills, but is “the archer’s enemy,” owing to the deficiency in spatial differentiation it causes. Perhaps akin to or presenting in conjunction with a proprioceptive disorder, it disorients the vision so receptors provide misinformation as to distance. “How,” the man asks, “can an archer study the nock and the unwavering hold when already the fat white cloud dangles close to his nose?”

Nonetheless, he develops technique to conquer this “useful fault” and it leads to riding with the Duke of Gloucester, whom he comes to love. The Man goes into exile with Richard, Dickon, who assigns him a pseudonym, “Mark Eye,” fitting for an archer and pleasing to the Man. He grows to love Dickon, and life, good, moves on.

It is not to last, however, as readers are aware from the time the Man is introduced by way of a penitent verse of The Nut-Brown Maid, one of many sung to us through the course of the novel:

 It standeth so; a deed is do

Whereof great harm shall grow;

My destiny is for to die

A shameful death, I trow.

Or else to flee, the t’one must be,

None other way I know

But to withdraw as an outlaw

And take me to my bow.

Wherefore adieu, my own heart true!

None other rede I can;

For I must to the greenwood go,

Alone, a banished man.

Indeed, we are privy from the start to the understanding that herein lies a condemned man, one even who hears the construction outside of his own gallows. Frequently, as he relays his story to us from his cell, he accepts defeat and fault. He condemns his actions, though not for having ridden at the last with King Richard, but rather for the shame that stayed with him for having neglected his friendship and duty to the king, indeed for having betrayed him by teaming up, cowardly-like, with those aiming to destroy Richard after King Edward’s death.

It is also he who receives the prophecy depicting the end of the Plantagenet line, and: “your King. . . the foot that strikes the stone shall turn into a head, and the bones tossed on a dunghill, to stink forever.” He tries to shake off memory of it, as he tried to dismiss it when it is first told him. But his ability to do fails, as increasingly does any sort of sight that may have aided him to perceive the darkness in men, as Richard himself comments upon, after regaining the upper hand from those who aim to thwart his protectorship: “How strange are the hearts of men!” That Richard chooses time and again to forgive those who seek to do him ill—or are too lazy or cowardly to protest such—provides a vision in itself, the “natural” consequences, some might say, of allowing those who seek his destruction to roam free.

If Richard possesses such a failing and declines to admit it, the Man does not. He speaks in hindsight of his acuity dimming and recalls grievously instances when, even then, he ought to have wondered. In moments such as these, again, the author weaves her own storytelling skills by presenting the same event from different perspectives—and how different they at times are! Comparison of the passages indicate clearly what is important to each teller, by way of what each highlights (or leaves out) as well as their brevity or length.

There is a sort of deja-vu to these scenes, ghostly almost, until readers realize in fact they have been here before.

 He summoned a sleepy young man to escort me back to the castle, one who had but lately come on duty, so that none should know, for the greenish dawn was rising over the fens and the camp would soon be stirring. He raised his hand to me as he stood between the tent-flaps, and there was a light about him that was not earthly; or it may have been their marsh fiends dimming their night-lamps behind him; I did not know.


It was at Fotheringhay, and I had gone down into the camp, late, with some message. Everything was steaming with damp summer heat and in the musky darkness I discovered him with a young maid, whom he bade me guard through the ranks and deliver to the Duchess of Bedford’s apartments.

. . . I had thought it prudent to offer the damsel my arm, as she struggled through the trailing briars. . . . She stopped suddenly when we had gone a few steps and turned to look back.

‘Ah Jesu!’ she whispered, ‘How he shines!’

I fixed my sight upon the pale Duke, bringing him near in the lanternlight. A moth flew round his face and he lifted his hand to brush it away. The maiden smiled, in tears.

‘There is a light. . . a light,’ she sighed.

‘What then, mistress?’

She had looked up at me from the cavern of her hood.

‘A light about him not of this world,’ she said.

I could see naught but the fen-fires, burning malefically.       

In any kind of literary studies, readers are frequently instructed in the import of every single word; in no other novel has this reviewer found this to be quite as so as in this one. It is, as Jarman herself states, “a mammoth work,” though by no means in size alone. The information, understanding, historical references, implications—every single sentence contains something to inform another passage or reality, or brings to bear somewhere else. And the author not only weaves it all together, but does so via three different complex personalities. An additional result, for better or worse, is a greater awareness of the psychology of humans. Readers begin to grasp the scope of differences, the pathways in lives, and understand a bit more about the why in some of them. We may never understand why Richard makes some of the choices he does, though we can more competently assess the reality in which he lives, and leave judgment off for someone else.

Nevertheless choices do lead people, as they do for this Man of Keen Sight. Greater awareness of his own choices leads him to the cell he now occupies, willingly, for he chooses not to quit the field alive. That he leaves alive became the choice of an Other, and it is to lead him to his death. He speaks plainly of the books about Richard he shall never read, though he is sure they cannot invent hateful propaganda, for “[t]hey would need to invent a devil in human shape, so great was his glory.”

And so they did. The Maiden, following escape with her royal daughter from the pseudo house of God the Woodvilles had imprisoned her in, learns so very quickly when she quite by chance sees, on that terrible summer day in 1485, the prophecy become true. As the Tudor men’s victory train passes by, approaching the Bow Bridge,

             they surged on to [it], packed tight, their horses struggling in fear. The mule [hauling Richard’s ill-treated body], now nearly dropping from weariness among the foaming destriers, the steel-clad thighs, its flanks sodden with bloody sweat, staggered against the side of the bridge. The King’s head was crushed upon the stone. I heard the sound of rending bone, saw the bright new hurt done to the head which once did lie so sweetly in my lap. And I went mad.


 But who was comfortable in the choices that led to this moment? Perhaps even not Henry Tudor, who worried these moments, some say, for the rest of his life, and not just in fear of his reign on this earth. The paranoia he created, not so uncommon in some royal circles, lived still when the one called Perkin Warbeck appeared, indeed still when the last Tudor monarch ruled. “They”—not only the Tudors—did indeed create a devil in human shape, taken up by others in fear for their lives.

What of us, then? We no longer have such fear stalking us. We can speak freely of Richard now, yet we, over 500 years later, have been taught and still teach our children of this “devil.” This is the choice we have made, save for some who have dedicated themselves to the truth, from the moment it was safe to do. So the threat over life is no more, but the pain lives on.

‘How strange are the hearts of men!’ Jarman’s Richard had cried out. For in addition to the dreadful memories exist some perceived threat to the power of theory, perhaps, or sense of relating. These people seem to want Richard to remain in the form that has been created for him, and although honest debate has been made, there are others who are not quite so.

In less than two hours from this writing the University of Leicester archeological dig team will reveal to the world the results of the DNA testing they have done on remains found that may be those of Richard, so unceremoniously treated in 1485. For Richard they seek to reverse the prophecy, at least that which relegates him to stink forever.

We cry for him at such inopportune moments, argue his case and in some instances find animosity developing around us. Some, including the author of We Speak No Treason, never wished for this dig to proceed—plainly and awfully spoken, it is indeed the digging up of an anointed king. Others argue they want to give him the dignified burial robbed from him. I cannot help but remember the Mother’s words to our Maiden:

 ‘Have I not said that this life is a transient thing?’

Whatever our position, it may be our only consolation.


We Speak No Treason by Rosemary Hawley Jarman

  • ISBN-10: 0965005429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0965005425

Also in Kindle edition:

We Speak No Treason, Volume I: The Flowering of the Rose


We Speak No Treason, Volume II: White Rose Turned to Blood


Image courtesy Rosemary Hawley Jarman.

Are we approaching the end of a centuries-old character assassination?

In case you haven’t heard, a Leicester car-park-turned-archeological-dig has revealed some of its secrets to us, although pieces of the jigsaw have yet to be fitted together. A skeleton recovered in the church buried beneath the modern asphalt, thought to possibly belong to the last Plantagenet king, Richard III, is undergoing DNA testing expected to be complete before the year is out.

How much, beyond the identity of the remains, will be revealed, and what new possibilities can or will be introduced by what can be determined for sure? The Richard III Foundation, Inc. posted a short essay on their FB wall today, discussing that question, and it is well worth the read.

DNA testing may soon identify the mortal remains of Richard III, exhumed from a car park in Leicester this week, but the same science could also clear his name of murder and bring to an end a miscarriage of justice five centuries old.
Richard III is the most unjustly reviled king in our history. The Tudor propaganda machine, the denunciation of Thomas More and the genius of Shakespeare turned this monarch into an ogre, the hunchbacked tyrant of myth.
The central charge against Richard is, of course, that he murdered the princes in the Tower, his nephews, to clear his way to the throne. This, in turn, depends on one key item of forensic evidence: two skeletons, now in Westminster Abbey, long assumed to be those of the murdered boys.
DNA testing could swiftly establish if these bones really are those of the dead princes and how they died. It is more likely, however, that these remains date back far earlier than the 15th century; if so, the case against Richard would be fatally undermined, clearing the way for his reputation to be restored as a wise king, a gallant knight and a courageous disabled rider, cruelly traduced by history.
The decision lies with the Queen. Without her permission the bones cannot be tested, and so far she has proved unwilling to disturb these skeletons in the royal cupboard.
The story of the evil king is embedded in Britain’s national mythology. After Edward IV’s death in 1483, his brother had Parliament declare the illegitimacy of his young nephews and crown him Richard III. The princes, aged 12 and 9, were consigned to the Tower of London and disappeared, presumed murdered on the orders of their uncle, who then perished, horseless, at Bosworth Field.
One contemporary report cited “much whispering among the people that the King had put the children to death,” a story that suited the Tudor victor of Bosworth, Henry VII. Thomas More filled in the gory details of “the dolorous end of these babes … by traitorous tyranny taken, deprived of their state, shortly shut up in prison, and privily slain and murdered … by the cruel ambition of their unnatural uncle.” He said the bodies were buried “at the stair foot, meetly deep in the ground under a great heap of stones”.
But there was no hard evidence that Richard, or anyone else, had done away with the princes. Then in 1674, workmen demolishing a stone staircase in the Tower made a discovery: “About ten feet in the ground were found the bones of two striplings in a wooden chest … which were found proportionate to the ages of those two brothers.” Quite how to identify a stripling skeleton and why the murderers should have buried them so deep was never explained.
Charles II commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to provide a marble urn. The supposedly royal remains of “Edward V, King of England, and his brother Richard, Duke of York” were duly interred in the Abbey beside a plaque condemning “their uncle, Richard who usurped the crown, imprisoned them in the Tower of London, smothered them with pillows, and ordered them to be dishonourably and secretly buried.” Case closed.
In 1933 an analysis of the bones was led by Professor William Wright, of the London Hospital Medical School, the foremost anatomist of the day. The report, owing more to wishful thinking than scientific proof, found that the bones were likely to be those of the princes, although it was impossible to establish gender, date, age at death or whether the two skeletons were related to each other.
Over the centuries, many other human remains have been discovered at the Tower. One skeleton discovered in the grounds has been carbon-dated to the Iron Age. The Tower is built on a Roman site, and the Romans buried slaves beneath buildings to bring good luck. Some of Wright’s findings actually suggested that one or both of the bodies might be female.
The huge strides in science mean that the mystery could now be solved. Nothing wipes away conspiracy theory faster than a DNA swab, and the exhumation of the great and good (and bad and dead) has forged a new branch of verifiable scientific history. Jesse James, the Unknown Soldiers of Vietnam, Tsar Nicholas II, the last Dauphin of France and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid have all surrendered their secrets from the grave
Comparing DNA from the bones in the Abbey with that of Edward IV and his Queen, Elizabeth Woodville, the princes’ parents interred at Windsor, would swiftly establish if they were indeed of royal blood. If they have been wrongly identified, that would not prove Richard III’s innocence, but it would demolish the physical evidence that has been used to condemn him for more than 300 years.
Would Richard really have done away with the sons of a brother to whom he was demonstrably loyal, inviting scandal so early in his reign? Others, including Henry Tudor, had ample reason to want the princes out of the way. There is some evidence that Richard may have smuggled his nephews to safety on the Continent.
If the murders cannot be pinned on Richard with any certainty, then the last English monarch to die in battle has surely been maligned by gossip, political manipulation, Victorian sentimentality and literary licence. It served successive monarchs to blacken Richard’s name and assume his guilt; his latter-day successor now has the opportunity to set at least the scientific record straight.
Initial findings suggest that the body believed to be Richard III may indeed have suffered from curvature of the spine, which renders his death all the more heroic. At a time when we are celebrating the athletic achievements of people with disabilities, here was a monarch who charged into battle with severe scoliosis and perished “fighting manfully in the thickest press of his enemies”: Crookback Dick, the last of the medieval chevaliers, our greatest Paralympic monarch.
In Shakespeare’s version, the king dies calling for a horse, prepared to renounce his ill-won kingdom to save his own skin. Now science may ride to his rescue, locating his body and saving his reputation with the avenging weapon of DNA.

–The Richard III Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit educational organization that focuses on King Richard III and the Wars of the Roses