The conclusion of the forensic investigation into the human remains found in a car park in Leicester, the site of the old Greyfriar’s monastery, was, to my mind, more than reasonably compelling, give or take an independent second opinion.
Apart from debunking a few myths – such as the one that claimed Richard’s corpse was thrown into the River Soar – will the discovery of Richard’s bones really accurately rewrite history on a grand scale? Not that there is only ‘one history’, mind.
The initial signs maybe aren’t so promising. Take, for example, the already widely reported response of Philippa Langley – the originator of the search and prominent member of the Richard III society – to the unveiling of Richard’s reconstructed bonce. ‘He doesn’t look like a tyrant,’ she proclaimed in awe. ‘He’s very handsome.’
What exactly does a tyrant look like, Philippa?
It seems that Philippa and the Richard III society (judging by the members we saw talking via Webcam to the programme’s presenter, Simon Farnaby) adhere to a quite medieval view. The idea that Richard couldn’t possibly have been a tyrant because he was reasonably handsome is on the other end of a continuum that – according to the claims of the same Richard III society – helped Tudor propagandists to ruin Richard’s reputation in the first place (if he hadn’t managed to do it while he was living, that is).
The original condemnatory argument went that Richard’s curved spine, or rather his deformity, was a curse from the heavens (and just recall Philippa’s horror when the archaeologist called the TV team over to examine the skeleton in the earthy grave). In essence, God Almighty had decreed, ‘Good-looking equals good man; ugly equals ugly man’. So therefore, even before we consider the legend of the missing princes or the introduction of new freedoms, amongst other things, Richard III’s reign must have been diabolical. Hmmm.
Perhaps before they debate the implications of the discovery, someone should point out to Philippa and the Richard III society – and all the historians associated with it and Richard III’s story – that the modern world has developed one or two ideas, even if the mainstream media and the images proliferated by the advertising world do their damnedest to controvert them.
Beauty – and therefore ugliness – are only skin deep.
Ideas contrary to this modern notion might explain how and why the Tudors’ allegations regarding Richard’s ‘evil’ spread so easily back in the day, but such unprogressive thinking isn’t now going to explain anything else convincingly, one way or the other, to all but the most backward of men and women.
Little wonder, on this performance, that some say only the most backward of men and women give credence to regal traditions these days.