Elena Haymond is an anthropology instructor at Riverland Community College, and teeth are her special area of research within the field of osteoarchaeology. But in this talk she speaks of Richard’s remains in general, and how they have disproved Shakespeare’s portrait of him.
The following is courtesy of my good friend Eileen Bates, whose hard work has unveiled the truth about Edward IV’s tomb and those mysterious children’s coffins at St George’s Chapel, Windsor. Could they be those of the boys in the Tower?
The above is a Section from the Plan of Grave Stones of St George’s Chapel, Windsor, 1789. Edward’s tomb and the presumed vault containing his son George can be clearly seen on the right. This is the largest version of this plan that I have been able to find.
There has been a story hanging around for some time now that when Edward’s vault/coffin was discovered in 1790, an adjoining vault was also discovered which contained the coffins of two children, at the time thought to be those of Edward’s children – George who died aged 2, and Mary who died aged 15. A ledger stone was laid naming George. A drawing/diagram that was made at that time was on St George’s timeline clearing showing the ledger stone with the inscription.
Again, I have been unable to find a clearer version of this illustration.
In 1810, during further work being made at St George’s, the actual lead coffins of George and Mary were discovered in another part of the chapel. So, whose little coffins were in the vault beside Edward and Elizabeth? Thus the legend was born that there were two mysterious coffins in the vault, which might, just might, belong to the missing boys in the Tower. Eileen wondered if, for example, Buckingham might have murdered the boys, and Richard (not guilty of a hand in it!) then had them buried secretly next to their father.
The puzzle of the coffins appeared on the web page of the chapel and also an article in the Richard III Society Bulletin in September 2001, by someone who worked at the chapel in the capacity of a steward. In the article it stated that further investigation would be made about the vault and its contents, but unfortunately this was never updated.
Together with another friend on the RIII Society Forum, Eileen made an on-line search for the report that had been made at the time. It was found but could not be opened. Eileen then asked the St George’s Archivist directly, who kindly responded on 22nd November, 2016, to the effect that the original information on their website was inaccurate. In 1790 the report related that a vault was noticed, but not explored, and it was thought it would contain the coffins of the children, George, Duke of Bedford, and Princess Mary. But then in 1810 their coffins were discovered elsewhere in the chapel, so it was no longer possible that they lay in the vault in the North Quire Aisle, next to their parents.
The blog posted in 2012 misinterpreted the information, and speculated that the coffins in Edward’s vault belonged to the missing boys from the Tower. This has now been corrected on the website.
So, the whole story is based on an omission. When the secret vault was discovered it was not explored, but was believed to probably hold the remains of Edward’s children, George and Mary, who were subsequently located elsewhere No one actually looked. If there are coffins in there next to Edward and Elizabeth, it is not known when they date from or who they are. St George’s webpage has now been edited to reflect this.
So, Eileen has finally solved the mystery of the coffins in the St George’s vault, that could have contained the boys in the Tower. They are not George and Mary. In fact, no one even knows if there are coffins in there at all, because no one has ever looked. It was just taken for granted.
viscountessw: Which, of course, provides another mystery!
At the time of writing this (25th November 2016), the St George’s website appears to be down. http://www.stgeorges-windsor.org/about-st-georges/history/st-georges-timeline.html
“In 2011, a group of amateur historians made an incredible archaeological find: the bones of King Richard III, hunchbacked, with an arrow through the spine. Now, scientists are testing the bones to find out more about the king and also conducting fascinating experiments to determine whether Richard could have fought so ferociously in battle with such a severe deformity.”
If I take any more steps back, I’ll fall off the end of the world. I mean, it …IS flat, isn’t it….? Must be if these folk still believe Richard was hunchbacked and thus had a ‘severe deformity’. As for the ‘amateur historians’…one wonders what JA-H might think about THAT!
“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” ~ Philip Pullman
I was recently asked to visit my daughter’s class and talk to them about archaeology and what we can find out about past cultures from the physical remains that are left behind. The class is also reading Beowulf as part of their topic on the Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in Britain which will run for the whole term.
I immediately plunged into further research on Beowulf and two archaeological sites which I hope will be useful; namely the ship burial at Sutton Hoo and the Coppergate dig in York which uncovered part of Viking Jorvik, the largest excavated Viking settlement in the British Isles.
I picked these because the culture of Beowulf would appear to be closely tied to the archaeological site of Sutton Hoo with references made in the poem to artefacts…
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WESTMINSTER BONES: The Real Mystery of the Princes in the Tower by Richard Unwin
Richard Unwin is an author who generally writes novels set during the Wars of the Roses era (The Lawrence the Armourer series), which contain a positive rather than traditional view of Richard III, as seen through the eyes of his followers rather than Richard himself. He has also written an interesting alternative history, The Doom Assigned, in which Richard wins Bosworth and continues on as King.
Here, however, in Westminster Bones, Unwin turns from fiction to non-fiction and presents a very different view of what could be the story behind those undated and unsexed bones that lie in an urn in Westminster, still celebrated by many as ‘the Princes in the Tower’.
Unwin believes the whole scenario of the discovery could have been an elaborate hoax of the 17th c. Others in the past have suggested that Charles II may have used the finding of the remains as propaganda (against the deposition of rightful kings) , but Richard Unwin goes a step beyond that: he believes not only were the bones used for propaganda by King Charles, but that they probably came from outside the tower, were relatively modern in date and had been brought there deliberately for the purpose of a deception.
Although this differs from my own thoughts (that the bones are ancient, potentially Iron Age or Roman) and their find coincidental (though not terribly surprising considering the long history of the Tower), I have myself wondered how much truth was attached to the original reports of the location in which they were found. Archaeology as a science did not exist in the 17th c, and we do not even have drawings of the remains in situ as proof that they were indeed below the tower stair, in that huge excavation going well into the prehistoric layer. I always wondered if the supposed find under the stairs in fact occurred elsewhere around the grounds and by the time someone began to realise the possible significance of the remains, the tale had ‘grown in the telling’ to match Thomas More’s fable (although in fact it does not, as More later claims the princes’ remains were moved.)
In Westminster Bones, Unwin informs us of the political situation of the day, and also of the burgeoning theatre in Restoration London (which plays a part in the mystery!) Once again Tanner and Wright’s 1930’s findings on the bones are re-analysed and taken to task, with some interesting extra details added, showing the unreliability of the initial analysis: the seeming lack of interest in the nails found near the skull, which were almost certainly the cause of the ‘red stain’ that the doctors tried unconvincingly and unscientifically to tie in with suffocation. Other interesting titbits are revealed regarding the so-called velvet scraps found with the bones, the condition and preservation of certain parts of the skeletons, and the state and substance of the wooden ‘box’ that the bones were supposed to have been found in.
All in all, a short but interesting read that adds yet another dimension to the mystery of the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and may be another nail in the coffin (pardon the bad pun!) of the old legends regarding their finding and identification.
I wonder who this gentleman might have been? At over 6′, and apparently buried aside from most of the fallen, he is thought to have been high status. So…how many noblemen died at Towton? Might he be someone of consequence to the Richard III/House of York story?
Two articles about this have come to my attention. The first is http://www.culture24.org.uk/history-and-heritage/military-history/art531095-battered-soldiers-body-tells-bloody-tale-of-the-wars-of-the-roses, which has a lot of detail about the skeleton’s injuries. The second is http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/13371948.Skeleton_from_medieval_battlefield_goes_on_display_at_York_museum/, which was actually the first one I came upon.
Here is the text of the above yorkpress article:-
THE skeleton of a warrior who fought in one of England’s bloodiest battles has gone on display in a York museum.
The Richard III Experience at Monk Bar says the remains will help visitors uncover the grisly history of Towton battlefield near Tadcaster. .A spokesman said the man, aged between 36 and 45 at the time of his death, measured an impressive 6 foot 1 inches, which was unusually tall for the medieval period.
“He is thought to be of a high status, down to his height, age and the fact he was found separate from the mass graves, under the floor of Towton Hall, close to the battlefield,” he said.
“He may have lived a privileged life but that didn’t protect him on the battlefield or spare him a gruesome death, as evidence on the skeleton shows some very deep cuts acrosshis body.
“The skeleton shows some extensive injuries, he has a stab wound to his left foot, which shattered one of the bones and cut two more, does this mean he was on horseback and combatants on the ground were slashing at him from below or was this an injury caused by downward blow of a sword?”
Sarah Maltby, director of attractions for York Archaeological Trust, the owners of the Richard III Experience, said there were two wounds on the skull – an apparent weapon cut on his lower jaw but at the base of the skull a blunt force trauma has taken place, either from a blunt instrument striking the skull or a bladed weapon caused the same injury under the protection of headgear.
“It is thought that this blow to the back of the head is the fatal injury,” she said.
The skeleton display is a new addition to the ‘Commemorating the Re-Interment of Richard III’ exhibition in Monk Bar, which explores the significance of the 1461 battle of Towton on Richard’s life and the story of the re-discovery of the last Plantagenet monarch in Leicester.
The museum is open 10am to 5pm every day. For more information visit http://www.richardiiiexperience.com.
*People can watch a time-lapse video of the installation of the skeleton by going to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QapH0pAXJOE