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All bones tell a story – but not all a tale as amazing as Richard III’s….

Because of Richard III, and all that could be accurately gleaned from his remains, it is now very interesting to read of other cases where bones give up fascinating details.

This article describes a grisly discovery on an Orkney beach. How old might it be? I quote:

“….The world leading forensic bone scientist heads a Glasgow University team that can tell the age of a body from a tiny fragment.

“….His Glasgow University labs at the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in East Kilbride can identify the remains of the recently murdered to others who died up to 50,000 years ago.

“….After tests, he could tell the island police the arm found on Burray Sands had been around for almost 3,000 years….”

More recent remains in Manchester were of a young woman of 18-24, murdered between 1969 and 1974. In spite of discovering that she was Caucausian with possible African ancestry, and between 5ft 3in and 5ft 6in tall, police are still no closer to identifying her.

So it doesn’t matter whether remains are modern or ancient, they can all tell a story. But the chances of finding someone of such importance as Richard III are very small indeed, so we Ricardians must never lose sight of the fact that we are very fortunate indeed to have him back!

The Rise of the Clans

Neil Oliver‘s

latest history series has been shown through December on Monday evenings (BBC1 Scotland) and twenty-four hours later on BBC4.

The first part, of three, showed how the power vacuum caused by the sudden deaths of Alexander III and his granddaughter was resolved through the clan system and John Balliol’s abdication so that alliances were formed behind the remaining claimants Robert Bruce and John “Red” Comyn, culminating in a brawl in the Dumfries Greyfriars, during which Comyn was fatally stabbed. Robert I’s reign, including his strategic triumph as he unexpectedly arranged a pitched battle at Bannockburn is also explored.

The second part explores how, after the reign of David II, Robert I’s son, Clan Stewart evolved from a branch of the (Norman) Fitzalans, who are now Dukes of Norfolk through their Howard marriage, to supply every Scottish monarch from 1371 and every English monarch from 1603, now through the Bohemian marriage of James VI and I’s daughter. The reigns of the first three Stewarts were narrated, the weaknesses of Robert II and Robert III, the absence and the authoritarian – Lancastrian? – royal style of James I together with the conflict between Robert III‘s sons were used to show how James’ assassination and the ensuing executions, organised by his widow Joan “Beaufort”, resolved this before the end of 1437. Gradually, from James I’s time, the Stewarts succeeded in gaining power from the MacDonalds, who held the Lordship of the Isles.

Finally, we focus on Mary, simultaneously the last Stewart and the first Stuart, through her marriage to Henry, Lord Darnley (of the Lennox Stuarts), and his mysterious death at Kirk o’Fields, up to her dethronement and exile. The clan chieftains played a significant part in her initial downfall, as they plotted to reverse Knox’s organic Reformation that had taken place during her absence. At this time, her half-brother the Earl of Moray allied himself to the Earl of Morton, the leading Douglas. Then, after marrying the (Hepburn) Earl of Bothwell, Mary fled south – and her life ended at Fotheringhay where Richard III’s had begun.

As usual, this evocative series features realistic dramatisations in which Oliver appears almost as a witness in some scenes. The detail exceeds that of his A History of Scotland and, as usual, nobody featured in the episodes is beyond reproach.

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