2016 has been the 1000th anniversary of Edund Ironside’s accession and death, also of the death of his father Ethelred Unraed and the double accession of Cnut of Denmark. It has also been the 950th anniverary of the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, being the end of the House of Wessex after its interruption.
Four centuries ago, St. George’s Day to be exact, marks the death of Shakespeare and possibly his 1564 birth. Opinion is still divided as to whether, in Richard III’s case among others, he merely embroidered what passed for history during his lifetime or invented many of the significant events he wrote about. At least we can precisely date his death better than we can his birth and we can, ironically, rely on the flow of his plays relating accurately to the culture of his own time, such as Cordelia’s execution, which could not have happened in Richard’s own century.
In March, Helen Castor marked the anniversary on Channel Four by investigating the fate of the Bard’s own remains in this documentary. It transpires that, having been buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church with his family and a forbidding epitaph(1), GPR investigations show that his skull is probably missing, just like Morton’s at Canterbury Cathedral. Richard, of course, was intact except for his feet. It seems that not everyone over the years heeded the curse:
As you can see from this article, the GPR results are now in and digging starts this autumn. Can Henry I, his wife Adeliza, his great-grandson William de Poitiers and his descendant Constance of York (Richard’s great-aunt) now be conclusively located? We may soon know.
This post could tell you a lot more about Constance of York, who died six hundred years ago today.
A heat map produced by GPR appears to show evidence of graves close to Reading Abbey’s high altar, corresponding almost exactly to Richard III’s location in the Leicester Greyfriars, as this post shows. The site, which is presently and inevitably a car park, was once occupied by the gaol Oscar Wilde made famous, see also here .
The first news of some GPR action in Reading:
Further information is available from:
Of course, some people knew exactly where to find Richard III.
First Richard’s last resting place, and now Shakespeare’s. All you have to do is dig in from the side, thus not disturbing the stones. Then you can take a peek, but DO NOT MOVE DEM BONES!
… in which we question the “Kingfinder General”:
1) Did your name, shared with two of Richard III’s great-grandparents, interest you in him?
I remember being intrigued by seeing the name Langley and the Philippas in his Plantagenet ancestry and family tree but it wasn’t what interested me in Richard. I was captivated by his extraordinary historical story, why it had never been placed centre-stage on our screens and why the Shakespearean grotesque was (and is) continually, and endlessly, rolled out in its stead.
2) Do you have any news from Reading on their quest for the abbey church?
No further news as yet but the Hidden Abbey Project is Reading’s exciting new research initiative that aims to uncover as much as it can about one of Western Europe’s most important medieval buildings. Research gets underway in 2016 with the first-ever Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey of the site. The landowners will be working with Historic England (formerly English Heritage) as the site holds National Monument status so it will be a step by step process under their auspices.
3) Are you planning to research the Stanley family’s archives?
Short answer is yes. The Princes Project aims to leave no stone unturned in the hope that we can help shed new light on the enduring mystery surrounding the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV and inform ongoing study into the life and times of King Richard. Is it possible that the mystery can be solved; is there anything to be found? We cannot of course know, but what we do know is that for the very first-time we are looking and this is what is important. The project is also looking at the mystery in an entirely new way and asking questions that to my knowledge have never been asked before. If Richard is to be finally laid to rest, this mystery is for me the final frontier in terms of research into the last Plantagenet and we are fortunate to have a growing team of researchers and experts behind it.
4) Many families and guilds are opening their archives to help with your quest to find out what really happened to the sons of Edward IV. Are there also people, or institutions that have declined to help? If so, what reason did they give?
The Princes Project has been incredibly privileged with everyone we have contacted thus far (and who have contacted us) moving heaven and earth to help. Only one connection was not quite as helpful as we’d hoped but this was probably because their records had been moved from the family home to the National Archives in London.
Another good article here:
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