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An American take on the “Princes” and the new scientific evidence

Here is an article from an American website about the “Princes” and John Ashdown-Hill’s work towards determining the identity of the bones in that urn, as detailed in his “The Mythology of the Princes in the Tower”.

The article is rather good. It does fail to notice that Westminster Abbey is a Royal peculiar and so the Anglican hierarchy has no influence. Apart from that, the dental evidence suggests that the remains are unlikely to be related to Richard III, who has been analysed in great detail.

The mitochondrial DNA, which was integral to identifying Richard himself, is possibly understated here but modern scientific analysis, on the basis of this research legacy, could lead to any of the following conclusions:
1) The remains are of the wrong age, gender, era or even species.
2) Their mtDNA does not match that of Elizabeth Wydeville.
3) The remains are of more than two people.
4) The remains are of one mtDNA matching person and one other.
5) The remains are of two people of the right age, gender, era, species and mtDNA.

Conclusion 5 would positively identify them as Edward IV’s sons. Conclusions 1 and 2 would eliminate this possibility. Conclusions 3 and 4 would be more complex as a mitochondrially identical cousin disappeared from the same place sixty years later. The probability of the remains consisting of Edward V, Richard of Shrewsbury and their later cousin is surely exceedingly low, although that cousin or one “Prince” resting with an unrelated individual is more possible.

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If the boys’ remains were never found at the Tower, what’s in the urn in Westminster Abbey. . . .?

RavenmasterNow then, I think the Tower of London ought to have a quiet word with Westminster Abbey, because if the boys’ remains have never been found – what’s in That Urn? And by the time they supposedly disappeared, Richard was King, not merely Duke of Gloucester.

“…One of the Tower’s greatest mysteries is the lost princes. These young boys disappeared in the Tower while under the custody of Richard, Duke of Gloucester — it’s widely believed Richard murdered them in his gory path to the crown, but their bodies have never been found…”

Westminster Urn

https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/tower-of-london-secrets-england/index.html

 

 

Is this the face of Lady Anne Mowbray….?

Anne Mowbray

Here is what little Lady Anne Mowbray may have looked like. She was the child bride of one of the so-called Princes in the Tower, the younger one, Richard, Duke of York. Her burial was recently extensively covered by sparkypus here. Now The Times has come up with an article about the reconstruction of this little girl’s face. Here is the article in full, for those who need to see past the paywall – note that it does not mention John Ashdown-Hill, whose research this is. His latest Lady Eleanor article is on pp.35-7 of the current Bulletin and Bruce Watson’s on pp.37-8.

“The face of a Plantagenet princess has been reconstructed from her skeleton, while her bones and hair have yielded data on her stature and health at the time of her death in 1481. The remains of Lady Anne Mowbray also have the potential to illuminate one of English history’s greatest mysteries: the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

“Lady Anne was the daughter of the Duke of Norfolk, his only child and, after his death in 1476, the greatest heiress in England. Edward IV got papal leave to have her married to his younger son, Richard, Duke of York, in 1478, although she was related to the Plantagenets and both were legally too young to marry.

“However, Anne died before her ninth birthday, leaving Richard a widower at the age of eight. Interred in Westminster Abbey, she was later ejected by Henry VII in 1502 when he built his own mortuary chapel at the eastern end.

“Her coffin was then reburied in St Clare’s Abbey near Aldgate, the home of her mother, the dowager duchess of Norfolk.

“In 1964 a digging machine uncovered her vault while clearing wartime bomb damage, as Bruce Watson reports in Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society.

“Dr Francis Celoria of the London Museum (now the Museum of London) realised from the finely engraved plate on the lead coffin who was inside it and set up a multidisciplinary scientific investigation to study her remains.

“A fuss in parliament and in the press about the failure to obtain a burial licence curtailed the study, and its results have never been fully published. They do, however, show that she was about 4ft 4in tall — small for a modern child of nine, but the norm until the late 19th century due to deficiencies in diet.

Lady Anne Mowbray

“Her hair had high levels of arsenic and antimony, perhaps from her medicines, and she seems to have suffered from ill-health. When her body was prepared for burial her shroud appears to have been treated with beeswax and decorated with gold leaf or thread, and a separate cloth covered her face.

” “Individuals like Anne who are precisely dated are vital, so her remains are of international importance. A recent survey of more than 4,600 juvenile burials from 95 British medieval and early post-medieval sites included no named individuals”, so their precise dates of birth and death could not be ascertained, Mr Watson notes.

“Of more general interest was a congenital dental anomaly — missing upper and lower permanent second molars on the left side — that Lady Anne shared with the two juvenile skeletons found in the Tower of London in 1674, assumed to be those of her husband, Richard Duke of York, and his brother, King Edward V (the Princes in the Tower). The bones, which are interred in a splendid marble urn in Westminster Abbey, have not been examined since 1933, but reanalysis of photographs has suggested that the two juveniles were 13½-14½ and 11½-12½ years old when they died.

“If they were indeed the bones of Edward V and his brother, then the overlapping spans show that they could have died in 1484, pinning the blame on their uncle, King Richard III (The Times, May 21, 1987). A slightly later date in the reign of Henry VII is also possible, Mr Watson says, but “the debate over the identity of these undated juveniles will continue until their remains are re-examined. They could be radiocarbon dated and DNA extracted to confirm if they are related to each other and to Richard III.”

“Since Richard’s skeleton was discovered five years ago and intensively studied before his reburial in 2015, his DNA is available and a link through the male Plantagenet line could be established, Mr Watson notes.

Despite many suggestions in recent decades that the putative remains of the Princes in the Tower should be subjected to the minimal sampling needed using modern technology, the authorities at Westminster Abbey (a “Royal Peculiar” outside the Church of England’s control) have resisted.

” “It is extremely rare for the remains of named pre-Reformation individuals to be studied in England,” Mr Watson says. Richard III’s rapid interment without perhaps even a shroud was “completely untypical and can be attributed to the unexpected manner of his death”. Anne Mowbray’s burial was that of an aristocrat with royal links and “undoubtedly of value to our understanding of death and burial during the late 15th century”. The new reconstruction shows us how her princely bridegroom may have seen her. ”

 

Another view on that urn

This excellent post from Nerdalicious, whose tabs appropriately include “History of Folk and Fairy Tales”, shows just how desperately ridiculous the Cairo case really is, particularly when they treat More’s first half as a Fifth Gospel and ignore his second.

After all, we have already shown that the small coffins buried with Edward IV are irrelevant, that several different discoveries were made during the seventeenth century, that Charles II benefited from the find in 1674 and that the “Princes” mtDNA could well be available soon.

Salvador Dali to be exhumed in paternity case….

So, a Spanish judge has ordered that Salvador Dali’s remains be exhumed in order to settle a paternity case. But here in the UK, a marble pot with a lid cannot be opened to examine the bones inside. Many of which are reputedly animal bones, not human.

Oh, well, I suppose there’s some logic in there. Somewhere. Danged if I can see it though. Why NOT open it? If it somehow turns out to contain the bones of the sons of Edward IV, I’ll shut up. But as it won’t be them, but will probably be dated to the Roman or pre-Roman period, I’ll keep bleating.

Hmm, no New Year’s Honours List appearance for me then….

Update: No, I don’t yet know the result of the Dali DNA tests, but here is a link to events at the actual exhumation: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2017/jul/20/salvador-dali-remains-exhumed-paternity-case

Now Richard of Bordeaux murdered the boys in the Tower….!

buried-in-westminster

Oh dear, now it seems that it was Richard the SECOND who ordered the deaths of Edward IV’s sons. Our Richard, the THIRD, is accused of all the usual crimes, of course, but a little sensible proof-reading might have spared poor old Richard of Bordeaux from being dug up to be accused of murdering the boys—whose actual fate we do not know, except for being fairly sure it wasn’t any monarch named Richard who did away with them. In fact, we don’t even know if they were done away with at all! But at least the website admits it isn’t known if the bones in That Urn belong to the boys.

Please, londonpass.com, correct this glaring error! Let Richard the Second off the hook.

Who’s Buried in Westminster Abbey?

More useful than ever

This is the story of a triple murder in Seattle. The trial took place in 1998 and the victims were two drug dealers and their dog, Chief. The case was also featured on an episode of CBS Reality’s “Medical Detectives” that British viewers may have seen on several occasions; most recently on the early evening of Monday 4th or 11th this month. It was established that DNA from other mammals, or almost any animal, is of as much forensic use as is human DNA. It helped that Chief was of a short-haired breed so his blood flowed easily over the killers.

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/652373/Dog-DNA-helps-convict-2-in-murder-of-couple-pet.html?pg=all

Remember that human DNA was used to solve crime (the 1980s Pitchfork murder case in Leicestershire) before it could be used to conclusively identify historical individuals such as Richard III. So, thanks to the late Chief from Seattle, should you own a dog apparently descended from a Crufts champion or a horse apparently descended from a Derby winner, logic suggests that this can be proven one way or the other and not just from a pedigree on paper.

Furthermore, whichever species are in that Westminster Abbey urn, we can learn more about them.

Just what or who is in that urn in Westminster Abbey….?

This may be something everyone else knows but I didn’t. So I’ll post it, in case others might wonder as I do. Who or what is in the urn in Westminster Abbey, which supposedly contains the bones of the two boys known as the ‘Princes in the Tower’?

I have acquired a book called The Archaeology of the Medieval English Monarchy, by John Steane, in which there is a fairly detailed passage about the urn and the ‘princes’, etc. This is only a small extract:-

“There is no proof that the bones placed in the marble urn in 1678 were identical with those dug out in 1674. Some of the bones, in any case, were given away. There is no mention at the time of any bones of animals or birds and yet when the urn was opened in 1933, a large variety, including fish, duck, chicken, rabbit, sheep, pig and ox were found. Wright (of Tanner & Wright, 1935, 1-26) came to the conclusion that a number of the original bones, including those appropriated by Ashmole, were given away or sold as relics. When these bones were called for to be interred in the Abbey, the persons in whose charge they were, hurriedly collected any bones they could lay their hands on.”

So who is to say any of the remaining human bones are the original ones? Are there even any human bones? To my mind, this makes it even less likely that anything can be proved or concluded if the urn is opened and the bones get the ‘Richard III’ treatment in some university lab. And as an afterthought . . . were all the animal bones returned to the urn . . . .? What, exactly, is inside it now?

To be honest, the chances of it being the remains of the illegitimate sons of Edward IV are pretty slender. The bones were discovered ten feet under a stone staircase in 1674, which makes it far more likely they predated the Tower itself. More likely they are Roman remains, with 17th century animal bones chucked in for ballast when the Wren urn was ‘filled’ in 1678. Or, of course, it has been suggested the animal bones are evidence of Roman ritual practices. Could be. Who knows? Without getting inside that pesky urn, we will never find out.

Princes-Westminster-Urn

Dr. Crippen and the “Princes” in the Tower (2009)

Ricardians view the 1933 conclusions of Tanner and Wright with considerable suspicion. Tanner and Wright expected the 1674 bone-find at the Tower of London to be the skeletons of two male siblings aged about ten and twelve, because those were the ages of Edward of Westminster and Richard of Shrewsbury in summer 1483, the time of their last proven sighting. However, recent analysis of the conclusions suggest that the bones need not be of two people, male, late medieval at death or even human.

Five’s recent documentary (“Revealed”, series 1, episode 5) provided an intriguing parallel. In 1910, police officers seeking Mrs. Crippen, nee Belle Elmore, searched a house in Hilldrop Crescent, also in London, where she had lived with her homeopath husband, Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen. Inspector Dew and his officers duly found some remains and the pathologist Dr. Sir Bernard Spilsbury pronounced them to be those of Mrs. Crippen. Consequently, Dr. Crippen was arrested and subsequently hanged.

However, new analysis of the remains shows no relationship between the corpse and Belle Elmore’s mitochondrial heirs, traced in her native America. If not her, who could the corpse be? Perhaps Dr. Crippen was short of money and practicing as a back-street abortionist, a procedure that occasionally procured the unfortunate additional death of the mother? Strange as it seems, the fresh and highly pungent remains at Hilldrop Crescent seem now to be male and possibly even planted at the scene – the police could not have missed the smell yet “found” nothing for three days.

Spilsbury was a very authoritative figure, once addressed by a flustered defence counsel as “St. Bernard”, famous for never admitting his mistakes and for eventually taking his own life in December 1947. He very probably erred here – does this not make it more likely that Tanner and Wright did twenty-three years later?

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