A very interesting piece of news has emerged in the last few days. Archaeologists from the University of Leicester may have found the last resting place of King Richard III, the last of the Plantagenet kings of England.
I used to live and work in Leicester, and know it well. The remains of what might be an old church have been found in a city council car park just off Friar Lane in the city centre, in the Greyfriars area.
Richard III (the Yorkist king) was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 by Henry Tudor, the main Lancastrian claimant to the throne. Tudor became King Henry VII and brought the vicious civil war known as the War of the Roses to an end. Richard's main base was Leicester, rather than York, and Bosworth is a few miles west of Leicester. The defeated king's body was brought to Leicester and buried in Greyfriar's church. This church, however, was a monastory church, and hence was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monastories, during the reign of Henry VIII. Although obviously known to be in the Greyfriar's area of Leicester, its exact position was unknown. But now, it seems, it may have been found. Not only that but researchers have found a direct descendant of Richard's older sister (Richard had no children) to aid with DNA identification, should actual grave remains be found.
One commenter on a report page on the Daily Telegraph website asked the questions "Why? What for?" about the current work to excavate this site. The implication is that it would be a waste of money.
I disagree. I find this sort of event completely fascinating. The City of Leicester, during the 20th Century, has not been careful about its long and significant history. The city dates all the way back to pre-English times, to the Celtic King Lear; indeed, the etymology of the city name is Lear's Fort. Today, the city council appear to be busy putting their negligence right, doing work that nearby Nottingham did for its history over 30 years ago.
In my opinion, this sort of living history is important, and also extremely interesting. If I were still in Leicester, I would be going to look at the dig site, and following all the activities. This represents a pivotal moment in English history, and I think it is excellent news that the University of Leicester are doing this work.