x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bones of Richard III reveal truth

History may not have done justice to Richard III, the former king, as evidence under a car park suggests.

Shakespeare's Richard III is a "deformed, unfinish'd" rogue, who ruthlessly orders the killing of anyone whom he considered to be an obstacle. In the eponymous play, the last king of the Plantagenets is depicted as a hunchbacked usurper whose eventual end at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 was just a case of poetic justice.

And so Richard's reputation could easily have been consigned to history, except for those pesky archaeologists from Britain's University of Leicester who unearthed his remains in September at a car park in the same city. This week, DNA tests confirmed the king's identity.

Was the Bard right about this unrepentant rogue with a fondness for the gibbet? On one point, at least, he twisted the facts - Richard's skeleton shows he was not a hunchback, although he did have a curved spine. Were his other flaws similarly distorted? Well, there is the small detail that he may have murdered his two nephews who were possible rivals to the throne, and famously spent their last days locked in the Tower of London.

It must remembered, Shakespeare and his contemporaries were writing in Tudor England, for patrons who had been Richard's enemies. History is written by the victors; the defeated is doomed to a cold grave in Leicester.