I’ve always been a bit in love with the study of history. Indeed, had I my time over I’d have removed ‘Creative writing’ from my list of Uni preferences and promoted ‘archaeology’ from the only-if-I-don’t-get-my-first-two-choices slot to bang on number one. What I love about it is just how much of the real story of the world is yet to be uncovered– and this goes for archaeology and paleontology as well, both of which have become amateur loves over the years– and especially, how each discovery forces a reappraisal of not only what has come before, but of how what has come before has been represented. A new historical discovery can reverberate across art, tourism, politics, academia, and any number of scientific disciplines, and that flow of reverberation can go both ways as advances in medical technology, computer imaging, and research techniques can often completely shatter long established theories and facts, coughbrontosauruscough.
Which is why the news that bones found beneath a Leicester car park are those of Richard III is tremendously exciting to me. For a start, had the discovery been made twenty years ago, we’d still likely be waiting for medical technology to catch up to the point that DNA of a 17th-generation descendant could be comparatively analysed. And the reappraisal of Richard that had been undertaken after news that a famous portrait had been altered later to include a hump will now be reassessed again in light of apparent scoliosis in the skeleton itself. But I’ve a somewhat personal reason to be excited, as well. Richard is one of my great fascinations, both literary and historical.
I’ve always been captivated with Richard: partly because of his great infamy, coupled with the briefness of his reign; partly because of his role in the creation of the Tudor dynasty and the flirtatious idea of what might otherwise have been had he not been defeated at Bosworth; and partly because he has an indelible link with Nottingham,. the town of my birth– he lead his troops to Bosworth from Nottingham Castle, and in classic more-English-than-the-English fashion, the longer I am separated from the City the more entranced by it I become. That a great British figure should march to his doom from my home town is a source of wonder to me, and I’ll admit to no end of romanticising in the place of actual, visceral experience.
So the idea that accurate study of these bones will yield information yet unknown about the man, his society, and his place in the pantheon of my country of birth fills me with joy, and the understanding that more than 500 years of history will have to be reassessed through the filter of this single discovery gives hope for more wonder and announcements to come.This discovery will have repercussions throughout so many branches of popular culture, theatre, literature, and historical study that, yearning amateur that I am, I’ll be entranced by its developments for years to come.