Finding Richard III
September 12 2012
Picture: Philip Mould/Historical Portraits
I've long been sceptical of archaeologists leaping to conclusions from, say, one shard of pottery - but the latest evidence from the search for Richard III's body is potentially of exceptional importance.
The bones found underneath a car park in Leicester, in a former Franciscan friary where Richard is thought to have been buried, have to be sent for DNA testing before any positive identification can be made. However, it has been revealed that the battle-scarred skeleton suffered from scoliosis, and so one shoulder would have been visibly higher than the other. That's not quite the same thing as having a hunch back, but a deformity of sorts nonetheless.
If that is the case, then we can clear Shakespeare of at least one accusation of Tudor propoganda, and begin to reinterpret Richard's iconography, which almost universally shows him with a raised shoulder. It gets higher and higher the further one goes into the 16th Century, as can be seen in an example we sold a while ago, above. Compare that to the much earlier version belonging to the Society of Antiquaries, below. It's often been thought that all the portraits of Richard showing a 'hump' were the result of the Tudor black legend. But if he really did have a raised shoulder, that tells us a great deal about how we should view 16th Century royal iconography.
By the way, no amount of digging will persuade me that he did not kill the Princes in the Tower.