This week, there’s been an outpouring of emotion in normally staid Britain as thousands paid their respects to the late King Richard III after the long-dead ruler’s remains were rescued from under a parking lot.
Yes, that’s the same Richard III portrayed as an evil hunchback in Shakespeare’s play. His back problems even helped archaeologists confirm his identity. Richard’s bones were found beneath a parking lot near the city of Leicester in 2012, not far from the battlefield where he was killed in 1485. The identity was confirmed by DNA evidence and by the distinct curved spine of a scoliosis sufferer — and the multiple wounds from edged weapons.
After a formal procession on Sunday, Richard’s remain lay in state for three days in Leicester Cathedral, where public viewing had to be extended to accomodate the crowds. Thousands of people filed solemnly past the coffin, many waiting in line for an hour or longer in bitter cold to get a glimpse of the dead king.
Mourners also covered a statue of the late king that stands outside the cathedral in white roses, little notes of tribute and other images and emblems of Richard’s fallen dynasty. He was formally buried at the cathedral on Thursday.
Richard III died in the final battle of a decades-long civil war, the Wars of the Roses, which pitted the House of Lancaster against the of the House of York. The Red Roses of the House of Lancaster won the war and set about re-writing history to discredit their rivals. Shakespeare, eager to please, jumped on the bandwagon and painted the dead King Richard in a pretty poor light. But some modern historians have since rehabilitated the reputation of Richard III as a ruler. They’ve even cast doubt on his most famous alleged crime, the killing of his two young nephews in the Tower of London.
However, not everyone in Britain appreciated the solemnities. Polly Toynbee opined in The Guardian:
“It’s comical, but tragic too, as a reminder of the indignity the British accept in their accustomed role as subjects, not citizens. Here are church, royalty and army revering a child-killing, wife-slaughtering tyrant who would be on trial if he weren’t 500 years dead. This is the madness of monarchy, where these bones are honoured for their divine royalty, whether by accident of birth or by brutal seizure of the crown. Richard, whose death ended the tribal Wars of the Roses, is a good symbol of the “bloodline” fantasy. Our island story is one of royal usurpage and regicide, with imported French, Dutch and German monarchs who didn’t speak English. The puzzle is that this fantasy of anointed genes persists, even unto Kate’s unborn babe.”
One thing I do on this blog is to figure out how I may be related to famous men and women of history, including British royalty. It’s a presented in the spirit of good fun and entertainment. EVERYONE with ancestors in the British Isles is connected to almost everyone else by the time you trace the connections over this many generations. My English royal ancestry (Houses of Norman and Plantagenet) can be traced back to William I (“the Conqueror”), to whom I am related in multiple ways. Also, through Isabella of France (1295-1358), I am descended from the last Anglo-Saxon King of England, Harold II Godwinson, who was born about 1022 and killed by William the Conqueror’s army at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. If you interested, there’s mush more about all this under the article “Royal Ancestors”.
As far as I know, I am not a direct descendant of Richard III. However, his maternal grandmother, Joan Beaufort (wife of Ralph de Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland – my direct ancestor) was the granddaughter of King Edward III, from whom I am probably a direct descendant as well. The connection is summarized below:
Richard III King of England (1452 – 1485), 1st cousin 18x removed – Cecily Neville Duchess of York (1415 – 1495) – Ralph de Neville 1st Earl of Westmorland (1364 – 1425) – Eleanor Neville Countess of Northumberland (1397 – 1472) – Thomas Percy Lord Egremont (1422 – 1460) – Johanna Percy (1460 – 1537) – William Harris (1490 – 1556) – William Harris (1518 – 1559) – William Harris of Shenfield (1545 – 1601) – William Harris (1596 – 1656) – Robert Harris (1635 – 1701) – William Harris (1669 – 1733) – Robert Overton Harris (1696 – 1765) – Anna Harris (1724 – 1775) – Sarah Ann Dabney (1740 – 1822) – Dabney Waller (1772 – 1849) – Elizabeth Dabney Waller (1808 – 1881) – Jacintha Ann Pollard (1832 – 1894) – Elizabeth Minor Hancock (1850 – 1928) – Seddie Gunnell (1875 – 1946) – Elizabeth Gunnell Hamlin (1901 – 1982) – Tor Martin Hylbom (1939 – 2009) – Tor Martin (Majerus) Hylbom