Wednesday, February 06, 2013
Missing: One King....
If you've been watching the news, you know that archaeologists in England have just identified a skeleton uncovered beneath a Leicester city car park as the long-lost remains of King Richard III.
The timing is rather ironic, since I'm in the midst of plotting the tenth in the Sebastian St. Cyr series (tentatively entitled Who Buries the Dead) and it coincidentally involves the rediscovery of another missing king--in this instance, Charles I. Charles, who lost his head in 1649 in the midst of the English Civil War, was another unlucky royal whose mortal remains went walkabout. They were found in the spring of 1813, when workmen accidently poked a hole in the tomb of Henry VIII. Authorities peered through the opening, expecting to see only two coffins--Henry's and Jane Seymour's. Instead, there were three. Fortunately for those Regency officials--who didn't have the wonders of DNA to confirm poor Charles's identity--the coffin was labeled. Plus, there was enough of Charles left that those familiar with his portraits could identify his head (yes, it was in there, too).
Interestingly, the whereabouts of Edward IV was also lost until he was accidentally rediscovered in 1789. Which makes me wonder, just how many other post-Conquest kings and queens have gone missing?
Update: It seems four other English kings are also missing: Henry, son of William the Conqueror and Stephen were both buried in monastic institutions that were destroyed under Henry VIII. Also missing is Edward V, the nephew that Richard may or may not have murdered. Someone did away with him and stashed him supposedly under steps in the Tower. A boy's bones were found there in the 17th century, but their authenticity is problematic. The final missing king is James II, who was buried in France. During the Revolution, his body and various parts suffered the same fate as that of other royals and aristocrats entombed there. Seems there's a book, The Royal Tombs of Great Britain, that goes into all sorts of ghoulish detail, although I haven't seen it.
Images credited to the University of Leicester.