Friday, 14 September 2012

The Rose of Raby

Approaching Raby Castle
from the Raby website
In August this year University of Leicester archaeologists began searching for Richard III beneath the car park on Grey Friars Road, Leicester. They discovered the garden of Robert Herrick, a former mayor of Leicester. Christopher Wren senior (the father of the architect), recorded in 1612 that he had visited the mayor’s garden and noted a memorial stating that ‘here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.’ This was the last record of the location of the medieval king’s body.

Radar equipment helped pinpoint where to dig, and on September 5th the team discovered the lost Franciscan friary known as the Church of the Grey Friars. This week human remains have been found – male, showing evidence of battle wounds and a slight curvature of the spine. Excitement is sky high, though battle wounds as a cause of death would not be unusual in 1485, and it would be a reasonable guess that in times of poor nutrition, bone deformities like rickets would also be common.  DNA testing of the bones will take eight to twelve weeks. Any DNA found will be cross-referenced with that of Michael Ibsen, whose mother was a direct descendant of Richard’s eldest sister, Anne of York.

Richard III was the youngest surviving child of Richard, the third duke of York, and Cecily Neville, who was known as the Rose of Raby because of her beauty.  Raby Castle and estate is in Country Durham, not far from me, and so she feels like a local girl. Mad, I know!

I have to say it always amazes me that:

a)    DNA can be obtained from bones 527 years old

b)   That there can possibly be any link with someone alive today

c)    The links always end up with someone not living in the UK

d)   People who do the family trees can be so certain of their links when they deal in a period where births and deaths were never recorded, and names were so commonly used.


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