EAST MIDLANDS -- In case you missed it, archaeologists announced last month that they had confirmed the discovery of the remains of England's King Richard III, unearthed by workers in 2012 from beneath a parking lot in Leicester.
Dick Trois, you'll recall, was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 by Lancastrian forces ending the reign of the House of York and ushering in the Tudor Dynasty, which made for a smashing HBO series. You might also recall that the Bard cast Richard as a "rudely stamp'd" hunchback, who could not "strut before a wanton ambling nymph." Shakespeare's Richard III deals with his deformity through a devotion to evil: "I am determined to prove a villain / And hate the idle pleasure of these days."
And then, of course, Baron Harkonnen conspires to kill Duke Leto, but in the end Muad'Dib no longer needs the weirding module and he kills Sting with a Fremen knife. But that part's make-believe.
What really happened was that the king got himself run through with swords and arrows and what-have-you and died bigger than outside right there on the bloody turf, and woe be unto his Plantagenet kinfolk who thereafter had to bow and scrape to the family that sired Henry VIII, who in life bore no resemblance whatsoever to Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but then who does?
Roughly a century separates the death of Richard III from Shakespeare's gripping but fictional account, chock full as it is of murther and the whole courſe of his deteſted life and moſt deſerued death. So much for English history in all its gaiety. Back to the present...
Finding a 500-year-old skeleton, hunchbacked or not, one of course hopes it's the bones of a king. Nobody wants to dig up a parking lot and find a 15th Century serf. If you're going to halt a crew of union workers and bring in some egg-heads from the university, you'd better at least have an Earl or a Marquis, or maybe one of those bog men with still visible tattoos and all. So imagine the mirth and merriment that must have spread rampant through the hallowed halls of the University of Leicester when DNA tests confirmed that the skeleton with scoliosis and a bashed-in skull had once borne the twisted flesh of a detested monarch. One assumes the winter of those researchers' discontent turnt downright summery over the mouldering sun of York.
And after verifying that the bones were who they all hoped they were, and after reporting on it far and wide, and after having a jolly good time and brewing black tea and flying St. George's Cross and blowing kisses to chimney sweeps and all that rot, the English did the right thing and reinterred His Misshapen Majesty properly, at the cathedral in Leicester. Only it turns out that might not have been the proper thing to do after all.
There are living among us even today descendants of the Plantagenet line, 18th generation offspring of Richard III. It's true. English people track those things. I heard tell of a cobbler in Dorset who can trace his ancestors back to Homo Erectus. And that's as it should be. It doesn't really matter who an American is descended from. We're all mixed breed yokels anyhow. But breeding matters to the English. They have aristocrats. A family of note is no less notable 500 years after it ceased to matter. No sir. Blood lines need to be tracked and verified. I suppose in their way the English are rather like cocker spaniels, only more pompous.
Well, it seems that certain of those living issue of the House of York, namely 15 of them styling themselves the Plantagenet Alliance, are seeking a legal ruling to have the remains moved from Leicester to York, where they belong, because hunchback villain or no hunchback villain, family sticks together. It's like an updated and exceedingly boring War of the Roses.
According to Reuters, Matthew Howarth, the attorney representing the Plantagenets, said, "We have now written officially to the Ministry of Justice and University of Leicester, notifying them that we plan to issue these claims." Howarth will argue that the Ministry of Justice failed to consult the family over the exhumation and the license to re-bury the king, a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Seriously.
"We have every hope that Matthew and his colleagues will succeed in these cases and help us significantly in our quest to have Richard's remains buried at the most appropriate site, York Minster," said Stephen Nicolay, a 16th great-nephew of the monarch, adding, "A writ, a writ, my imaginary kingdom for a writ!"