Archive for the ‘Greyfriars Dig’ Category

The documentary about finding the remains of Richard III is coming to Australia.  It will be screened this Sunday, 20 October, at 20h30 on SBS One.  If you have not yet watched the documentary, or would like to see it again, here is your chance.

The follow-up, Richard III:  The Unseen Story will be shown the following week, Sunday, 27 October, an hour earlier at 19h30 on SBS One.



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The NSW Branch of the Richard III Society wishes to congratulate Dr John Ashdown-Hill, a key member of the Looking for Richard project, to being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society recently.

This announcement takes a well-deserved front page spot of the website of the Richard III Society.

John’s research was instrumental in establishing where Richard was buried and that his remains had not been thrown into the river Soar during the Reformation, the probable lay-out of the Greyfriars in Leicester and of course in establishing Richard’s mtDNA.

John explained his research at the conference on 2 March 2013 in Leicester, an unforgettable experience for many of us.  If you could not be there in person, or would like to listen to John’s presentation again, you can do so here.

In case you haven’t heard that the judicial review where Richard III’s remains should be reburied has been granted, here is the statement by the Richard III Society.

The Richard III Society acknowledges the decision handed down today in the High Court of Justice by The Honourable Mr Justice Haddon-Cave to grant permission for the Plantagenet Alliance to bring a judicial review hearing later in the year against the Secretary of State for Justice and the University of Leicester over the decision to reinter King Richard in Leicester Cathedral.    The matter must now be left to the due process of law, but we hope it will be resolved amicably and quickly so that King Richard’s remains can be reinterred with honour and dignity and without controversy.

For full details of the High Court decision see:

This report of a talk by Dr Jo Appleby during her recent visit to New Zealand was sent to us by the Australasian Vice-President of the Richard III Society Rob Smith.  We thank Rob for making this available to us and we thank Shayne for her photographs.

Dr Jo Appleby – NZ Lecture Tour

Dr Jo Appleby, the Leicester University osteo-archaeologist who uncovered Richard’s remains has just concluded a brief lecture tour in NZ sponsored by The British Arts Council.

On 6th August, 14 NZ Ricardians and partners travelled to Palmerston North, 130km north of Wellington, to hear Jo talk on the Leicester dig. Held at Massey University, the lecture room, designed for 250, was crammed full with every seat, aisle and floor space taken up; well over 300 attendees were enthralled with her brilliantly presented, well-illustrated and witty talk.Luckily, most of the Ricardian contingent managed to snare front row seating.

The Ricardian contingent (Photograph:  Shayne Parkes)

Jo gave a brief introduction covering the dynastic struggle leading to Richard taking the throne. She explained how he came to be buried at Greyfriars’ Priory after Bosworth and went on to explain that Leicester University had been commissioned by the Richard III Society to undertake the search for and identification of Richard’s remains. She spoke to various photos of the process, and being her specialty, the close examination of the skeleton and the various wounds inflicted on Richard at Bosworth. The search for a DNA match was covered, with John Ashdown-Hill being credited with identifying the Ibsen descent from Anne of York.

Rob Smith thanking Dr Jo Appleby (Photograph:  Shayne Parkes)

Society Vice President and NZ Branch Secretary, Rob Smith, thanked Jo, on behalf of the Society for her talk and her contribution to the project. She in turn publicly thanked the Society for the opportunity “for without the Richard III Society I would not be in NZ!”

A thoroughly entertaining talk, well worth the trip.



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Just in time for the weekend we all heard the good news from Leicester that Leicester Cathedral has agreed to a tomb for King Richard III.  You may recall the suggestions that a slab would be more suitable given the constraints of space.  The Richard III Society has always maintained that as anointed king Richard should have a raised tomb.  And the Society was not alone, a poll in the Mercury, Leicester’s local newspaper, resulted in an overwhelming 90% majority for a tomb.  Leicester Cathedral say that they “have listened carefully to the different views that were expressed” and are now planning to bury Richard with honour beneath a raised tomb within a specially created area in the Cathedral.

The news were welcomed by the Richard III Society.  Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of the Society, stated “I think that the design is absolutely fantastic”.  Philippa Langley said:

“I am thrilled that the last warrior King of England is to be honoured with a tomb and that Yorkshire stone is being investigated as the material for it. We had always hoped that any design would convey what was important to Richard in his life but also his move into the light of a new future for his much-maligned reputation. The white rose, I believe, conveys this aspect beautifully and the designers, Cathedral and staff are to be congratulated on all their hard work.”

You can find a press release on this topic on the website of the Richard III Society here.

If, however, the ad hoc poll carried out at the Australasian Convention last weekend is anything to go by, any cathedral would be much too small for the number of people wishing to attend the reburial, at least something the size of a big stadium would be necessary.

I would also like to clarify here the misconception which was fairly often repeated that Leicester authorities had objected to a depiction on Richard’s boar on the tomb, as they were afraid of offending people with other religious believes.  I have been assured on very good authority that this was based on a misunderstanding.

If you are after that extra special gift to the Ricardian in your life, and have the necessary funds, you might like to consider a bid in the silent auction of a unique 18 carat gold replica of a Richard III boar badge,  commissioned by the Yorkshire Museum.  It will be the only gold replica of the badge in existence, accurately based on the rare 15th Century silver badge on show in the museum.  The reserve price is £2000 (approx. $ Aus 3300).  The money raised will go to the museum’s acquisition fund.  More information on the auction, but also on the museum’s boar badge can be found here.

Should this be slightly out of your price range, I believe our Sales Officer Lynne still has some of the pewter boar badges from the Society for sale.  However, of interest to all of us is a short YouTube clip by the York Museum Trust about the ‘York Boar Badge, as worn by supporters of King Richard III (c.1483)’.

All who attended the Australasian Convention will vividly remember Andrew’s terrific talk about medieval armour and jousting, which he delivered in full armour.  Andrew is a jouster and features in another short YouTube clip on modern day jousting featuring some of the jousting from this year’s World Invitational “Grail of Chivalry” jousting tournament at Harcourt Park, Upper Hutt, New Zealand.



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ArchaeologyMost of you probably heard that the archaeologists of the University of Leicester have after a very eventful winter started digging again.  They want to discover more of the Greyfriars church, where the remains of Richard III were found last year.

The dig started with removing part of a Victorian wall separating the former Alderman Newton School and 6-8 St Martins.  The wall should be rebuilt once the dig is complete.

The plan behind the second dig is to establish the exact layout of the church to establish where Richard’s grave was in relation to the rest of the church.  The archaeologists also hope to find out other details like the size of the church and whether it had a tower or whether it had undergone alterations during its 300 year existence.  During the previous dig, archaeologists had found evidence that the floor had been changed three times.  Three coffins had also been found and it is hoped to find out more about the other people who were buried here.

However, the researchers also hope to go further back into Leicester’s past and hope to find traces what was on the site before the friary was built.  After all, Leicester was an important Roman centre, so they might even find Roman artifacts.

The machines moved in on Monday and have now finished their part.  Now the areas and trenches which had been dug last year will be uncovered.  A viewing platform for the public will also be erected.

To find out more about the second dig follow the blog on the website of the University of Leicester.  A good selection of photos can be viewed on Flickr.


Richard Buckley on Richard III

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ArchaeologyAnother find by our friend Renate – what would we do without her!

On 25 April 2013, Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist of the Greyfriars Dig, gave a talk on the dig and the discovery of Richard’s remains at the Tower of London.  I am sure you all feel you know all about the project by now, it is an interesting review, which puts some details into bigger context.  You can listen to it here.



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Some of you may have seen a – rather disappointing – article in The (British) Telegraph recently about research into Richard’s teeth.

The author, Richard Gray, starts with the fanciful description that Richard was killed by blows which were so heavy that they  “drove the king’s crown into his head”.  However, Bob Woosnam-Savage explained at the conference in Leicester that Richard could only have suffered the injuries that killed him after his helmet had been removed and also explained by what kind of weapon.

Mr Gray then states that Richard suffered from bruxism or teeth grinding.  For him, this confirms Shakespeare’s portrayal of Richard as “anxious and fearful” and that the reason might be that “he was wracked with guilt over the fate of the Princes in the Tower, who he is accused of murdering to assume the throne”.

Richard Gray based his article on research by Dr Amit Rai, a London dentist, which was published in the British Dental Journal.  It is hardly surprising that Shakespearean flights of fancy are lacking in the original article.

Dr Rai starts with some general information on dentistry in the middle ages.  Dental treatment would have been carried out by skilled barbers or surgeons, though monks were the dentists of the time, but they were not allowed to shed blood.

A professor of medicine and surgery at Bologna earlier in the 15th century, Giovanni de Arcoli, published guidelines of how to look after your teeth, some of which are still familiar to us, for instance that you should clean your teeth after eating, should avoid sweets or not break hard things with your teeth.  To clean your teeth you should use a thin piece of wood “somewhat broad at the ends, but not sharp-pointed or edged”.  Brushes with bristles were only introduced to Europe from China after Richard’s lifetime.

Then Dr Rai looks in more details at Richard’s teeth.  He does find indeed tooth surface loss, which might be the result of stress related bruxism, but thinks it is more likely that it was caused by dietary abrasions and erosion.  He explains that this erosion is not severe, which indicates a more affluent member of medieval society, who would have eaten food made from more finely milled flour.  This is also confirmed by the findings that the individual had eaten a diet rich in seafood – again something that would be expected of someone of a higher social status.

Three teeth were missing, which Dr Rai attributes to caries.  There are signs that the gaps where these teeth would have been have closed, indicating that they had been removed by a barber or surgeon earlier in Richard’s life.  For Mr Gray this was the result of a diet “rich in carbohydrates and sugar”.  Dr Rai, who had just explained that the teeth indicate a protein-rich diet, only mentions that caries would have been more likely in more affluent persons.

Some teeth show mineralised deposits, which probably are a build up of tartar.  As there is less of this on certain teeth than on others, it might indicate that Richard followed Giovanni de Arcoli’s guidelines on cleaning teeth, with a piece of wood, not a brush.

The left central incisor was also missing, which Dr Rai thinks could have been knocked out when Richard was killed “by some of the most advanced military weapons of the time” – not his own crown.

On the whole, Richard’s teeth give us a good idea of the dental hygiene people in those time would have used.

The difference between the information published in a daily paper, with its sensationalist interpretations, and that in a peer reviewed scientific journal is striking.  There is little doubt, which article is more reliable.


Rai, A., ‘Richard III – the final act’, British Dental Journal, Vol.214, No.8 (27 April 2013), pp.415-417

Gray, Richard, ‘King Richard III’s teeth and jaw reveal monarch’s anxious life and violent death’, The Telegraph (1 May 2013).  Date accessed:  2 May 2013

The following are the personal views of the author and do not reflect those of the NSW branch or the Richard III Society as a whole.

A while ago, I was asked by one of our branch members, where and when Richard would be re-interred, as she would like to be there.  Probably to her great disappointment, I had to tell her that I didn’t know.  The original plan was for the reburial to take place in Leicester in May next year, however, with all the controversy and legal challenges it would be better to wait a bit, before making actual travel arrangements.

And unfortunately the situation does not look any clearer so far.  There is the so-called ‘Plantagenet Alliance’, which portrays itself as a group of Richard’s descendents.  They would like Richard’s final resting place to be in York, whereas the exhumation licence granted last August states that any human remains should be reinterred in consecrated ground closest to the place where they were found, ie. Leicester Cathedral.  Therefore they have started to challenge the legality of the exhumation licence.  This week legal papers should be lodged with the (UK) High Court, seeking permission for a judicial review of the original licence to go ahead.  However, it is not sure whether the High Court will even accept the challenge and any decision is expected to take at least several weeks.

Whether the Plantagenet Alliance will have any success seems dubious.  As far as is known, there are no direct descendents of Richard III, his legitimate son had predeceased him and his illegitimate children died without issue, which leaves descendents of his brothers and sisters.  The group apparently consists of 15 of these distant relatives.  After 500 years, this is a surprisingly low number, as the University of Leicester estimates that “many tens of thousands of individuals alive today are descended in this way”.

The legal claim of the Plantagenet Alliance is based on the fact that they were not consulted before the exhumation licence was granted – and we have to remember that at that time it seemed rather unlikely that any human remains, let alone Richard’s, would be found.  They argue the licence was in breach of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which grants the right to respect for private and family life.  After 500 years to claim “respect of family life” seems a bit strange, after all we are not talking about a dearly beloved uncle, who used to come round for tea.  The University of Leicester refutes this saying that the obligation to consult living relatives expires after 100 years.

I tried to find out a bit more about the Plantagenet Alliance.  It is a private limited company, with a relatively new website (their archives only go back to March 2013).  They are asking for donations to help fund the day-to-day running of their affairs as well as the legal campaign.

For my part, I rather donated to the Richard III Society’s appeal for funds for a tomb for Richard, than giving money for a business to go to court.

There certainly are valid arguments in favour of a re-interment in York rather than Leicester, however, these are not furthered by challenging the legality of the original licence.  If only all concerned could stop arguing their case with increasing animosity, which, while the media might love it, is very sad and in bad taste.

The Patron of the Richard III Society, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who shares his name and title with the medieval king before his accession to the throne, has pleaded that his remains “are treated with the utmost dignity”.  I am sure that his discussion partners Dr Philip Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, and Philippa Langley, who had pushed tirelessly for the dig to take place, share his sentiments completely.  As does the University of Leicester, who pledges to “continue to work with our partners, the Richard III Society, Leicester Cathedral and Leicester City Council to ensure an appropriate and fitting re-interment for England’s last Plantagenet monarch in Leicester.”

HRH Richard, Duke of Gloucester, also attended a lunch with the Richard III Society, whose patron he has been for more than 30 years, at the Tower of London recently.


Kate Liptrot, ‘Richard III legal fight to start next week’, The Press (27 April 2013).

University of Leicester Press Office, ‘Plantagenet Alliance seeks judicial review – statement from University of Leicester’ (26 March 2013)

Duke Of Gloucester Meets With Richard III Society Over King’s ‘Dignity’’, Royal Central (2 March 2013).

Duke Of Gloucester Attends Richard III Society Dinner At Tower Of London’, Royal Central (30 April 2013)

Once again “Thank you” to my friend Renate, who found this!

The various talks from the Greyfriars Dig Conference, which took place in Leicester on 2 March this year, are now available on YouTube.  While you will not be able to experience quite the same atmosphere as the audience did, they are a great way to catch up with – or revisit – the information.

And a very big “Thank you” to the Richard III Society as well, for making this available to us!

You can find the YouTube clipes here.