A Game of Thrones: Parking Lot edition

Posted: February 7, 2013 in Parking


Parking lots can contain a number of so-called treasures; lost wallets, keys, cash, etc. But recently there was a treasure found in a UK municipal parking lot that answered a 500 year old historical mystery: what happened to the body of Richard III? Well, it turns out it had spent the past five centuries or so buried in Leicestershire, England, below what eventually became a parking lot.

Although Richard III isn’t the first monarch to have his remains become lost in the annals of history, his case is unusual in that the location of his remains became a mystery almost right away. You see, Richard III was not only the last British monarch to die in battle, he was also the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty. He ascended the throne in 1483 his brother Edward IV (the previous king) died, and Edward’s marriage was declared invalid, making his children ineligible for the throne. This was during the Wars of the Roses, a period in time when the two houses of the Plantagenet dynasty were vying for control of the throne, House York (which Richard III belonged to) and House Lancaster. The first revolt that Richard III had to deal with happened shortly after his ascension and was swiftly put down. The second happened at the end of Richard III’s short reign, and claimed his life.

The second revolt was led by Henry Tudor, a remote relative of House Lancaster, and ended at the battle of Bosworth Field. It was there that Richard III was killed, and Henry subsequently claimed the throne, united Houses York and House Lancaster and established the new House of Tudor. It was because of these circumstances that Richard III’s remains did not receive the normal pomp and ceremony given to a fallen monarch. Even immediately after the battle, none were sure of exactly what had happened to him. Many believed that Henry Tudor (now King Henry VII) had Richard III’s body ignobly tossed into the Thames river; but there were some who said that his body had been placed in a plain grave without coffin or trappings at the Greyfriars’ monastery in Leicester. Unfortunately, shortly after that the Church of England broke away from the Catholic church and all the English monasteries were closed and shut down, many of them torn down entirely. The Greyfriars’ monastery was one of those lost at this time, as was any record of the resting place of Richard III. And so it was that a kings remains were lost to history.

Until now. Thanks to dedicated and diligent research by archaeologists, historians and amateur Richard III researchers, they were able to find references to Richard III’s body being moved to Leicester, and were able to use architectural records and cutting age archaeological technologies to discover Richard III’s grave, which happened to be in the middle of a parking lot of what is now Leicestershire. Still, they were able to excavate there, and they did indeed find what appears to be Richard III’s skeleton. The skeleton had at least ten wounds caused through battle, and most importantly had the bent, twisted spine which caused William Shakespeare to write him as a hunchback in his semi-biographical play Richard III. Although no peer reviewed publication has come out (yet), researchers have successfully matched the DNA of the remains to one of Richard III’s living descendants and just this week announced that the remains were, indeed, his.

There is still much research to be done, and there is much speculation into what insights the remains will give us into the life of one of the shortest reigning and yet most reviled monarchs in history. But one thing’s for sure, with more and more parking lots being built as the global population grows, if we’re not careful we may pave over more of histories greatest mysteries

  1. […] so I really didn’t think I was going to be doing a follow-up on the Richard III story, but here we are. In what seems like a scene out of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the […]

  2. […] I shouldn’t be surprised, but once again we are looking at an intersection of British Royalty and parking lots, this time at least […]

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