Tuesday, 5 February 2013

My BIG Smile

The week’s topic for The Writers’ Post (on Facebook) is ‘Little Things That Make Me Smile’ and the host is Corinne Rodrigues.
I started thinking about this topic when it was first posted, and decided there were various things I could list – like the sight of the first daffodils each spring, a funny joke or picture on Facebook, seeing the cover picture for one of my novels for the first time, and my grandson coming round to see me.
Instead, I’m going to tell you about something that brought a BIG smile to my face at exactly 10.40 yesterday morning. I can’t call it a little thing – because in fact it’s been called the biggest archaeological discovery for a generation.
First the background for those who may not have followed the story: in August and September last year, Leicester University Archaeological Department started an excavation in a car park in the city centre. This was where the Greyfriars priory had been until it was destroyed in Henry VIII’s reign in the 16th century.
Tradition said the choir of the Greyfriars Church was where King Richard III’s body had been buried after he was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485. The archaeologists didn’t even know if they would find remains of the priory, let alone any human remains, but in the first trench they dug, by some amazing chance, they found bones. Further investigation showed this trench was exactly where the chancel of the church would have stood. Also, perhaps more weirdly, it was under the parking place labelled with the letter R.
More excitement arose when it was discovered the spine was twisted with scoliosis (curvature), and also the skull had evidence of battle wounds, which fitted with contemporary accounts of how Richard was killed by a severe blow to his head.
Like many people last September, I was 90% (or more) sure this had to be Richard III – it seemed too coincidental not to be him. However, the archaeologists don’t stop at circumstantial evidence. They want proof, and so the bones were subjected to a whole barrage of scientific tests, notably carbon dating and DNA. The historians had found a direct descendant of Richard’s sister Anne who was willing to be DNA tested.
We had to wait until yesterday morning for the results of all those tests. At the end of a 40 minute press conference, it was announced there was a DNA match and therefore the University Archaeology Department said it was "beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars on September 12th is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England".
I had a grin a mile wide as I punched the air and yelled ‘Yesssss!’

Here's the most well-known portrait of Richard, painted after his death but said to be based on earlier portraits of him.

And here's his face reconstructed from his bones found at Leicester:

I’ve been interested in Richard III since I was a teenager, but, for those who want to know more, check out the Richard III Leicester facebook page, or the RichardIII Society website.
And maybe this picture of a Leicester City Council parking sign will give you a smile!


  1. Wow.. That is fascinating. I am so envious of archaeologists, for me, that would be a dream career. That find is amazing! Thanks for sharing this incredible post. Loved it. And the story and the sign both made me smile! :D

  2. Thanks, MiMi, so pleased you enjoyed it. A discovery like this must be every archaeologist's dream!

  3. That was guaranteed to bring a big smile for sure! I watched a bit of the story on BBC yesterday. Thanks for adding more information to what I knew already - fascinating stuff! The sign is so very British! :)

  4. Corinne - the sign is British tongue-in-cheek humour at its best, I think!

  5. Huge smile for me also
    ! I never thought I would live to see the day when Richard III was found and vindicated ! Beautiful summary Paula, thank you !

  6. Fascinating story isn't it? What a discovery! Enjoyed the humourous sign, as well. :-)

  7. Lyn - I too never believed he would ever be found, in fact I can still hardly believe it!

    Debbie - it's an amazing story - rather like looking for a needle in a haystack, and finding it on the first attempt!