Western Footprints – Finding King Richard

Edward IV of England, brother of  Richard III and Anne of York

Edward IV of England, brother of
Richard III and Anne of York

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In the past few weeks I have been able to add some interesting personages to my family tree. This happened because the researchers in the “Looking for Richard” project through the University of Leicester, U.K., found me while they were looking for clues about Richard. At that time they had found a skeleton, which they believed, through historical references and the condition of the skeleton, might be the long lost body of King Richard III of England.

The missing link was a DNA match. I was not able to provide the needed mitochondrial DNA because it must be passed through a straight line of women, in this case beginning with Anne of York, Richard’s sister. The researchers had found my father through my column in the Colorado Gambler and were hoping that he might have had a sister, but my grandmother only had two sons.

This did not change the fact that I am descended from Anne of York (1439-1476), who died giving birth to her daughter by her second husband, Sir Thomas St, Leger. Anne St. Leger became heir to a very large estate that came from her mother’s first husband Henry Holland, Duke of Exeter, from whom she was divorced. Exeter was disgraced because of his alignment with the House of Lancaster during the War of the Roses. (Their daughter, also Anne, had died young and without children.)

Facial reconstruction from the skull of King Richard III that was released in February.

Facial reconstruction from the skull of King Richard III that was released in February.

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Anne of York’s younger brother became King Edward IV in 1461. Anne did not live to see his death in 1483. At that time their even younger brother Richard became king. Anne St. Leger married George Manners, 12th Baron de Ros, and from that marriage continued for nearly 500 years the straight line of women that ended with my father.

I have been very impressed watching the teamwork that led to finding the identity of the skeleton of Richard III.  They followed historical references that led them to the area they needed to look in in Leicester, about 16 miles from where the Battle of Bosworth, in which Richard was killed, was fought. Bosworth was the last major battle of the War of the Roses (Lancaster and York). It was also the last time an English king was killed in battle. The dig was done carefully under controlled methods, and they must have felt great excitement when it became evident the injuries to the skull and body showed death in battle. When the skeleton showed signs of scoliosis, a sharp curvature of the spine, which matched the stories of Richard’s appearance, they must have been close to rejoicing. Final confirmation would not come until the DNA test.

They found a DNA match through a fourth cousin of mine who I hope to meet someday. Then the world was told of this amazing discovery.

There was more to do. For hundreds of years Richard III has been spoken of as the arch villain. The remaining question is whether this is really deserved. The Tudors had many years in which to make themselves look better by speaking ill of him. Shakespeare used poetic license to increase this opinion.

The “Looking for Richard” project includes delving into the stories to drag out truth and reality. Finding and identifying the skeleton is not the end of story.

A reinterment will take place at Leicester Cathedral in early 2014 with the honors that should be bestowed upon a king, one who was killed, disgraced and hidden in a rough grave with not shroud or coffin. Finally, an end befitting a king.

Sir Thomas St. Leger was executed at Exeter in 1483 and his body interred in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, alongside that of his wife, Anne Duchess of Exeter. No mention is made of his ignominious end on the copper plate fixed to the wall of their chantry, now called the Rutland Chapel.

Sir Thomas St. Leger was executed at Exeter in 1483 and his body interred in St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, alongside that of his wife, Anne Duchess of Exeter. No mention is made of his ignominious end on the copper plate fixed to the wall of their chantry, now called the Rutland Chapel.

 

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