I love a good mystery. Start with some buried bones, add in some DNA technology and sprinkle generously with a bunch of unanswered questions and you have the perfect recipe for for a who-dun-it even if, in this case, the real question is more who is it. And the mystery is no less interesting when you've started at the last pages of the book instead of the beginning, especially since the plot has been developing for centuries.
I'm talking about the news announced Monday that a skeleton found buried under a city parking lot in Leicester, England, is without a doubt the body of Richard III. He was King of England from 1483 to 1485 when he was killed in a battle with the forces of Henry VII who went on to succeed him. His hasty and unceremonious burial resulted in his remains being lost for decades until a joint effort between the University of Leicester, Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society decided to try to locate them. And locate them they did last September.
Well, technically they located a skeleton with obvious injuries to the skull and a deformity of the spine, both of which fit with the historical accounts of Richard III and his death. Thanks to some very modern technology (DNA and radio carbon dating) the authorities announced on Monday that the bones were definitely those of Richard III.
Maybe it's because I've spent the last several months immersed in English royalty and the accompanying history that went with it that I find this so fascinating. But really, I think there's more to it than that. I love that there are people who don't let a little thing like 500 years stop them from finding the answer to long-standing mysteries. And I've always been intrigued by the idea of forensic anthropology and what experts can learn from old bones. It's almost a Patricia Cornwell novel come to life but with a Shakespearean twist. A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse! On second thought, fiction can't rival the plot twists and turns of real-life Middle Ages.
It's pretty cool that today's science has solved yesterday's mystery and now Richard III can have a proper burial, even if he didn't enjoy the best reputation before or after his death. I won't find him among the branches of my family tree although if I went far enough afield I could put him there as a distant cousin. Perhaps I should plan to attend his funeral....you know, family and all that.