The most-evil tyrants and wicked stepmothers of children’s lit could learn a thing or two from from Richard III of England. Entrusted with the care of his two young nephews, he locked them in the Tower of London and had them smothered with a mattress. His spine, like his morals, was twisted. His arm, like his heart, was withered. Or was this portrait also pure fiction?
It’s hard to know. One thing I’ve learned in researching and writing nonfiction is that the experts often don’t agree, and even when the circumstantial evidence seems overwhelming, the distance of time can cheat us of any proof. But sometimes, crazy luck and modern science can tip the balance back.
In August 2012, five hundred and twenty seven years after his death, the remains of Richard III were found under a car park. If Richard could teach our dastardly dames a thing or two about being dastardly, the two scientists who have since lead the analysis could mentor Sherlock and Watson. Watch this video, you’ll see what I mean … and for all you educators out there, here’s your chance to harness morbid fascination in the service of science education.
Now we know where the king was buried. We know, in almost too much detail, how the poor man was killed. We know the answer to that five-hundred-year-old question, a hump or not a hump? And with the help of even more modern science, in this case forensic facial reconstruction (see video below), we may have a 3D idea of what he looked like.
But one thing we still don’t know. Was this the face of a murderer?
I’m sure science will soon answer this, too. If the skeletons found buried in a chest in the Tower of London could be positively identified as those of the two princes, it would be almost impossible to argue that they had not been murdered. And if they were murdered, nobody but Richard had the motive to carry out the deed, and the power to cover it up.