Gaye Mack’s Blog

ARCHAEOLOGISTS REVEAL RICHARD III’S BRUTAL DEATH

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

While final DNA testing on a skeleton believed to be England’s maligned king, Richard III is concluded, speculation as to how this king met his brutal death paints a grisly picture.  In a recent interview with the BBC, Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from  Leicester University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, states that the skeleton had suffered ten  injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.

According to Appleby, one wound was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull – a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).  “Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.   In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous.”

Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.

Dr Appleby added,  “The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male but was an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man.  Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.”

Richard was killed at Bosworth in 1485 after only two years on the throne when challenged by Henry Tudor who became England’s King Henry VII.  Evidently the defeated monarch was given a rushed and clumsy burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the center of Leicester. Excavation of the site has revealed no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would have left the bones in a more compact position than they were found.  Additionally, the arms of the skeleton were crossed which archaeologists believe could be an indication that the body was buried with the wrists still tied.

While initial DNA testing indicates that the  remains are  Richard’s, the drama isn’t over yet. In an interview with NBC news,Turi King, Leicester University geneticist who conducted the initial testing stated that mitochondrial DNA is not as precise an indicator as a paternity test. However, she also noted regarding the DNA found,  “It’s quite a rare type, so that adds to the weight of the evidence,” further adding that the mitochondrial DNA signature found with the skeleton is shared by only a few percent of Europeans.

The next step will be to analyze the skeleton’s Y-chromosome DNA and the more complicated reconstruction of the skeleton’s Y-chromosome DNA signature which is passed down from father to son.  Amazingly, four paternal-line descendants of Richard III’s family have already been identified and tested, awaiting further analysis.

black prince

KING RICHARD III OF ENGLAND

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WAS THE SAINTED HUGH OF LINCOLN CATHEDRAL REALLY SO ‘SAINTLY’?

Posted on by Gaye Mack in Ancient Legends of Great Britain, Gaye's England, Scotland & Wales, Writer's Work Leave a comment

If one could board the ‘way back machine’ with Mr. Peabody and Sherman from the endearing ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ show, it might be interesting to dial in coordinates for May 1186, Eynsham Abbey, Oxfordshire.  Upon arrival, we might very well hear the town crier announcing,

STUNNING RESUME CATAPULTS HUGH OF AVALON

INTO BISHOP’S CHAIR AT LINCOLN CATHEDRAL!!

 It was to Eynsham that King Henry II summoned a council of bishops and barons in order to elect Hugh of Avalon to the vacancy at Lincoln.  No question, by this time in his life, Hugh had amassed a very impressive resume of accomplishments and on the surface it would seem that he was well placed in the monastic life.    Following his appointment as a deacon for the Benedictine priory of Villard Benoît near Grenoble France, Hugh’s ecclesiastical career was on the proverbial meteoric rise by the age of 19, particularly after he came to the attention of the powerful Plantagenet king, Henry II.

 As it was, in 1170 Henry found himself in a hot spot of bother with the Pope over that nasty business concerning Thomas Becket.  However, Henry being the quintessential deal maker, managed to appease Pope Innocent III (an ‘interesting name’ in and of itself!) by making an offer that Innocent couldn’t refuse.  In lieu of going on pilgrimage as part of his penance for his complicity in Becket’s murder, Henry agreed to establish a Carthusian house in England; which he did, just down the road (more or less) from Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset. 

 Unfortunately by 1179, the Witham Charterhouse was pretty much of a mess; so who to call?  By this time Hugh, now quite accomplished in his mid forties, was on Henry’s radar and thus, was commanded to Witham to sort things out… which he did…brilliantly actually.  As there is nothing like success, Hugh’s accomplishments at Witham led him to an additional assignment on the King’s orders.

 By 1183 the political climate had become so poisonous at Glastonbury that Henry ordered Hugh to take on the supervision of Glastonbury’s diabolical ‘Custodian’, Peter D’Marcy.  Predictably, D’Marcy didn’t take kindly to Hugh’s interference which provides rich fodder for my book, A Murder of Crows.  However, following Glastonbury’s disastrous Great Fire of 1184, Hugh remained at Witham until the Eynsham council elected him to head Lincoln’s bishopric in 1186.

Hugh’s biography, written by Adam of Eynsham, a Benedictine monk who was Hugh’s constant companion during Hugh’s final three years of life, remains in manuscript form in Oxford’s Bodleian Library.  Predictably, Adam’s accounts of Hugh’s life and behavior is impeccable. 

 However… in his contemporary and highly entertaining book, Sex Lives of the Popes, author Nigel Cawthorne informs us:

            “Like other popes, Alexander III [1159-1181] had particular problems with the clergy in England.  Determined to have someone celibate in the See of Canterbury, he appointed the monk Clarembald, only to discover the he had seventeen illegitimate children in one village alone.

            At the that time, the Bishop of Lincoln [this would be Hugh] was concerned about the debauchery of nuns in England.  So he developed a novel test to see if they were living up to their vows of chastity.  He would go through the convents fondling the nuns’ breasts to see how they would react.”

 Hmmmm….What do YOU think???

Nevertheless,  Hugh of Lincoln is the most venerated saint in Great Britain today after Thomas Becket!

A Murder of Crows is book one in my historical mystery series, Flight Through Time, which is in production.

Photography©Gaye F. Mack, Inc.