11 February 2013

Posted by Anna Notaras | File under : , , ,

On February 5th, The Richard III Society officially unveiled the facial reconstruction of the English king, after having assured the skeleton found in Leicester was his.

The monarch died aged 32 in the Battle of Bosworth, and no contemporary portrait had survived. The existing postmortem ones invested him with less than flattering features, now to be proven wrong.

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images
It has certainly been a great adventure, this chase for King Richard III. As the skeleton found under a parking lot in Leicester was finally confirmed to be the king's, through DNA tests and matching with the descendants. To the identification process also contributed the battle wounds evidence.

The facial reconstruction was in no way aided by any of the portraits, except for when determining the colors and the fashion. The result revealed was stunning: not only that we can state that Richard III was a handsome monarch but, although features like his nose and prominent chin were existing in portrayals as well, the reality put his enemies to shame. History is written by the victors, as we know. Once again, it is being confirmed to us. In Richard III's case, those who came to rule after his reign did their best to invest him with flaws and create a mean appearance. Centuries after, their scheming turned against them, finally. Richard looks noble, kind, serene and handsome. It may seem like an unscientific approach to make statements based on physical features, but the leader of the project, Philippa Langley, didn't censor that herself. It is a natural reaction to do so, perhaps stemming from a long experience of seeing physical features as matching the ones of the psyche.

By all means, the most touching part about his appears to be this: that thousands, or rather millions of people get to look Richard III in the eye after so many centuries, that we can all see his face right now, as it was back then. And what do we see? A human, not a monster. It is interesting how, among the first reporters and scientists, many got to discuss his features, in an attempt to draw the man's character from his physical appearance. It seems that we, humans, cannot resist this. It is like an irresistible temptation to start observing one's facial features and make a whole profile based on that. 

Killed on August 22nd, 1485, Richard III could never be fully condemned for any atrocity, not even with the modern investigation techniques. Moreover, he did not have a wretched arm or a hunch back, since he only developed scoliosis, which only causes the spine to form a sideways curvature and uneven shoulders. He made donations to the poor, and he wanted the throne like any other heir would.

To the others, the Richard III Society had been just a bunch of fanatics lost in silly medieval dreams and defending these - with fanaticism, of course.These detractors might have never heard of Schliemann and his Troy...