I am very privileged to be blogging to you today from a place to which I affectionately refer as ‘ground zero’. I mean, of course, the city of Leicester, much famed in recent weeks for a certain Yorkist monarch unearthed below the tarmac and asphalt of the county seat. Just 700mm below the aforesaid asphalt, mind you. This precarious state of affairs was compounded by the presence of 19th-century building foundations, drains and outhouses criss-crossing the ancient footprint of the 13th-century Franciscan friary in which he was laid to rest. Any one of these building projects could have easily swept away any evidence of Old Dick, and were indeed responsible for the unfortunate demise of his feet.
This fortuitous preservation, combined with the skill and luck that allowed University of Leicester archaeologists to pinpoint the grave’s location after opening only three trial trenches, is miraculous indeed. I am pleased and humbled to be placed in Leicester for my Opening Up Archives traineeship in this most landmark of years. All images in this article were personally digitised and it’s been wonderful to help preserve and promote such important source material.
But what exactly does the ‘Richard III Discovery Story’ have to do with archives, you may ask? In many ways, everything – because of course, our county Record Office holds the majority of desk-based data, in conjunction with the local Historic Environment Record office, which was used by resident archaeologists to surmise the circumstances of Richard’s burial.
This includes historical documents written post-Bosworth, in which various people have described, recorded, and theorised about the King’s death and final resting place, as in this example below by William Burton in The Description of Leicestershire, 1622: