I thought that some of you might be interested in the latest salvo in the “Richard III Reburial Wars” that I saw earlier today in the British press:
Missing Feet Spark Investigation
Following the recent petition for judicial review of the decision to bury the remains of Richard III in Leicester, the Richard III Coalition, a new organisation of the Plantagenet king’s admirers and collateral descendants, has called for an investigation of the loss of the king’s feet.
When the skeletal remains were recovered underneath a car park at Leicester last year, they were intact except for the feet. Although the archaeological team involved with the dig believes that the feet were destroyed when a Victorian outhouse was built on the site of the church in which the king was originally buried, the Coalition is skeptical. ‘Richard III has been subject to numerous indignities over the years, and we believe that the loss of his feet should not be taken lightly,’ explained Coalition spokesperson Francis Hawkins. ‘We think this is something that demands further investigation.’
Asked why he doubted the official explanation for the missing feet, Hawkins said, ‘This blaming the Victorians seems a bit too convenient, to be frank. I believe there are two likely explanations for the disappearance. The first is that the feet were hacked off immediately after the battle of Bosworth, probably on the orders of Edward Woodville to give to his mother, Elizabeth. We know that Elizabeth was an ardent practitioner of witchcraft, and it’s likely she used the feet in some sort of satanic ritual. We need someone learned in the practices of medieval witchcraft to tell us exactly what the feet might have been used for, and once we have that knowledge, and begin digging deeper into the records, I think everything will lock into place. It won’t be easy to find confirmation—we know that the Tudor usurper destroyed hundreds of thousands of records—but if we know what we’re looking for, we’ll at least have a head start.’
The second possibility, Hawkins said, is that the feet were destroyed when the skeletal remains were removed from their centuries-old resting place. ‘This is an ugly possibility, but it needs to be looked into,’ Hawkins said. ‘Was it negligence, or was it perhaps a souvenir hunter or a thief? Richard’s feet may be standing on someone’s desk. I think somebody needs to be monitoring eBay and other auction sites as well.’
Hawkins bristled when asked whether he was accusing the archaeological team of wrongdoing. ‘As an admirer of Richard III, the king who invented bail, the right to jury trial, and the presumption of innocence, I would never soil anyone’s good name without cause,’ he said. ‘That’s for Tudor propagandists. But I don’t think we should blindly trust the team either. Richard trusted the Stanleys, and look where that got him.’
Rita Davis, a Coalition member who describes herself as Richard’s seventeenth great-niece, added, ‘As the relations of King Richard, who are proud to call him “Uncle”, we just want answers, which was what he would have wanted. We do know that Richard’s feet were important to him. His wardrobe accounts show that he spent a lot of money on shoes, for him and for Anne and poor little Ned as well. I think he would be very distressed if he were reburied with no effort to solve the mystery of his feet. I would certainly be upset if my feet were lost.’
Knowing that the mystery may never be solved, the Coalition in the meantime has commissioned a reconstruction of the king’s feet, which it hopes to unveil in the summer. ‘While it’s difficult to tell a man by his feet, you can tell a lot about a man’s feet by the man,’ said Hawkins. ‘Richard’s feet, as reconstructed, will reflect the essence of the man. Richard was a proven soldier, not a dilettante like Anthony Woodville or a coward like Henry Tudor. His feet would have been rough and callused. This is not a king who had pedicures.’
The Coalition will be raising funds and public awareness about its cause in the weeks to come. Said Gail Markham, the Coalition’s director of social media, ‘I’ve poured my heart and soul into this cause, because ever since I read The Daughter of Time last year, I’ve dreamed of standing face to face with Richard. When I realized he wouldn’t have any feet to stand on, I was devastated. It was almost as if they murdered Dickon all over again.’
The Coalition plans to launch its campaign tomorrow with hourly tweets from its Twitter account, www.twitter.com/the-king’s-feet.