King Richard III connection with St Albans
- Credit: Photo courtesy of University of Leicester
SHORTLY after Monday’s confirmation that buried human remains were those of King Richard III, a St Albans historian has pointed out that there is a “wonderful literary connection” between this city and the battle-scarred man.
The University of Leicester announced on Monday (4) that there was overwhelming scientific evidence that the remains were those of the Plantagenet king, whose body was brought to Leicester, stripped and publicly displayed following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Peter Burley, a co-author of The Battles of St Albans, a book on the Wars of the Roses, said there was, “no record that I am aware of any incidents in Richard’s life where St Albans features, although we know he must have visited – however briefly – on the Yorkist march to the battle of Barnet in 1471”.
The first Battle of St Albans was in 1455, regarded as the start of the Wars of the Roses, while the second took place in 1461.
After Richard III was defeated and killed in 1485 Henry Tudor became Henry VII.
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Peter pointed out that, however, such facts have been skewed in a scene in history play Henry VI, where William Shakespeare places Richard (then Duke of Gloucester) at the first battle of St Albans on May 22, 1455.
Peter explained: “There, Richard fights a duel with the Duke of Somerset and kills him in single combat outside the Castle Inn.
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“The flaw in Shakespeare’s drama is that Richard was only three years old at the time and was almost certainly not in St Albans then.
“The Castle Inn stood on the site of Connell’s Estate Agents at the western end of what is now Victoria Street, then Sweetbriar or Butts Lane. The plaque on the other side of the road commemorating Somerset’s death is on the wrong building – owing to a misreading of the ‘Hare Map’ of 1634.”
Peter added: “Somerset did indeed die fighting outside Connells and there is another of Shakespeare’s wonderful tales attached to the death.
“This is that the necromancer [form of magic] Roger Bolingbroke, who was a real person, had conjured up spirits to tell Somerset’s fortune and they had predicted that he would die outside a castle.
“Thus when Somerset realised he had taken shelter from Yorkist arrows in the Castle Inn he knew his fate was sealed. In reality he was killed by a party of Yorkist axemen waiting outside the inn for him - and not by a precocious toddler!”
Researchers who have led the search for Richard III presented a wealth of evidence, from DNA results to skeletal analysis, to the world’s media at a press conference on Monday.
Marks on the skeleton showed that he was likely to have been killed by one of two fatal injuries to the skull, one possibly from a sword and the other believed to be from a halberd.