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To think that just because they have found the bones of Richard III, that doesn't automatically mean that he was actually A Really Bloody Nice Bloke?

(239 Posts)
BalloonSlayer Tue 05-Feb-13 08:31:00

Constant quotes from the Richard III Society:

"We're going to completely reassess Richard III, we're going to completely look at all the sources again, and hopefully there's going to be a new beginning for Richard as well." Why? It's a skeleton? Was it holding a signed confession from Henry VII of the murder of the Princes in the Tower?

Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, originator of the search, said on a Channel 4 documentary earlier: "It doesn't look like the face of a tyrant. I'm sorry but it doesn't. WTF?

Why does this change anything at all?

LRDtheFeministDragon Fri 08-Feb-13 12:29:21

I'm like that - I wasn't allowed a lot of sugar as a child so I really enjoy things quite sour. I have a sweet tooth now but I was well into my 20s before I got it and lots of things still taste too sweet to me.

My mate made gingerbread from a medieval recipe and that was delicious - all dark and sticky, with honey and lots of spices. I've heard that Middle Eastern food is actually very similar to English medieval, as you'd use the same combinations of meat with fruit and spice quite a lot.

Although, if you want really unappealing stuff, I've just been reading a Middle English romance where a man has gone half-wild and is eating food with the dogs. This woman feels sorry for him so she washes out her greyhound's mouthes with wine (poor dogs!), and gives one of them a loaf of bread and the other some roast meat, which he then eats out of the dogs' mouths. Niiiiice!

BalloonSlayer Fri 08-Feb-13 11:14:18

I guess that when you don't have a highly-flavoured/sugared diet you taste subtle flavours all the more, trills.

A friend of mine had terrible thrush so she went on a no-sugar diet to try to get rid of it. I can't remember whether it worked but she lost tons of weight. although she hadn't been overweight to start with, and found she couldn't bear certain foods that she had always considered savoury because they were so unbearably sweet. I expect a baked apple sweetened with half a teaspoon of honey would have felt like a decadent treat for her!

Trills Fri 08-Feb-13 09:17:46

I love it when books tell us what people ate, how it was prepared, etc. It often doesn't sound very appealing.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 07-Feb-13 22:22:27

That makes sense - the no sugar. I'd not thought about the decaying bits wearing away. Ouch!

That is fascinating about breasteeding and starving. Wow. I've only ever looked at diets from records (Campsey Ash priory kitchens!) of what people were putting down they'd eaten. But if they're using this as one means to try to confirm who the skeleton was, it's not going to work well.

It is really interesting, though!

Mytholmroyd Thu 07-Feb-13 22:11:24

Yes LRD teeth are often far better than we think they ought to be - it varies between different periods with access to sugars - no cane sugar for example in medieval England just naturally occurring honey, fruits, beet and grains. Also, people tended to have more abrasive diets so they might not have got obvious decay but they did wear them down far more than we do today (or the decaying parts got worn away...)

There are lots of nutritional, health or environmental factors that can make you look like you ate a lot of meat or a "high-status" diet - if you are breastfeeding, starving (and thus "eating" yourself) or you put the contents of your chamber pot on your fields to fertilize them you will look pretty "high-status" with this sort of technique. So yes, poor people can look like they had a "good" diet.

You don't need meat though to grow big and strong - the Irish poor lived on a diet of potatoes and buttermilk with very little else but were renowned for being amongst the tallest people in the 18th/19th century.

Its just not that simple even when you have whole cemetery of skeletons and their rubbish dump to analyse - so taking one isolated individual who is buried somewhere he didn't live makes it even more difficult to reconstruct his diet with any certainty.

LRDtheFeministDragon Thu 07-Feb-13 21:29:54

I think as well, they've found even quite poor people had pretty good diets in terms of protein being nice and available.

I was struck that his teeth seemed to be in pretty good nick, but apparently that's not very unusual either.

Mytholmroyd Thu 07-Feb-13 21:27:22

The "high status diet" thing is no more concrete than the DNA though - sadly - it is entirely dependent on where you were from and when you lived.

"High-status" and "low-status" diets in medieval England (i.e. after people started eating a lot more fish following a church directive) were precisely the opposite if you were from Scotland where the rich ate beef and lamb etc and the poor, if they were lucky, got only salmon and other fish which were cheap and relatively plentiful.

There is a tale of a Scottish gentleman who went to London with his servant and ordered beef at an inn and said his servant should only have salmon - and then was shocked and baffled when the beef cost 8 pence and the salmon 8 shillings!

All this sort of analysis can say is where the protein he ate was likely to have come from (plants, terrestrial animals, marine fish etc). It cannot say how much meat he ate or what status he had - that is just somebody's interpretation based on a comparison with other people and their animals and I don't think he was buried with his cows and chickens! Neither can it tell the difference between the best fillet steak and oxtail.

If it were all sorted I'd be out of a job! grin

MuddlingMackem Thu 07-Feb-13 18:27:35

MadBusLady Thu 07-Feb-13 09:07:05

>>>>> I first read DoT when I was about 9. smile Some of the social background hasn't aged at all well. At one point the main character says, quite seriously "Mary Stuart was six foot tall. All tall women are sexually frigid, ask any doctor". But the language is generally very suitable for 9 I think - stretching but clearly written - and all the scenes where the characters are discussing the history are great. That quote is about the worst thing in it I can think of (from a number of points of view!) <<<<<

Yes, that quote sounds dreadful! But from the rest of what you've said it sounds very much worth digging it out for him from wherever it is on the bookcase. [If I wasn't trying to read book 2 of Game of Thrones before series 3 starts on the telly, I'd be really tempted to re-read it myself! grin ]

Cairncake Thu 07-Feb-13 18:10:05

Indeed, she was a girl so being even the 'firstborn' gave her no rights, but she was the elder sister of the murdered Edward V. Richard's wife and son died, he had no direct descendents other than nieces and nephews, or siblings. The princes were declared illegitimate (wrongly), and Richard supported this legislation, because it then made him next in line.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Thu 07-Feb-13 17:53:15

Primogeniture though? Would she have more right to have ruled than Richard or the boys?

Cairncake Thu 07-Feb-13 17:50:20

This is my kind of thread, quite enjoying it.

Well 'our Dicken' should be reburied at York methinks, he wanted to be and he was popular there.

Henry VII's wife, Elizabeth of York, was the eldest daughter of Edward IV, so she had more right to rule than Richard, the princes and Henry. Her descendents have royal Plantaganet blood through her. During Charles II's time, two sets of bones of children were found, Westminster Abbey I think, and were reburied, being 'claimed' to be the murdered princes Edward and Richard. I wonder if they end up being dug up and tested. They were reputed to have been found with traces of velvet, a high status fabric.

MadBusLady Thu 07-Feb-13 09:07:05


I first read DoT when I was about 9. smile Some of the social background hasn't aged at all well. At one point the main character says, quite seriously "Mary Stuart was six foot tall. All tall women are sexually frigid, ask any doctor" confused. But the language is generally very suitable for 9 I think - stretching but clearly written - and all the scenes where the characters are discussing the history are great. That quote is about the worst thing in it I can think of (from a number of points of view!)

Abra1d Wed 06-Feb-13 14:13:32

What is really heartening me is that so many people are excited about this discovery! We are obviously still gripped by our country's history. Perhaps it will encourage a whole generation of children to find out more about the Plantaganets.

HazeltheMcWitch Wed 06-Feb-13 13:42:38

Exactly, hazel sounds pretty


cory Wed 06-Feb-13 13:11:58

flyingspaghettimonster Wed 06-Feb-13 01:54:52
"Am I missing something here? How does mitachondrial DNA conclusively prove the skeleton is Richard the 3rd? Anyone could have the same mitachondrial dna, it could have come from a woman 1,000 years before Richard III and passed down through completely different people, this could be an almost unrelated skeleton... or a cousin... I don't like how concretely they are taking the genetic evidence..."

It's considered (fairly) conclusive because it fits in with the other evidence: grave from the right period, male skeleton, buried in the church where we know Richard was buried, in a part of the church suggesting high status, with battle wounds and a deformity which fits well with the descriptions of (admittedly somewhat later) historians. So it's just another part of the jigsaw, not something that would stand up on its own. We don't know of any other relatives of Richard who were killed in battle and buried in Leicester and suffered from deformities of the spine.

BupcakesAndCunting Wed 06-Feb-13 12:21:49

My eyes are green. <adjusts ruff>

Trills Wed 06-Feb-13 12:11:09

If I want to read about prehistoric women inventing stuff I'll go the whole hog and read the Earth's Children books, thanks. smile

SaggyOldClothCatpuss Wed 06-Feb-13 12:10:30

I have hazel eyes. They're kind of browny greeny sludge coloured, until I get a cold or cry, when the red of my face turns them vivid green.

minouminou Wed 06-Feb-13 12:09:30

I know...I remember reading about Jasmine and her early efforts at farming on what she called her "experimental plot". I thought - she never called it that.....

An account of what the women's lives were probably like, written at a bit of a remove, would have come across much better.

Trills Wed 06-Feb-13 11:59:33

minou I liked the first half of The Seven Daughters of Eve but thought it got a bit silly when he made up life stories for each of the mitochondrial ancestors.

minouminou Wed 06-Feb-13 11:32:12

The team also probably looked for other markers as well as just mDNA and whatnot.

I wonder if there's a marker for tyrant....... (just joshing)

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 06-Feb-13 11:30:50

We should definitely write a medieval novel on MN, trills. We could include a parti-coloured cat.

minouminou Wed 06-Feb-13 11:30:17

To Flyingspghettimonster

The mitochondrial and Y-chromosome DNA analysis has come on a bit in recent years - you can identify loads of subclades within each haplotype now, so it can all be narrowed down quite a bit.

I'm one of the group Brian Sykes has dubbed Jasmine.....'cos I'm dead classy and exotic, like.

I emailed Dr Turi King earlier today, and she responded to say RIII's groupings will all be revealed when the paper's published.......ooooohhhh.....exciting.....

Trills Wed 06-Feb-13 11:29:29

Exactly, hazel sounds pretty, so write it in books where you have to describe someone's eye colour smile

LRDtheFeministDragon Wed 06-Feb-13 11:24:44

I always think hazel are brown with green flecks. It sounds pretty, anyway.

London wasn't very important really. It's still a backwater in lots of ways until quite late on. I work on manuscript books, and basically (she says, generalizing to the sound of book historians shuddering) London isn't a centre for book making until maybe 1350-1400, at which point it really kicks off. Before that places like Worcester and East Anglia and York were much more literate and cultured-y.

It was a political capital, but lots of other cities had good claims to be more important in terms of religion (which obviously has a lot to do with where you want to be buried).

Did you know, until Lincoln Cathedral tower was built, the highest man-made building in the world was the pyramids? And then the tower fell down again, and the highest man made building in the world was ... the pyramids.

But there was a point when Lincoln was quite up-and-coming, which is such a bizarre concept to us now. Norwich too. It's really odd how cities that are important have changed so much.

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