A Trip Through Time #2

a trip through time

The meme, A Trip Through Time, hosted by The Absent Historian is posted biweekly on a Friday. On the meme I will be taking a look at everything history related.

Today I am taking a look at the Channel 4 documentary that was on recently, Richard III: The New Evidence. As a massive geek when it comes to medieval history around the 14th-16th century, I was super excited to watch the documentary unveil more about Richard III; following the discovery of his bones last year. It is safe to say the documentary did not disappoint!

Here I have composed a little fact file for those of you who do not know much about Richard III. 

richard-iii-take-2Fact file: Richard III (October 1452 – August 1485)

  • * Younger brother to Edward VI and George, Duke of Clarence
  • * From House of Lancaster
  • * Reigned for 2 Years, 2 months and 2 days
  • * Last English king to die in battle
  • * Died at the Battle of Bosworth, 1485 (End of the War of the Roses)
  • * Usurped by Henry (Tudor)VII (father to Henry VIII)
  • * Supposedly killed his two nephews the princes in the tower to succeed to the throne after his brother, Edward VI
  • * Married Anne Neville (Warwick, the kingmaker’s daughter) and had one son, who died when he was young
  • * Depicted as a crooked, evil villain by Shakespeare

This picture is the one held in the National Portrait Gallery in London which I have visited and was painted by an unknown artists in the late 15th century, so the accuracy is debateable, but it is seen that Richard would have looked something like this at least, and not quite the hunch back that Shakespeare depicted.

However, having watched this documentary, and upon the bones being found in the Leicester car park, Richard III it is revealed did have a twisted spine, because he suffered from scoliosis which is a curvature of the spine.


If you take a look at the spine curvature here, you can see it moved to one side, which would have meant Richard’s ribs were curved around, and following experiments on a guy with a similar deformity, it was revealed this would hinder his capability when it came to lung capacity and stamina.

The programme had a central focus on uncovering whether with such a deformity Richard would ever have been capable of riding into battle in full armour and participate in hand to hand combat. In addition to this, the scientists at University of Leicester were able to analyse his bones to discover the type of diet he would have had from his time before kingship and right up until death. It was utterly fascinating to see them dissect all the elements of Richard III; him riding to battle, his fitness and capabilities; using a man who was suffering with the same condition.

Honestly, I learnt a lot from the programme and I was amazed to hear that the medieval armour and horse saddle were actually much more beneficial to supporting Richard in his condition than any new saddle would be. His range of movement was incredibly able for a man with a curved spine, however it was his stamina where he would fail. It can probably be seen that once he was dragged from his horse, he would not last long which was why he was able to be beaten quite badly and suffered severe head injuries and bodily damage, which ultimately led to his death.

In terms of his diet, the man was enjoying 2-3 litres of wine, every day! It certainly appears these medieval royals were having a jolly time, and once he became king, his intake of food such as pig, fish, peasant and all those delicacies increased and his diet became much richer. It appears that becoming king would certainly reduce his level of fitness, so when it came to riding into the Battle of Bosworth he was not at his prime.

Overall, it was really fascinating take on Richard III and revealed things that I did not know and continues to make me question about events of the time and the man that is Richard III.

For those of you interested in historical documentaries, finding out a little bit more about Richard III, or curious about the whole scientific process, I definitely recommend checking out the documentary that was broadcast on Channel 4!


Richard III’s double, Dominic Smee posing in his armour.


Filed under A Trip Through Time

15 responses to “A Trip Through Time #2

  1. That’s really interesting. I enjoyed your fact file as I only have a vague idea of that time period. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Aidan

    The documentary sounds really interesting. I think Richard’s a really strong case study on how powerful literature can be. Shakespeare definitely informs the way many regard him (I similarly feel for King John whose reputation is ruined by the Robin Hood thing).

    • Livvy @The Absent Historian

      Definitely have to agree about literature being a powerful tool. Shakespeare being around Elizabethan era is a large motivator in Richard’s bad depiction since Shakespeare wanted Elizabeth’s favour. It does show how propaganda can be strong throughout history. And yes, another great example of a ruined reputation.

  3. I’ve been fascinated by Richard III since I read Sharon Kay Penman’s historical fiction novel The Sunne in Splendour, which portrays him in quite a sympathetic light. I first found out about that book because it was recommended on an A Song of Ice and Fire discussion board, and there are quite a few striking parallels between the Wars of the Roses and some of the plot lines in ASoIaF, particularly the enmity between the Starks and the Lannisters. I really hope this documentary finds its way to the US because I’d love to watch it!

    • Livvy @The Absent Historian

      I have not actually heard of the book, but I am off to actually check out the book now. It sounds interesting. Yes, there definitely are a few resemblances between ASoIaF from what I have read so far and the War of the Roses a period I love. I definitely need to read further into ASoLaF and pick them all out!

  4. LOVE this post..it is really fascinating! I am only familiar with the Shakespeare play and not much about his real life…I have always wondered if he was misunderstood based on his disability or if he really was as villainous as he is depicted..I imagine a bit of both! LOL That is a LOT of wine though!

    • Livvy @The Absent Historian

      Yeah, I like to think he was nice and a tad villainous, it makes him more interesting. I definitely think he changed throughout his life. And alas, that is unfortunately how a lot of people know Richard III, through Shakespeare and it saddens me because he did quite a few great things (maybe boring in terms of administration etc, but for a historian like me, I enjoy them!) LOL.

  5. This was an interesting post, Livvy. I do love hearing about history and I’m not well versed in the history of the English kings. It was really a brutal time period! Killing his nephews? Most of the time I think these guys are complete jerks the more I learn. Great post! 🙂

    • Livvy @The Absent Historian

      Yes, supposedly he killed his nephews. Nobody is entirely sure, it could maybe have been somebody else, but he got the blame and it seems difficult to think he would not have known about it! Thanks for dropping by, Rachel!

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  7. Faye M.

    When I heard about the bones of a Medieval King found in a car park of all bloody places, my mind was really, really blown. I thought to myself, “If such an artifact can be found under a car park, who knows what else may be hidden under homes or buildings or roads? Every time I think of it, I kind of lament the knowledge we have lost .-. Maybe we could get even more kings and queens under the most obvious of places XD

    Faye at The Social Potato

    • Livvy @The Absent Historian

      Indeed, I found it amazing that it was in such a place too. Although I agree about lamenting that so much knowledge has been lost because of humans being destructive. Alas, maybe in a few years something exciting will show up under maybe a park or a flower bed? who knows!

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