Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Ancestors in car parks!

For the second time in five years, the remains of one of my ancestors has been found under a car park in the UK. The latest find is my 24th great grandfather, Henry I (abt 1068-1135), youngest son of William the Conqueror. Henry's remains have just been found under the car park of Reading Gaol (or jail as we in Canada would say) in southern England. Henry was crowned King of England on 5 Aug 1100, remaining king for 35 years -- a very long time at that period of history.

Richard III facial reconstruction
In 2011, the remains of my 17th cousin once removed, Richard III (1452-1485) were discovered beneath a Leicester car park near what had once been the ancient site of the Grey Friars' church. Richard has been harshly regarded, both during his life, and for centuries afterwards, possibly unfairly, possibly not. Shakespeare's play Richard III, written more than 100 years after his death, tells the story of Richard's rise to power.

Richard ruled as king for only two years, before he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field. His remains were reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in 2015. But before that, his skull was used for a facial reconstruction. I hope that Henry I's skeleton includes his skull -- that would be a fascinating facial reconstruction. Imagine seeing the face of a man who lived a thousand years ago.

A visitor centre now tells Richard's story.

My royal connection comes through one paternal ancestor, my 13th great grandmother, Alice Gascoigne (1521-1599), who descends from Northumberland's mighty Percy family, the Neville family, including Richard, Earl of Warwick (1428-1471), known as Warwick the Kingmaker, and from Lady Joan Beaufort (1379-1440) daughter of John of Gaunt (1340-1399), scion of the Plantagenet kings.

Since 2011, I've referred to Richard as my dear cousin Richard of the car park. Now I must add to that: my dear cousins Henry and Richard of the car parks. How many more ancestors' remains are buried beneath car parks in modern day Britain?

The never ending story continues....

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