obit (the dust) of the month: hand in hand to hell

Richard III

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III. Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family. The skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal. One was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull. Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. Richard III was portrayed as deformed by some Tudor historians and indeed the skeleton’s spine is badly curved, a condition known as scoliosis. However, there was no trace of a withered arm or other abnormalities seen in the more extreme characterizations of the king. Born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, where Mary Queen of Scots was later executed, Richard had one of the shortest reigns in English history: just 26 months. Appointed as protector of his nephew, Edward V, upon the death of his brother Edward IV, Richard instead assumed the reins of power. Edward and his brother – the famous Princes in the Tower – disappeared soon after, leading to speculation that they had been murdered on the orders of their uncle. Challenged by Henry Tudor, Richard was the last English king to die in battle. He was slain at Bosworth in 1485, leaving Shakespeare the ingredients for a (quite literal) field day. Read the full story HERE.

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it’s good to be the king

Especially if you happen to be Bhumibol Adulyadej, more commonly known as Rama IX. The king of Thailand – no Yul Brenner jokes, please – has reigned since June 9, 1946, making him the world’s longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. (The Thai monarchy has been in continuous existence since the founding of the Kingdom of Sukothai in 1238.) Today is the king’s 85th birthday and for the past ten days I’ve been greeted by billboard-sized photos of his majesty everywhere I go. This little shrine outside my hotel was the most demure example I could find.

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full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Now an ecumenical church, Iona Abbey, is of particular historical and religious interest to pilgrims and visitors. For one, it’s the most elaborate and best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in Western Scotland. Though modest in scale compared to medieval abbeys elsewhere in Europe, it has a wealth of fine architectural detail, and monuments of many periods: in front of the Abbey stands the 9th century St Martin’s Cross, one of the best-preserved Celtic crosses in Britain; the ancient burial ground, called the Rèilig Odhrain, contains the 12th century chapel of St. Odhrán and a number of medieval grave monuments. The abbey graveyard holds the final resting place of kings from Ireland, Norway and France, as well as a number of early Scottish Kings, including Malcolm, Duncan, and Mac Bethad mac Findlaích, better known as MacBeth.

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it’s good to be the king

Who says you can’t live like a king, even in difficult economic times? The 17th-century Hôtel du Grand Contrôle, one of the Palace of Versailles’ official mansions, should halt all the naysayers when it’s reborn at the end of 2011 as the boutique Hotel de l’Orangerie.

Built in the 1680’s as the office and home of the King’s official treasurers, the mansion was evacuated along with the rest of the Court of Versailles during the French Revolution and since then it’s suffered some serious wear and tear.

A yearlong renovation, estimated to cost $7 million, comes courtesy of Ivy International, the Belgian hotel company that hatched the unique plan to take the dormant monument off the hands of a cash-starved French government and turn a profit – a percentage of which will channel back into the Versailles treasury.

The luxurious new digs will offer 23 rooms and suites with views of the Royal Suisses lake and the Orangerie, where Louis XIV housed his collection of orange and palm trees.  Hotel guests will also get private access to the Chateau itself.  Details remain sketchy, however, about any cake.

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