No, this is no joke. You can find full details in this excellent story from the New York Times, written by John F. Burns. You may remember Richard III, vilified by Shakespeare and so many others, as the so-called "Wicked Uncle" of history, responsible for the murder of his two young nephews. As Burns points out, that assessment of Richard may now be challenged again:
"Among those who found his remains, there is a passionate belief that new attention drawn to Richard by the discovery will inspire a reappraisal that could rehabilitate the medieval king and show him to be a man with a strong sympathy for the rights of the common man, who was deeply wronged by his vengeful Tudor successors. Far from the villainous character memorialized in English histories, films and novels, far from Shakespeare’s damning representation of him as the limping, withered, haunted murderer of his two princely nephews, Richard III can become the subject of a new age of scholarship and popular reappraisal, these enthusiasts believe."
That argument was made more than sixty years ago in one of the finest historical mysteries ever written: Josephine Tey's "The Daughter of Time." Tey used her detective, Inspector Alan Grant, and the techniques of the classic detective story to examine the case of Richard III. The book's conclusion: King Richard was framed. It's a viewpoint that was not new even then, but one that has remained controversial. The new discovery of Richard's skeleton will reinvigorate the discussion. It is unlikely to settle the argument, however. As one of the characters observes, in "The Daughter of Time":
“It’s an odd thing but when you tell someone the true facts of a mythical tale they are indignant not with the teller but with you. They don’t want to have their ideas upset. It rouses some vague uneasiness in them, I think, and they resent it. So they reject it and refuse to think about it. If they were merely indifferent it would be natural and understandable. But it is much stronger than that, much more positive. They are annoyed. Very odd, isn’t it?”
Indeed. If you're a lover of classic mysteries and haven't read "The Daughter of Time," please do yourself a favor and read this remarkable book. Perhaps the old proverb is right and truth really is the daughter of time...