The discovery of the remains of Richard III has not in itself particularly interested me. However, two loosely or otherwise connected issues, which are independent of whose DNA we are considering, do intrigue me.

Firstly, the finding does serve to reinforce the fact that we humans ‘survive’ for an indeterminate length of time following death. I am not sure whether I find this reassuring or whether it fills me with terror. I suspect that, by shattering my belief in absolute physical finiteness, apart from whatever genetic legacy I endow my child with, the prospect of my lingering somewhere indefinitely is not a happy one.

Particularly if that somewhere is a concrete edifice.

My second thought on the issue stems from a memory the report stirred. I instantly recalled Catherine O’Flynn’s novel What Was Lost. Like Richard III, whose body was lost for all those years, O’Flynn’s story centres on an unfound body. In O’Flynn’s fictional narrative the body is that of a little girl. We discover, some time after her disappearance, that she has been entombed in the foundations of a shopping centre.

The protagonist implicated in the case, although not directly responsible for the child’s death but a witness to it, had the following to say when questioned:

‘Do you know in Germany in the Middle Ages, when they tried to build the church in Vilmitz, the builders couldn’t finish the job? Whatever they put up in the daytime fell down at night. So they took a child, gave it a bread-roll in one hand, a light in the other, and set it in a cavity in the foundation, which they mortared shut. The building stood firm after that…There are entombed children all over Europe bringing prosperity, security, happiness.’

An intriguing fictional construct, one which made me wonder about Royal Souls, and Richard III’s contribution to the well-being of a certain Leicester car park…

CQ

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