England’s King Richard III found after 500 years

By Michael Holden
LEICESTER, England | Mon Feb 4, 2013

The skeleton of Richard III is seen in a trench at the Grey Friars excavation site in Leicester, central England, in this picture provided by the University of Leicester and received in London on February 4, 2013. REUTERS/University of Leicester/Handout

(Reuters) – A skeleton with a cleaved skull and a curved spine entombed under a car park is that of Richard III, archaeologists said on Monday, solving a 500-year-old mystery about the final resting place of the last English king to die in battle.

Cast by Shakespeare as a deformed tyrant who murdered two princes in the Tower of London, Richard was slain in a bid to keep his crown at the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field, immortalised by the words: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”

In one of the most significant archaeological finds of recent English history, a team from the University of Leicester said evidence showed a skeleton found last year in excavations of a mediaeval friary under a city car park was that of Richard.

“It’s the academic conclusion … that beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in September 2012 is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England,” lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said.

The skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of which were to the head clearly inflicted on the battlefield. A photograph showed a sword had cleaved away part of the rear of the skull. A metal fragment was found between Richard’s vertebrae.

After the battle, the victor, the future King Henry VII, had Richard’s naked body exposed to the people of Leicester to show the battle was won, ending the bloody 30-year civil conflict known as The Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster.

Other wounds were consistent with being caused after death when his body was taken from the battlefield to the nearby city of Leicester on the back of a horse. All of the wounds were from swords or daggers and it appeared his hands had been bound.

Confirmation the bones were Richard’s hinged on DNA taken from the skeleton matching that of Michael Ibsen, a Canadian-born furniture maker in London who genealogists said was the direct descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne of York.

Admirers of Richard hope that the discovery will fuel interest in the mediaeval monarch and dispel Shakespeare’s physically impaired protagonist who said: “And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover … I am determined to prove a villain.”


The curvature of the spine, so ruthlessly mocked by Shakespeare and famously depicted by Laurence Olivier, was striking.

After a detailed presentation focusing on the life, wounds and physique of Richard, Buckley, announced his conclusion to world media amidst cheers and applause. The project almost ended prematurely, but funds from countries ranging from the United States and Germany to Australia and Belgium kept it afloat.


Categories: Archeology, Europe, UK

1 reply

  1. From CNN

    (CNN) — DNA tests have confirmed that human remains found buried beneath an English car park are those of the country’s King Richard III.
    British scientists announced Monday they are convinced “beyond reasonable doubt” that a skeleton found during an archaeological dig in Leicester, central England, last August is that of the former king, who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
    Mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones was matched to Michael Ibsen, a Canadian cabinetmaker and direct descendant of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York.
    Experts say other evidence — including battle wounds and signs of scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, found during the search and the more than four months of tests since support the DNA findings.
    The skeleton was discovered buried among the remains of what was once the city’s Greyfriars friary, but is now a council car park.
    Richard III’s remains will be reburied in Leicester Cathedral, close to the site of his original grave, in a memorial service expected to be held early next year, once analysis of the bones is completed.
    Read more: Richard III: The king and the car park?
    Archaeologists say the man they found appears to have met a violent death: There is evidence of two severe blows to the skull, and it appears Richard’s corpse may also have been mistreated.


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