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Is this the lost coffin of King Richard III?

Host_Ryan - One Show team | 13:17 UK time, Monday, 17 November 2008

Can't see the film? Click here to watch the interview with Reg Colver, the gardener who found the casket.

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It's the mystery of the royal tomb. For The One Show, Dan Snow travelled to Earl Shilton in Leicester to witness the excavation of what could be King Richard III's stone coffin.

Reg, middle - white helmet, Dan Snow and Richard Knox - red jacket

Richard's death at the Battle of Bosworth (1485, fought near Market Bosworth in Leicestershire) marked the culmination of the Wars of the Roses.

The story goes that after his death in battle he was buried in Greyfriars Church (now a car park), but years later his grave was opened, his coffin paraded through the streets by a jeering mob and his bones thrown into the River Soar.The excavation

Fast forward 500 years to gardener Reg Colver watching a programme about Richard III on the TV. When the commentary described the coffin in which the king had been interred, it reminded Reg of a water feature in a garden in Earl Shilton. Reg contacted the council, and their archeologist Richard Knox decided to investigate - and The One Show cameras were there, exclusively, to record the subsequent archeological dig.

Has Reg found the discarded coffin of Richard III? The archeologists can't be sure. Richard Knox says that it is a rich man's casket from the early medieval period and that there's a good chance that it is from the friary site. But he wonders how a jeering mob could have carried such a heavy stone sarcophagus to a river.

Richard Van Allen from the Richard III Society told us that, as far as he knows, Richard III is the only English king whose grave has been lost "so that this is the holy grail - but there are all sorts of legends about what happened to his body". "Everybody lives in hope that he will be found - but no one knows where he was buried at Greyfriars."

The coffin is to be displayed at its new home - Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre.

What do you think, is it the coffin of Richard III? What did happen to King Richard's body?

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  • 1. At 6:19pm on 17 Nov 2008, mattwolf1975 wrote:

    Fascinating, I wonder what's in my garden, I'll get my spade.......

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  • 2. At 7:23pm on 17 Nov 2008, digger1485 wrote:

    would love to have seen, and learnt more about this fascinating object

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  • 3. At 7:43pm on 17 Nov 2008, polejunkie wrote:

    Well done to David Wilson for facilitating this, look forward to seeing the coffin at the Heritage Centre!

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  • 4. At 8:36pm on 17 Nov 2008, Libash wrote:

    It's interesting, but stone coffins are by no means scarce so a link with RIII is very tenuous as is the story about the jeering mob and throwing the bones in the river. But it does draw attention to his lost grave which is not a bad thing.

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  • 5. At 09:26am on 18 Nov 2008, frostyfreeman wrote:

    The comment on the One show on Monday 17th Nov that richard III was the last British King to die in battle in 1485 at he battle of Bosworth was not true.

    That honour must go to James the IV 1513 at he battle of Flodden

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  • 6. At 11:54am on 18 Nov 2008, vinyl_guitarist wrote:

    You're right frostyfreeman, Richard III was the last *English* monarch to be killed in battle.

    No-one really minded after he killed the two boy princes in the tower though...

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  • 7. At 5:07pm on 18 Nov 2008, browser1 wrote:

    I'm very sorry to have missed the feature on the One Show about this..fascinating..btw Richard III was the last British King to die in battle. James IV was King of Scotland when it was a separate country.The Act of Union did not make it Britain as a nation until 1707.I suppose you could say that there were no "British" Kings before 1707 so its a matter of semantics..I also always thought it strange that the people in Leicester would feel so "anti Richard " that they would dispose of his remains by throwing them in the river.Many of these people would only have heard of him and had no reason to despise him.I'd like to think he's still buried in his orginial resting place and will hopefully be located one day,albeit very unlikely. btw it has never been proved that he killed the princes in the tower or that they were murdered by anyone..no one will ever know for sure

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  • 8. At 8:27pm on 18 Nov 2008, lizzie1485 wrote:

    Excuse me vinyl_guitarist! Nobody minded Richard being dying after he killed the Princes?

    There is no evidence that he did kill the boys, take your history from Shakespeare if you must but you might like to try and get up to speed and understand that Tudor propaganda has been overtaken by modern research.

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  • 9. At 12:52pm on 19 Nov 2008, browser1 wrote:

    Quite right lizzie1485 and I think the people of York would also have begged to differ with the view expressed by vinyl_guitarist! Perhaps he should have a look at their Civic Records..! Obviously from the Alison Weir school..

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  • 10. At 2:51pm on 19 Nov 2008, vinyl_guitarist wrote:

    browser1 and lizzie1485
    I only put it in as a bit of a joke. There's no need to be nasty about it.

    Plus I've never even met Alison Wier. I didn't even know she had a school, I certainly didn't go to it. Her space physics is terrible apparantly..

    I'm just a lowly old rocket/space scientist who likes a bit of light history and was just commenting on the fact that he was the last "English" king to die in battle.

    Sorry for the joke.. I hadn't realised it was a humour free zone. I actually thought the one show was a rather light hearted affair..

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  • 11. At 5:33pm on 19 Nov 2008, browser1 wrote:

    Wasnt meant as a nasty comment Vinyl_ it was probably the exclamation marks that set the wrong tone..lol. I do have a sense of humour and didnt realise you were joking..it came across as your genuinely held belief. I simply expressed mine.Alison Weir is a historian who starts on the assumption that Richard III was guilty of everything and has no objectivity..hence the reference to her..just a joke..If you are a scientific person then no doubt you deal in clinical facts and appreciate the importance of accuracy,especially when dealing with a reputation,however long dead the subject.The One Show is lighthearted as you say but I didnt get the impression they treated it as a joke,more a subject of interest so I assumed you were being serious. If I get anything wrong about rocket science feel free to correct me..:-)

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  • 12. At 07:07am on 21 Nov 2008, Aranxa wrote:

    Ever since I read Josephine Tey in college I was convinced that Dickie Three was framed. I had done extensive papers on it in University. There are enough political reasons alone (that whole Tudor mess, they were sneaky bastards) that would justify the besmirching of Richard. I sincerely hope that this find will be given the respect and scholarly examination it deserves. And if proven true, be interred in Westminster with all the other King and Queens of dubious history together in their lineage.

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  • 13. At 08:52am on 21 Nov 2008, marinepauline5 wrote:

    Recently at at talk given at The Herne Bay Historical History Society a speaker told a similar story to yours about Henry 11 etc but said that the King's son was buried at Westwell Church, near Ashord, Kent and I believe a plaque was placed there to commerate his death etc. The battle of Bosworth was the theme. He can't have been buried in two places so whose story is correct?

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  • 14. At 11:39pm on 21 Nov 2008, richiii wrote:

    Is Richard the only king not to have a marked grave ?

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  • 15. At 10:54pm on 22 Nov 2008, Bardilone144 wrote:

    Re: vinyl_guitarist's comments - Richard III didn't in fact kill the two Princes. He wasn't even near the Tower of London at the time and there is no evidence that he had the boys killed either.
    The whole case against him has always been circumstantial and almost entirely based on the theory of his motive - i.e., that he had to kill the princes in order to usurp the throne. This has always been a shaky claim as the boys were alive after Richard's coronation. New evidence has all but blown this theory of motive out of the water, as it transpires that Edward IV was illegitimate. He therefore had no right to the throne and as a result, neither did Prince Edward or Prince Richard -which is what Richard the III stated at the time. Ergo, Richard had no need to bump them off.
    One other interesting point, Richard III was never accused of the princes' murder in his lifetime - that accusation only came after Henry Tudor took the throne.
    We will probably never know what happened to the princes, but the myth of the wicked and murderous uncle is dead and buried.

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  • 16. At 11:00pm on 22 Nov 2008, Bardilone144 wrote:

    richiii asked if Richard III is the only king not to have a marked grave. No, he isn't the only post-Conquest king to have that misfortune. Henry I's grave in Reading Abbey was destroyed during Henry VIII's Reformation. There is a plaque in the ruins indicating roughly where it was, but that's all.

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  • 17. At 11:09pm on 22 Nov 2008, Bardilone144 wrote:

    regarding browser1's comment on the disposal of Richard III's body, 'the people' of Leicester, as he rightly assumes, had no reason to desecrate Richard's grave and didn't in fact do so. Henry Tudor had it done and claimed that it was a spontaneous act of disgust at Richard III.
    In fact Richard was extremely popular in the Midlands and north of England, as he had governed the area during his brother's reign with wisdom and fairness.

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  • 18. At 11:28pm on 22 Nov 2008, Bardilone144 wrote:

    I think this is unlikely to be the sarcophagus of Richard III. If Richard Knox has dated it to the early medieval period, then it is too early for Richard III. It is possible that the sarcophagus was re-used for Richard in the later middle ages, but I think it is more likely that it once housed the body of an abbot or prior of Greyfriars. I suspect that it is more evidence of the destruction wrought by Henry VIII during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
    As for the alleged 'mob' carrying it to the river, I can't believe Richard Knox even said that. Of course they wouldn't! There would almost certainly have been a coffin housing Richard III's body placed inside the sarcophagus (normally there would be a lead inner coffin and a wooden outer one); I imagine that is what was supposedly carried to the river by those who desecrated Richard's remains.

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