Richard III dig: 'Strong evidence' bones are lost king

 

Richard Taylor from the University of Leicester says there are five clues the skeleton may be Richard III, including an arrow found in its back

Archaeologists searching for the grave of Richard III have said "strong circumstantial evidence" points to a skeleton being the lost king.

The English king died at the battle of Bosworth in 1485.

A dig under a council car park in Leicester has found remains with spinal abnormalities and a "cleaved-in skull" that suggest it could be Richard III.

The University of Leicester will now test the bones for DNA against descendants of Richard's family.

Professor Lin Foxhall, head of the university's School of Archaeology, said: "Archaeology almost never finds named individuals - this is absolutely extraordinary.

"Although we are far from certain yet, it is already astonishing."

Richard III: Analysis

Richard III

Dr Steven Gunn, University of Oxford

After the battle of Bosworth Henry VII didn't want anyone claiming that they were Richard III and had survived the battle.

Richard's body was taken to Leicester, slung naked over the back of a horse, and publicly displayed so people could see he was dead.

But there was the problem of how and where to bury him - what seems likely is that they wanted to avoid anything that would generate a posthumous cult.

There was a tradition in medieval England that people who were political victims then became popular saints. They wouldn't have wanted to bury him in York, where he was very popular.

Greyfriars was convenient and safe. Henry VII put steps in action for a tomb to be built, and the inscription was to be ambivalent, and in some ways rude about Richard III, talking about his nephews and indicating that he wasn't a very good king. There is evidence that people talked about him being buried there.

Listen: What really happened at the battle of Bosworth?

A university spokesperson said the evidence included signs of a peri-mortem (near-death) trauma to the skull and a barbed iron arrow head in the area of the spine.

Richard is recorded by some sources as having been pulled from his horse and killed with a blow to the head.

The skeleton also showed severe scoliosis - a curvature of the spine.

Although not as pronounced as Shakespeare's portrayal of the king as a hunchback, the condition would have given the adult male the appearance of having one shoulder higher than the other.

Philippe Langley, from the Richard III Society, said: "It is such a tumult of emotions, I am shell-shocked.

"I just feel happy and sad and excited all at the same time. It is very odd."

As the defeated foe, Richard was given a low-key burial in the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars.

This was demolished in the 1530s, but documents describing the burial site have survived.

The excavation, which began on 25 August, has uncovered the remains of the cloisters and chapter house, as well as the church.

Work focused on the choir area, in the centre of the church, where it was indicated Richard was interred.

The bones were lifted by archaeologists wearing forensic body suits in an effort to limit contamination by modern materials.

DNA will be extracted from the bones and tested against descendants of Richard's family.

Dr Turi King, who is leading the DNA analysis, said: "It is extremely exciting and slightly nerve-wracking.

"We have extracted teeth from the skull, so we have that and a femur, and we are optimistic we will get a good sample from those."

The tests are expected to take about 12 weeks to complete.

If their identity is confirmed, Leicester Cathedral said it would work with the Royal Household, and with the Richard III Society, to ensure the remains were treated with dignity and respect and reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church.

Work to record the finds are continuing and discussions about when to fill in the trenches are ongoing, officials said.

1741 and 2012 maps of Leicester Archaeologists used a 1741 map of Leicester to find the site of Greyfriars and then compared this to the modern city to find where to dig
 

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  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 85.

    If this proves to be Richard III, we really will have to rewrite some of the history books!

    I am really looking forward to the results from DNA analysis being made public.

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 61.

    If this proves to really be Richard III - come to that, even if it doesn't - I add my own warm congratulations to those already expressed, to the team which is delivering this excellent project. According to all of accepted policy and practice of the day, Richard III was a legitimate king, no less than Henry VII. If this is indeed him, he should have a State re-burial, in Westminster.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 53.

    I find it rather sad, but also it' s nice to think Richard has a 'fan club' who have devotedly searched for his remains after all this time. I myself believe he was demonised by popular fiction because in those days no one wanted to blacken the Tudor name for fear of losing their heads! He fought bravely, despite a crippling spinal condition, and for that alone he deserves some respect.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 50.

    The monarchy and its history makes for some fascinating reading. This is a very exciting find but there may be ructions from the spirit world if he's reinterred at Westminster Abbey near to his nemesis Henry VII.

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 15.

    Have you ever seen anyone so happy while talking about skull trauma? - Best of luck to the archaeological team and the university. I still get a sense of childhood wonder when discoveries like this are made, reminds us know the world still has it's secrets to uncover!

 
 

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