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

    Comment number 71.

    I note the usual litany of blame still hangs around Richard, held responsible for the deaths of the Princes in the Tower. Given that the regime threatened by the Princes was a Tudor one, it stretches credulity to be swallowing the colourful version of events painted by a Poet and Dramatist whose fealty lay squarely with the Tudors! Shakespeare may be adept with villains, but it is not history.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Ironic, innit? Cars are the modern horses, and the monarch who exclaimed "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" gets a car park built on top of him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    62 - no skeletons were routinely dug up and the bones disposed of in medieval times so that the graves could be reused. Sometimes just the skulls were kept.

    48 - I think there are more direct descendants of the Plantagenets than the present Queen. so I thinh there are a number of candiadates they can go to for the DNA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    @piscator (59) just because one topic is debated doesn't mean other topics should feel upset. By your logic, why discuss Hillsborough, as you suggest, when we could trump it with Syria. Bonkers logic.
    If you're not interested in this topic then walk on by - don't be a kill joy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Islander, they were after the money and were Tudors who would have been particularly happy to trash that tomb.

    Wayward Traveller, the Princes in the Tower murder was Tudor propaganda, just like the rest of the 'evil Richard' scenario. His memory is respected in the North because they knew him. York Cathedral would be a better resting place than Leicester Cathedral.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    Richard III was villified by Shakespeare to curry favour with the Tudors. He had no hunchback but was portrayed as such as it was considered a mark of being cursed by the devil.

    His remains were desecrated by Henry VII followers after the battle. Hopefully his remains can now be laid to rest as befits the last true king of England

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    @20 I've always thought that getting upset over Dicky killing a couple kids down right hypocritical considering modern history.

    Clearly if he did it for fun then that's another matter, but I think we both know that if he actually did it, it will have been for what he thought were justifiable reasons ... and considering they hanged kids for stealing back then ... not such a big deal!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    I used to hate history at school but for some reason this sort of thing really gets my attention. Keep up the good work everyone, hope it proves fruitful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 63.

    Shot in the back and bashed on the head..
    ..we haven't really come very far since then have we?

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    Herb #18: It doesn't mean anything, except that people are people no matter what age.

    Anybody know why when they demolished the original structure they didn't seem to care about the burials beneath it? You would think in those days they would be even more sensitive to burial sites than we are now, but apparently not.

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 60.

    It's always nice when another bit of history gets nailed down (assuming it turns out to be him of course). Our history is so much more interesting than what was taught to me at grammar school, which now seems like so much propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Really important topic, about which nobody who posts will have a real idea or opinion. Hillsborough? Unemployment? Propaganda film currently in the news now showing on You Tube? .......

    Oh, it's stopped raining. Ta ta.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    After Richard, all English royalty is illegitimate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I just like the maps. If King Richard the III was alive to-day he would have no problem finding his way around the area because the streets are pretty much the same today.
    As for them bones. Those dry bones?
    Well lets hope the foot bone is connected to the leg bone. The leg bone is connected to the thigh bone etc etc etc!

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    'Tested against RIchard's descendants'.
    It means that a never sure DNA test will nullify such possible royal descendance?
    Fantasy mingled with historical myth may disappear soon from this ever-serious age of Reason.All of us loved to imagine Great Duchess Anastasia surviving the soviet assasination; all of us loved to follow french Daulphin rescued secretly fromn the Temple.
    Aseptic Reason?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    48.....It's HM The Queen

  • Comment number 54.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • rate this

    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

    Comment number 52.

    here is hoping it would be great for posterity


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