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 311.

    sithytove @293; You'll find at the time most of the ambassadors believed Richard had had the princes killed and most Yorkist supporters believed him responsible and not only refused to support Richard but actively switched sides after following Edward IV for years of turmoil and peace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    John Duff@306
    I jest not. Under medeaval law Edward V's claim was rendered invalid by parliament. Everyone excepted Richard as a legitimate king, consequently he had no motive to murder his nephews, unlike H7 who had no direct claim to the throne. When Richard's own son died he nominated his other nephew as heir apparant. H7 had him arrested after Bosworth and judicially murdered.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    Richard actually proclaimed his nephew as King. Bishop Stillington claimed Edward was married to Eleanor Butler before he married Eliz Woodville, making the Woodville kids unable to inherit. Richard was the next heir. Parliament accepted Richard as King.
    William Stanley changed sides in mid-battle. Stanley was, surprisingly, Henry Tudor's stepfather - can't think why Richard trusted him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    Here in Spain waiting to leave on a delayed flight of 4 hours and I hear this exciting news. Can't wait to get back to the UK and be part of this historic event. Although I am English I have lived all over the world but our history is always fascinating. I have been following this story and just know it's good news; I feel it in my bones!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 307.

    Congratulations to all involved. Long Live the House of York and if its Richard III then a fitting resting place in Leicester should be found.

    Once again a job well done to all those involved

  • rate this

    Comment number 306.

    sithytove@293 You jest Edward V was the son of a King had been proclaimed King as he grew older he was bound to try to reclaim what was rightfully his so he was a threat to the usurper Richard. Elizabeth Woodville entered into correspondence with Henry through his mother to have her daughter marry him. with the death of the princes the vast majority of Yorkist went over to Henry's side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 305.

    was it a Pay and Decay?

  • rate this

    Comment number 304.

    Richard's image is not all down to Shakespeare at the time of his death he was deserted by yorkist supporters who had known him for years and had fought for his brother, many yorkist joined the little known Henry in exile rather then join and fight for a man they believed betrayed Edward IV and his children and many believed killed his children.
    Richard in the end was condemned by his own side.

  • rate this

    Comment number 303.

    A hearse, a hearse, my kingdom for a hearse.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    Experts say they may have found Richard III in a Leicester car park. Ugly, disfigured and reviled, Leicester is at junction 20 off the M1.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    Parish Spinster;No the Star chamber was founded by Henry VII,if you ignore the killing of Lord Rivers and Hastings without a fair trial or no trial, declaring your brother a bastard so you can claim his son throne he maybe your idea of a great king but not mine or the people at the time.
    The final verdict must rest with the fact that at the time of his greatest need his own Yorkist deserted him.

  • rate this

    Comment number 300.

    John Duffy@293.
    Richard had nothing to gain by killing the princes. There was no accusation made at the time, nor later when H7 came to the throne. The princes' mother was on good terms with Richard during his reign. H7 locked her up for the rest of her life – even though she was his mother in law. Strange behaviour for someone who had 'revenged' the death of her sons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.

    This is fantastic news for our city. If we are to have a Jubilee Square, I challenge Peter Soulsby to relocate it to Greyfriars. Let's get the tourists in and show pride inour heritage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.

    all-about-news, thank you for your earlier comment. Had a quick browse & apparently Edward, especially later on, resembled his paternal uncle. Just a possibility but would the Duke of York's attitude to Edward have been tempered if he had any doubts because he didn't think he was to be the heir? Something I read yesterday suggested Edmund was the heir but died with his father at Wakefield in 1460.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    Long stay par-KING

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    if Richard III comes near my kids i swear ill do time

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    Since the Tudors were moslty Welsh, the Stuarts were Scots and the Windsors originated in the German states, Richard was the last of the Norman line. For English, wasn't that Harold?

    I think it would have been Edgar who was proclaimed king after Hastings although never crowned. From memory he lived into old age still fighting against Norman kings although his niece (I think) married Henry I

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    The bones and artefacts should go on show somewhere like the tower of London to become a new national attraction and heritage item. This is far to important to be reburied if proven. Of course the necessary respectful treatment should be given and this could all be done very well indeed with modern sensitivities being what they are. It's a wonderful success story whatever the outcome.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    Dave you seem to have your political facts wrong, Henry's legitimacy was questioned and corrected by parliament having them dead did play into his hands,he had no control or access to the tower it is hard to believe he was responsible for their deaths,his claim was through his mother not his sister
    Richard needed the princes dead when the boys were older they were bound to try to regain the throne

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    It would be very interesting to see a proper reconstruction of a funeral of that time.
    To be consistent with his beliefs (whoever it is), the skeleton should really be re-buried in a Catholic church, of course.

    Since the Tudors were moslty Welsh, the Stuarts were Scots and the Windsors originated in the German states, Richard was the last of the Norman line. For English, wasn't that Harold?


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