Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king's


The skeleton is 'beyond reasonable doubt' the remains of Richard III

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.

Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch's family.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: "Beyond reasonable doubt it's Richard."

Richard, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

Richard III graphic

Mr Buckley said the bones had been subjected to "rigorous academic study" and had been carbon dated to a period from 1455-1540.

Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from the university's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, revealed the bones were of a man in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died.

His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.

One was a "slice" removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull - a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).

'Humiliation injuries'

Dr Appleby said: "Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.

Who was Richard III?

The earliest surviving portrait of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral
  • Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, where Mary Queen of Scots was later executed
  • As Duke of Gloucester, Richard took a rampant white boar as his sign
  • His coronation took place in Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony very similar to HM the Queen's
  • Richard had one of the shortest reigns in English history - 26 months
  • He was the last English king to die in battle, killed by the forces of the future Henry VII

Source: BBC History

"In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous."

Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of "humiliation" injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.

Richard III was portrayed as deformed by some Tudor historians and indeed the skeleton's spine is badly curved, a condition known as scoliosis.

However, there was no trace of a withered arm or other abnormalities described in the more extreme characterisations of the king.

Missing princes

Without the scoliosis, which experts believe developed during teenage years, he would have been about 5ft 8ins (1.7m) tall, but the curvature would have made him appear "considerably" shorter.

Dr Appleby said: "The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male but was an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man.

"Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III."

Richard was a royal prince until the death of his brother Edward IV in 1483. Appointed as protector of his nephew, Edward V, Richard instead assumed the reins of power.

Edward and his brother Richard, known as the Princes in the Tower, disappeared soon after. Rumours circulated they had been murdered on the orders of their uncle.

Challenged by Henry Tudor, Richard was killed at Bosworth in 1485 after only two years on the throne.

DNA trail

He was given a hurried burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the centre of Leicester.

Mr Buckley said the grave was clumsily cut, with sloping sides and too short for the body, forcing the head forward.

University of Leicester findings

Richard III's skull

• Wealth of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, radiological evidence, DNA and bone analysis and archaeological results, confirms identity of last Plantagenet king who died over 500 years ago

• DNA from skeleton matches two of Richard III's maternal line relatives. Leicester genealogist verifies living relatives of Richard III's family

• Individual likely to have been killed by one of two fatal injuries to the skull - one possibly from a sword and one possibly from a halberd

• Ten wounds discovered on skeleton - Richard III killed by trauma to the back of the head. Part of the skull sliced off

• Radiocarbon dating reveals individual had a high protein diet - including significant amounts of seafood - meaning he was likely to be of high status

• Radiocarbon dating reveals individual died in the second half of the 15th or in the early 16th Century - consistent with Richard's death in 1485

• Skeleton reveals severe scoliosis - onset believed to have occurred at the time of puberty

• Although about 5ft 8in tall (1.7m), the condition meant King Richard III would have stood significantly shorter and his right shoulder may have been higher than the left

• Feet were truncated at an unknown point in the past, but a significant time after the burial

"There was no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would have left the bones in a more compact position.

"Unusually, the arms are crossed and this could be an indication the body was buried with the wrists still tied," he added.

Greyfriars church was demolished during the Reformation in the 16th Century and over the following centuries its exact location was forgotten.

However, a team of enthusiasts and historians managed to trace the likely area - and, crucially, after painstaking genealogical research, they found a 17th-generation descendant of Richard's sister with whose DNA they could compare any remains.

Joy Ibsen, from Canada, died several years ago but her son, Michael, who now works in London, provided a sample.

The researchers were fortunate as, while the DNA they were looking for was in all Joy Ibsen's offspring, it is only handed down through the female line and her only daughter has no children. The line was about to stop.

Tomb plans

But the University of Leicester's experts had other problems.

Dr Turi King, project geneticist, said there had been concern DNA in the bones would be too degraded: "The question was could we get a sample of DNA to work with, and I am extremely pleased to tell you that we could."

She added: "There is a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Greyfriars dig.

"In short, the DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III."

In August 2012, an excavation began in a city council car park - the only open space remaining in the likely area - which quickly identified buildings connected to the church.

Laurence Olivier as Richard III in the Shakespeare play of the same name Richard's villainous reputation owes much to the way he was characterised by Shakespeare

The bones were found in the first days of the dig and were eventually excavated under forensic conditions.

Details of the reburial ceremony have yet to be released, but Philippa Langley from the Richard III Society said plans for a tomb were well advanced.

She said of the discovery of Richard's skeleton: "I'm totally thrilled, I'm overwhelmed to be honest, it's been a long hard journey. I mean today as we stand it's been nearly four years.

"It's the culmination of a lot of hard work. I think, as someone said to me earlier, it's just the end of the beginning.

"We're going to completely reassess Richard III, we're going to completely look at all the sources again, and hopefully there's going to be a new beginning for Richard as well."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 479.

    Wonderfully entertaining to realise that the car park was once the playground of my school. We never realised what esteemed company we kept during our lunch.

  • rate this

    Comment number 478.

    Are they sure it's not Chris Huhne?

  • rate this

    Comment number 477.

    Will there be a collosal backdated car parking fine?

  • rate this

    Comment number 476.

    Who killed Richard? A likely culprit is Gwylym Gardynyr, a Welsh Halbardier commanded by the knight Rhys ap Tomos who dismounted R3. Supposedly Richard offered his kingdom for his escape "my kingdon for a horse" but Rhys called up Gwylym Gardynyr who wielded the halband blows to his head. Gardynyr married Helen, illegitimate daughter of Jasper uncle of Henry VII, and a Merionnydd woman, Myfanwy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 475.

    Excellent story! This is the sort of interesting and colourful stuff that should be in the news far more often as opposed to the tedious, grey political/religious guff we are fed daily.

  • rate this

    Comment number 474.

    Post 438; King John is buried in Worcester Cathedral. King Edward II is in Gloucester.

    At least the Yorkists have found their lost king.

  • rate this

    Comment number 473.

    "Details of the reburial ceremony have yet to be released"

    But keep chacking ticketmaster for updates?

  • rate this

    Comment number 472.

    430.Rule Britannia
    4 Minutes ago
    The REAL hammer of the scots, welcome back sir

    Yes "better together" indeed! Can't wait for the oportunity to vote YES in 2014 and make England and wales"independent" again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 471.

    A truly marvelous achievement! A finding of great historical importance resulting from collaboration between many scientific disciplines.
    (Can those 'witty' people considering dreary 'jokes' based around car parks and vulgar rhyming slang ('treading on a Richard III') please note that half a dozen similarly witty people have already deposited such jewels).

  • rate this

    Comment number 470.

    Britania, Edward was the hammer of the Scots not Richard. He also didn't do too great a job as his son got a serious doing at Bannockburn despite vastly superior numbers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 469.

    How strange that they burried a King of England in some (apparently) normal, lowly churchyard and then lose the body. Knowing nothing about it at all I assume it was because of the war they were fighting. You'd think he'd have been exhumed when it was possible and moved to somewhere more stately instead of being lost to history.

    Good work finding him though, needle in a haystack stuff at work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 468.

    Well Chris Huhne is History now.

    Can we bury him under Westminster's Car Park along with the BBC producer that interrupted the Leicester University's Press Conference with this Huhne nonsense?

  • rate this

    Comment number 467.

    He was given a proper burial all of those years ago, it may not have been his wishes to be buried anywhere else. Why was reinturring him back to the exact spot they found him not done? Yes, it is under a carpark, but so what.

  • rate this

    Comment number 466.

    If Thatcher gets a state funeral then that shows exactly how corrupt the royals are for supporting someone who consistently corrupted the UK & whose followers (successive govts) reintroduce the feudal system. Bury the lot of 'em in a car park.

  • rate this

    Comment number 465.

    Whoopee do - I suppose now they will look for all of our ENGLISH KINGS not Angevin/ Norman French Kings also - what a waste of time and money. Extremely clever archeology but of little use to the world. Now we will have years of debate as to where to bury the bones York or Liecester, maybe even have another "War of the roses" to decide this - yet another waste of time and effort!

  • rate this

    Comment number 464.

    I understand there is a gaping hole under the car park now. Could we now put Cameron and his mob in there instead....

  • rate this

    Comment number 463.

    The REAL hammer of the scots, welcome back sir.

    The scotch need to be shown who's boss again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 462.

    are you sure you want a state funeral ? . the oap who died of the cold on our estate was buried by the state and that wasnt a very edifying spectacle .

  • rate this

    Comment number 461.

    It's all very nice for the bearded little men in sandles, with their girlie little trowels, make-up brushes and 1/2 pints of real ale, but what has it done to further the human cause? Will it help prevent future wars? Will it finally determine if York is better than Lancaster? Will it cut the defecit? Will it reduce crime?

    An pointless waste of money that could have been put to far better use.

  • rate this

    Comment number 460.

    What garbage some people are coning out with. Richard had no need to murder the Princes in the Tower, Parliament had declared them "illegitimate" and disinherited them, and he had been declared King

    They were almost certainly got rid of AFTER Bosworth by the victor, Henry Tudor who had a real motive to get rid!


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