The 500-year-old mystery surrounding the remains of Richard III, the controversial 15th-century English monarch portrayed by Shakespeare as a hunchbacked tyrant, has been finally solved with archaeologists confirming that a battle-scarred skeleton found underneath a council car park in Leicester was his.
“Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard,” Richard Buckley from the University of Leicester, who had led a team of researchers, declared on Monday, bringing down the curtains on a subject that had intrigued generations of Britons.
Leicester University described it as “one of the most ambitious archaeological projects ever attempted”. “Richard III, the last Plantaganet King of England, has been found,” said its deputy registrar, Richard Taylor.
The Richard III Society, which believes the monarch had been unfairly reviled by historians, said the discovery of his final resting place would “spark a lot more interest” and “hopefully people will have more open mind toward Richard”.
Until now, all that was known was that the king was buried in an unmarked grave in the church of Greyfriars in the centre of Leicester following his brutal death in battle in 1485 at the age of 32, after only two years on the throne that he had been accused of usurping.
But after the church was demolished in the 16th century the exact location of where he was buried became uncertain, triggering the search for the “lost king”. Then, in a dramatic breakthrough in August last year, the excavation of the car park led archaeologists to the buildings connected to the church. And within days they were looking at “a battle-scarred skeleton with spinal curvature”.
The skeleton was in good condition with its feet missing. Its hands were crossed over the front of the pelvis and there was no evidence of a coffin or shroud found with it, media reports 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,” said Dr. Jo Appleby, an osteoarchaeologist.
Researchers said the bones were subjected to “rigorous academic study” and carbon dated to a period from 1455-1540. The remains were compared with, and found to match a 17th-generation descendant of Richard’s sister.
Keywords: King Richard III skull