, United Kingdom, Feb 4 – A skeleton found under a car park in the English city of Leicester was on Monday confirmed as that of king Richard III, widely depicted as one of history’s most notorious villains.
Researchers from the University of Leicester matched DNA from the 500-year-old skeleton with a descendant of the king’s sister, while the injuries to the body were consistent with the person being killed in battle.
“It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that, beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in September 2012, is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England,” lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said to applause at a press conference at the university.
He said the king’s remains would now be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral, in keeping with archaeological practice to bury remains on the nearest consecrated ground.
The find has caused huge excitement among historians, as it finally provides firm evidence about a monarch whose life has been shrouded in controversy ever since his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
Richard’s body was paraded naked and bloody from the battlefield back to Leicester, in central England, on the back of a horse before being buried in an unmarked grave at Greyfriars, a friary in the city.
The crown passed to Henry VII and the Tudor monarchs, who, with the help of William Shakespeare and other playwrights, painted Richard as a brutal, hunchbacked villain who stopped at nothing in his quest for power.
Before finally revealing their findings, the researchers gave a lengthy account of how evidence from the skeleton, from DNA and from historical circumstances, all pointed towards it being king Richard’s remains.
The skeleton, squashed into a grave too small for the body, had 10 wounds, eight on the skull and two on the body, which occurred at or around the time of death, said Jo Appleby, the project’s lead osteologist.
While a couple of these, blade strikes to the head, likely killed him, the others appeared to be “humiliation injuries” inflicted after his death, including a knife to his buttock.
The skeletal evidence alone “provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III,” she said.
Geneticist Turi King then said the skeleton’s DNA had matched that of two descendants of Richard’s sister, Anne of York — a Canadian-born carpenter, Michael Ibsen, and another person who wishes to remain anonymous.
Ibsen, the 17th generation descendant, said he was “stunned” at the discovery, and was looking forward to seeing the facial reconstruction, adding: “It won’t look like me.”
Historians now hope Monday’s discovery will allow them to dispel some of the myths about Richard and look again at what he achieved in his brief two-year reign, including the establishment of a system of bail and legal aid.
For one thing, the evidence disproves accounts of Richard as having a twisted arm, although he did have scoliosis, a twisted spine.
Philippa Langley, a member of the Richard III Society who coordinated and helped fund the search, said she hoped a new image would emerge of the king and “the two-dimensional character devised by the Tudors will be no more”.
She admitted that when she proposed four years ago “the quest for a king in a car park, everyone thought I was mad”.
“We have searched for Richard and we have found him. Now it’s time to honour him,” she said.
There had been debate about what to do with the bones amid calls from some for them to be buried in the city of York, Richard’s power base.
But the team said it had been agreed to re-inter them in Leicester Cathedral near to where they were found, in a ceremony likely to take place some time next year.
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace, the official residence of current monarch Queen Elizabeth II, said they would be making no comment.