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Video: Skeleton is Richard III

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A king of England who was cut down on the battlefield during one of the country’s bloodiest periods was almost certainly buried under a modern-day car park, say academics.

Following a long wait it was today announced the remains of a man buried on the site in Leicester are those of the last Plantagenet king, Richard III.

After suffering at least two fatal head wounds, tests on his skull and body showed evidence he was brutally hacked, presumably by the victors, after falling and dying on the battlefield in 1485.

Reviled in the history books and by playwright Shakespeare, for his perceived weakness and hunch back, archaeologists found evidence of a man with curvature of the spine and a slender, almost feminine frame.

Following extensive tests, Richard Buckley, dig project leader, said: “It is the academic conclusion that beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in September 2011 is King Richard III - the last Plantagenet king of England.”

The remains, which had lain almost totally undisturbed less than a metre below ground for more than 500 years, will be interred in the city’s cathedral.

The find has provoked many academics to call for a revision of Richard’s achievements.

Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, said: “The men who knew him said he was ‘the most famous prince of best memory’.

“When he fell he was stripped naked and his scoliosis (curved spine) became known and was used to denigrate him.

“Today, we find the idea of using physical disability against a person as abhorrent. Let this now be a break from the Tudor medieval mindset.”

DNA recovered from the remains, radio-carbon dating, battlefield wounds found on the skeleton, and the link between what was found during the dig and what was mentioned in documentary sources from the period, combined to allow Leicester University academics to today conclude the identity was “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Richard was cut down at the decisive and bloody Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses and leaving Henry VII as the new king and first of the Tudor dynasty.

At the time it was recorded that Richard was buried in Grey Friars, a friary in the city, following the battle.

Four years ago, a fund-raising drive kick-started by the Richard III Society embarked on a push to finally uncover the truth of his final resting place, by making an archaeological dig on the site of the friary - a modern-day city council car park.

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester recovered a body which showed signs of battle injuries including 10 separate wounds, and scoliosis, in tune with unflattering historic accounts of the monarch.

Significant weight was placed on the DNA evidence, linking Richard to a living descendant, Michael Ibsen, through the female line of Anne of York.

Studies of the bones revealed the man was in his late 20s to late 30s - the king was killed when he was 32 - while radio-carbon dating revealed the male died in the second half of the 15th century or the early 16th century, which is consistent with the Wars of the Roses.

Further study showed the remains to be those of a man of 5ft 8in, with what academics called an “unusually slender build” for a male.

The male had 10 wounds on his body, with two principal head wounds which were likely to have killed him - one delivered by a sword and the other likely to have come from a long-handled pole arm, thought to be a halberd.

More gruesome was evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including several head wounds - part of the skull was sliced away - a cut to the rib cage and a pelvic wound likely caused by an upward thrust of a weapon through the buttock.

Sir Peter Soulsby, mayor of Leicester, said moves were under way for the remains to be interred in the city cathedral next year.

“The body will be re-interred in the cathedral, in whose shadow his remains have lain for 500 years.”

Canon Chancellor David Mantieth, of Leicester Cathedral, said the announcement was a “momentous day”.

He said the king’s body once re-interred would “rest in peace and rise in glory”.

The dig, which cost about £30,000, was backed by the Richard III Society, Friends of Richard III, the US-based Richard III Foundation, Leicester Promotions and Leicester Adult Schools with help from Leicester City Council, which owned the car park.

 

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