Richard III's face revealed for first time in 500 years

Feb 05, 2013 by Alice Ritchie
Michael Ibsen (R), a descendant of England's king Richard III, with a plastic model based on a CT scan of Richard's skull, during a press conference in London on February 5, 2013. The face of England's much-maligned Richard III was revealed on Tuesday for the first time in 500 years on Tuesday following a reconstruction of his skeleton which was found buried underneath a car park.

The face of England's much-maligned king Richard III was revealed on Tuesday for the first time in 500 years on Tuesday following a reconstruction of his skeleton which was found buried underneath a car park.

The three-dimensional plastic model is based on a CT scan of the skull of the king, who was killed in battle in 1485 after just two years on the throne but lived on as one of history's worst villains in the eponymous play by .

Academics hope the discovery of his remains under a car park in the central English city of Leicester, complete with the twisted spine of folklore and major wounds to his skull, will lead to a rehabilitation of his reputation.

And Richard III enthusiasts believe the image of his face, until now only depicted in paintings, will be key to rewriting his legend.

"It's an interesting face, younger and fuller than we have been used to seeing, less careworn, and with the hint of a smile," said Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society.

Another member of the society, Philippa Langley, who led the project to unearth the bones of the last Plantagenet king, said the reconstruction showed for the first time what he might have looked like when he died in battle aged 32.

"The portraiture that we have of him that was done in the Tudor era always seems to bring out this guy who looks like he was 50," she told AFP.

A plastic facial model based on the recently-discovered skull of England's king Richard III is pictured during a press conference in London on February 5, 2013. The face of England's much-maligned king Richard III was revealed on Tuesday for the first time in 500 years on Tuesday following a reconstruction of his skeleton which was found buried underneath a car park.

"He led armies and he fought many skirmishes and I think you can see that strength of character and that determination."

The task of reconstructing the face—complete with shoulder-length black hair—was led by Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee in Scotland, and paid for by the Richard III Society.

Her team created a scientific reconstruction using a of the remains, without any reference to contemporary portraits of the king, and then "humanised" it by painting the face and adding features such as brows and eyelashes.

Another academic has been trying to establish how Richard may have sounded when he spoke.

Philip Shaw of the University of Leicester examined the king's handwriting, and given that the spelling in those days often reflected local dialect, concluded that he may well have spoken with a Birmingham accent.

The skeleton was found during an archaeological dig at a municipal car park in Leicester last August.

A team at the University of Leicester announced on Monday that DNA tests, carbon dating and examination of bones had proved beyond reasonable doubt that it belonged to Richard, ending a 500-year-old mystery.

After his death at the Battle of Bosworth, near Leicester, Richard's body was buried by Franciscan friars, known as Greyfriars, in an unmarked grave. When their monastery was destroyed in the 1530s, all traces of him disappeared.

Richard's remains will now be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in a ceremony next year that befits his royal status.

In "Richard III", Shakespeare described a villain who murdered his two young nephews to win the throne, whose hunchback and withered arm were a physical manifestation of his evil.

The confirms the king did have a twisted spin, but no withered arm.

Enthusiasts also say there is no evidence he killed the young boys, and hope the focus will now shift to the social reforms Richard introduced.

Explore further: Researchers create methylation maps of Neanderthals and Denisovans, compare them to modern humans

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Skull found in Britain 'could be King Richard III'

Feb 04, 2013

British archaeologists hunting for the lost remains of King Richard III have revealed the first image of a battle-scarred skull found at a car park ahead of what they said would be a "major announcement" ...

One foot from the grave

Oct 15, 2012

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester who uncovered a grave thought to contain the skeleton of King Richard III have revealed that the remains came within inches of being destroyed by Victorian ...

UK lawmakers line up to host Richard III's tomb

Oct 25, 2012

(AP)—British lawmakers are sparring over what may be left of Richard III. No one is certain yet that remains dug up last month at a Leicester parking lot are those of the monarch immortalized by William Shakespeare for ...

Scientists to reveal result of Richard III hunt

Feb 03, 2013

Has Britain's lost king been found? Later Monday, scientists will announce the results of tests conducted to determine whether a battle-scarred skeleton found under a municipal parking lot in central England ...

Recommended for you

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 11

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

tadchem
5 / 5 (3) Feb 05, 2013
You could hardly expect the Tudors to tolerate any depiction of Richard III as sympathetic or likeable, now could you? There is nothing new about "political correctness."
Maggnus
3.3 / 5 (3) Feb 05, 2013
Amazing how much his multiple-great grand nephew looks like him.
be4r
1 / 5 (1) Feb 05, 2013
Um, I'm pretty sure he didn't die from a halberd to the face with a "hint of a smile" immortalized on his crushed skull. That was your CG guy adding that in.
Shakescene21
5 / 5 (3) Feb 05, 2013
That face looks a lot like the Shakespeare Richard III. Just look at the picture and read the lines:

"Why, I can smile, and murder whiles I smile,
And cry "Content!" to that which grieves my heart,
And wet my cheeks with artificial tears,
And frame my face to all occaisons."
PhotonX
1.8 / 5 (5) Feb 05, 2013
Yeah, he looks like a dick, all right.
runrig
4 / 5 (4) Feb 06, 2013
Yeah, he looks like a dick, all right.


How witty
BSD
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2013
Amazing how much his multiple-great grand nephew looks like him.

I think that's a rather long bow to draw.
PJS
5 / 5 (3) Feb 06, 2013
the facial reconstruction is surprisingly accurate, compared with paintings from the time. nice work
Maggnus
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2013
I think that's a rather long bow to draw.


Really? So you don't think so then? I think it's uncanny considering the number of generations between them.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (1) Feb 06, 2013
the facial reconstruction is surprisingly accurate, compared with paintings from the time. nice work
It's similar to these paintings, not accurate. That's a difference.
Egleton
1 / 5 (1) Feb 11, 2013
The other one looks pretty real too.

More news stories

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.