Scientists to reveal result of Richard III hunt

Feb 03, 2013 by Jill Lawless
Undated photo made available by the University of Leicester, England, Monday Feb. 4 2013 of the skull found at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, potentially the long lost remains of England's King Richard III, ahead of an announcement about the identity of the skeleton found underneath a car park last September. Richard was immortalized in a play by Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies—including those of his two young nephews, murdered in the Tower of London—on his way to the throne. (AP Photo/ University of Leicester)

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 belongs to 15th-century King Richard III, the last English monarch to die in combat.

The University of Leicester, which is leading the search, refuses to speculate on what the announcement will say. But archaeologists, historians and local tourism officials are all hoping for confirmation that the monarch's long-lost remains have been located.

So are the king's fans in the Richard III Society, set up to re-evaluate the reputation of a reviled monarch. Richard was immortalized in a play by William Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies—including those of his two young nephews, murdered in the Tower of London—on his way to the throne.

"It will be a whole new era for Richard III," the society's Lynda Pidgeon said. "It's certainly going to spark a lot more interest. Hopefully people will have a more open mind toward Richard."

Richard III remains an enigma—villain to many, hero to some. He ruled England between 1483 and 1485, during the decades-long tussle over the throne known as the Wars of the Roses. His brief reign saw liberal reforms, including introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.

His rule was challenged, and he was defeated and killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field by the army of Henry Tudor, who took the throne as King Henry VII.

For centuries, the location of Richard's body has been unknown. Records say he was buried by the Franciscan monks of Grey Friars at their church in Leicester, 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of London. The church was closed and dismantled after King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1538, and its location eventually was forgotten.

Then, last September, archaeologists searching for Richard dug up the skeleton of an adult male who appeared to have died in battle. There were signs of trauma to the skull, perhaps from a bladed instrument, and a barbed metal arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the upper back.

The remains also displayed signs of scoliosis, which is a form of spinal curvature, consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance, though not with Shakespeare's description of him as "deform'd, unfinished," hunchback.

The university has said the findings amount to "strong circumstantial evidence" that the remains are Richard's. Ahead of Monday's revelation of the results, the University of Leicester released an image of the body's skull. Archaeologist Jo Appleby said it was found "in good condition, although fragile," and had yielded detailed information about the individual.

Since the discovery, researchers have been conducting scientific tests, including radiocarbon dating to determine the skeleton's age. They also have compared its DNA with samples taken from a London cabinet-maker identified as a 17th great-grand-nephew of the king's elder sister.

Pidgeon said she hopes a new flurry of interest will help redress the "Tudor propaganda" that has stained Richard's reputation for centuries. The best-known accounts of his reign were written long after his death, during the rule of his archenemies, the Tudors.

To this day, the Tudors remain more famous and more glamorous—especially Henry VII's son, the much-married Henry VIII.

"With Henry VIII you've got six wives, sex and things going on," Pidgeon acknowledged. "It's a bit hard to compete with that when you are a bit more straight-laced, as Richard was."

Explore further: Ancient Greek well yields rare wooden statue

5 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

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 ...

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 ...

The man who could have been Henry VIII

Sep 17, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- This year has seen the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII's accession, and the start of the third television series of The Tudors -- yet we might so easily have been celebrating King Arthur I ...

Recommended for you

US state reaches deal to keep dinosaur mummy

8 hours ago

North Dakota reached a $3 million deal to keep a rare fossil of a duckbilled dinosaur on display at the state's heritage center, where it will serve as a cornerstone for the facility's $51 million expansion, officials said ...

Jerusalem stone may answer Jewish revolt questions

10 hours ago

Israeli archaeologists said Tuesday they have discovered a large stone with Latin engravings that lends credence to the theory that the reason Jews revolted against Roman rule nearly 2,000 ago was because ...

Kung fu stegosaur

11 hours ago

Stegosaurs might be portrayed as lumbering plant eaters, but they were lethal fighters when necessary, according to paleontologists who have uncovered new evidence of a casualty of stegosaurian combat. The ...

User comments : 0