Richard III

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Radio-carbon testing of the remains and DNA matches with his descendants proved its authenticity

Recently, a team of experts in the UK made a remarkable archaeological discovery. They discovered over 500-year-old remains of one of Britain’s most reviled and remembered monarchs, Richard III. The scarred and broken skeleton was unearthed under a drab municipal parking lot. While the remains were found last year, experts—scientists and archaeologists from University of Leicester—announced their discovery only earlier this week.

The location of Richard’s body was unknown for centuries. He was killed in the Battle of Bosworth at the age of 32 by Henry Tudor’s forces. According to a popular belief, after his death, his body was stripped, mocked and mutilated. The skeleton, with its broken parts and multiple blows to the skull, seem to corroborate that belief. According to some accounts, he was buried by Franciscan monks of Grey Friars at their church in Leicester. However, in 1538, the church was dismantled and its location remained forgotten.

Last year, researchers identified a possible location of the grave. Using map regression analysis—starting with a current map of the general area of the former church and analysing earlier maps to find what had changed and not—they discovered the remains of a church and the skeletal bones of a man who appeared to have died in battle. Both radio-carbon testing of the remains and DNA matches with his descendants proved its authenticity. The maternal DNA of two descendants of Richard’s sister—Michael Ibsen, a furniture maker from Canada, and another who prefers anonymity— was used for the tests.

Historians and academicians have often depicted Richard III unfavourably. By most accounts, he was a ruthless and power-hungry king. William Shakespeare famously depicted Richard as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies on his way to the throne. But many claim that this was intentionally done under the patronage of later kings.