Skeletal Remains Identified as Those of Richard III

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04 Feb 2013

Photo by University of Leicester

After 500 years, archaeologists in England have located and positively identified the skeletal remains of Richard III, the King of England famously dramatized by Shakespeare as a ruthless and charming villain in the late-16th-century history play.

According to published reports, a team from the University of Leicester was behind the excavation that took place beneath a parking garage in Greyfriars, in Leicestershire, in August 2012. The parking garage is built over the site of a medieval friary. Richard III — the last of the royal Plantagenet dynasty — was killed in the area during the 1485 Battle of Bosworth Field. ("My kingdom for a horse!" was Richard's famous plea in the battle.)

The king's remains, which had been buried without a coffin, were identified based on DNA samples taken from the skeleton, which matched that of a Michael Ibsen, who is a direct descendant of Richard III's sister, Anne of York. Another anonymous relative with blood ties to Anne of York was also involved. Richard III ruled 1483-85.

The skeletal remains also showed signs of scoliosis, which prompted Shakespeare's famous description of the ruler as a "bunch-backed toad." The remains also indicated battle wounds, with part of the skull sheared away as the result of eight head wounds. A piece of metal was also found in the spine. The position of Richard III's hands suggests that they had been tied.

Richard III will be reburied in Leicester Cathedral, with a memorial to take place later this year. His death, at the age of 32, ended the 30-year-long War of the Roses. The future King, King Henry VII, had Richard III's corpse displayed in the town of Leicester to signify the end of the battle.



Shakespeare's circa 1592 history play Richard III most recently played New York in winter 2012 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music starring Kevin Spacey.