King Richard III of England, probably best known here in the US from the play he inspired written by William Shakespeare, was the last British monarch to die in battle back in 1483 but his remains were, apparently, never found … until now. A human skeleton was unearthed underneath a parking lot in London and testing has confirmed that the remains belong to the long lost King Richard III. His life story is a fascinating one (and a very entertaining one, at least based on the Shakespeare play) but, I would argue, not nearly as fascinating as his death. Killed in battle, lost to the ages and then discovered in modern times under a parking lot. Is this not the craziest thing you’ve heard (at least all day)?
Human remains found buried beneath a social services car park in Leicester are those of Richard III who was killed in battle in 1485, archaeologists confirmed today. In an extraordinary discovery which rewrites the history books, the skeleton of the last of the Plantagenet kings was identified by DNA analysis after researchers traced his living descendants. Investigators from the University of Leicester today revealed that the remains bore the marks of ten injuries inflicted shortly before his death. More gruesome, however, was evidence of ‘humiliation’ injuries, including several head wounds – part of the skull was sliced away – a cut to the ribcage and a pelvic wound likely caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock. The skeleton was described of that of a slender male, in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died. Newly-released pictures also show a distinctive curvature of the spine synonymous with the hunchback king immortalised by Shakespeare. There was, however, no evidence of a withered arm, which was also part of the Richard myth. Speaking to 140 journalists who had travelled from across the world for the announcement, the university’s lead archaeologist Richard Buckley described the identity of the remains as ‘beyond reasonable doubt.’ ‘It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in August 2012 is indeed King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.’ Deputy registrar Richard Taylor described the discovery as ‘truly astonishing’ and said it could ‘prove to be one of the biggest archaeological discoveries of recent times’. The long-awaited announcement was greeted by cheers. Richard, depicted by William Shakespeare as a monstrous tyrant who murdered two princes in the Tower of London, died at the Battle of Bosworth Field, defeated by an army led by Henry Tudor. According to historical records, his body was taken 15 miles to Leicester where it was displayed as proof of his death before being buried in the Franciscan friary. The team from Leicester University set out to trace the site of the old church and its precincts, including the site where Richard was finally laid to rest. They began excavating the city centre location in August last year and soon discovered the skeleton, which was found in good condition with its feet missing in a grave around 68cm (27in) below ground level. It was lying in a rough cut grave with the hands crossed in a manner which indicated they were bound when he was buried. To the naked eye, it was clear that the remains had a badly curved spine and trauma injuries to the rear of the head. But archaeologists were keen to make no official announcement until the skeleton had been subjected to months of tests.
This is truly amazing. It is insane to me that after all this time, we can still be surprised and humbled by ancient history. As gruesome as it may sound, I really love that this skeleton has been proved to be that of King Richard III. At last, after all these hundreds of years, the mystery surrounding his death can be solved. Incidentally, Richard III is one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare and, if you are so inclined, I highly recommend the 1995 film adaptation of the play that stars Ian McKellen in the title role and is set in Nazi Germany. It’s a brilliant adaptation of the play. But, I digress … this archeological find is truly fantastic and proof that academic miracles happen every say :) History RULES!