Back in my school days, my English history started in 1485 with the death of king Richard III at the battle of Bosworth. The body of Richard was taken to nearby Leicester, and put on display for a couple of days (so that people would know he was really dead), and then buried with little ceremony nearby. Over the subsequent 500 years the location of the grave has been lost.
But it appears that the site was still known about 130 years after Richard’s death:
Records suggested that Richard had been buried at Leicester’s Greyfriars friary, but within 50 years, with the dissolution of the of England’s monasteries, the friary fell into ruin. So not only the site of the grave, but also the friary, had been lost.
Until archaeologists from Leicester university started digging in a council car park in Leicester about 3 weeks ago. And fairly rapidly identified the site as that of the friary, and also found its church, and the choir of the church in which Richard had been reported to be buried. The following is a YouTube video of the progress of the dig:
Not only that, but two days ago they also found a well-preserved skeleton beneath the choir. And it was the skeleton of a man, who had the back of his skull smashed in, and the barb of an arrow in his back, and a deformed spine which would have made his right shoulder higher than his left.
Richard III was often described as a hunchback.
So it looks like they’ve found him, exactly where he was supposed to be, and showing all the signs of mortal injury in battle, and also indications of a spinal deformity. DNA tests are now being carried out on one of the living descendants of Richard’s sister, and the results should be known in about 3 months time.
YouTube has a good 7-minute documentary, which includes the investigation of the skeleton: The Search For King Richard III – The Archaeological Dig.
It’s probably the most significant archaeological discovery in England for a century. And a tug-of-war has already started, as a Tory MP has called for a full state funeral for King Richard III, and one or two bloggers as well, although the Queen seems to think he should stay in Leicester.
It’s almost too strange to be true.
update 3 Feb 2013: Mail
Leicester University scientists expected to confirm remains are Richard III’s
Conducted a range of tests including carbon-dating and a DNA match with a descendent of the Plantagenet King’s sister