An interesting discovery was made in September last year and solved a 500 year old mystery. Human remains were found under a drab municipal car park in Leicester and when unearthed were found to belong to none other than the English ruler, King Richard III. Forensic tests confirmed that the bones did actually belong to England’s last Plantagenet ruler.
During an intensive news conference it was declared by a team of genealogists, archaeologists and geneticists, from the University of Leicester that the broken bones unearthed were that of the 15th century king, this was also confirmed by Richard Buckley, a leading archaeologist at the University of Leicester.
How did it all begin?
It all started when a team, headed by Richard Buckley recognized the exact position of the grave with a map regression analysis, after which special radar was used to see where they could start the dig. When the skeleton of an adult male was discovered, scientists arranged a number of tests which included radiocarbon dating; this would conclude the skeleton’s age and confirm that it was indeed the king. So it was found that the skeleton was of a male in his late 20s or 30s and died between 1455 and 1540 – Richard was 32 when he actually died in 1485. Just to make doubly sure a study of the bones provided ‘a highly convincing case for identification of Richard III’.
There were injuries found which were caused by weapons such as daggers and swords and were consistent with reports of Richard being knocked down during battle. There were also two blows to his head and one of them could have been fatal. Also found were signs of scoliosis (curvature of the spine) but not a withered arm as Shakespeare had described.
The descendants of Richard III
Interestingly enough, DNA from the actual bones, matched samples taken from Michael Ibsen, a distant relative of Richard’s sister – it was found that Michael Ibsen shares with Richard a rare strain of mitochondrial DNA – a second match was found but the person was reluctant to give a name. Between one and two percent of the population belongs to this genetic sub-group so evidence is not proof enough on its own…but combined with the archaeological information it leaves no doubt that the skeleton did belong to Richard.
Head of the University’s school of archaeology, Lin Foxhall stated that the discovery ‘could end up rewriting a little bit of history in a big way’. This will show a new interest, with the evidence from the skeleton, about how the king lived and died and also how he was mistreated after his death – hopefully this will help to restore his reputation which left a lot to be desired. This was mainly due to the murder of his two nephews, better known as the ‘Princes in the Tower’.
The skeletal remains were moved to a secure location – and sometime next year King Richard will get a king’s burial, with all the pomp and ceremony in Leicester Cathedral. At last the Richard III Society had their day which they had dreamt of for so many years.