Human remains found buried beneath a socialÂ services car park in Leicester are those of Richard III who was killed in battleÂ in 1485, archaeologists confirmed today.
In an extraordinary discovery which rewritesÂ the history books, the skeleton of the last of the Plantagenet kings wasÂ identified by DNA analysis after researchers traced his living descendants.
Investigators from the University ofÂ Leicester today revealed that the remains bore the marks of ten injuriesÂ inflicted shortly before his death.
More gruesome, however, was evidence of ‘humiliation’ injuries, including several head wounds – part of the skull wasÂ sliced away – a cut to the ribcage and a pelvic wound likely caused by an upwardÂ thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.
The skeleton was described of that of aÂ slender male, in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died.
Newly-released pictures also show aÂ distinctive curvature of the spine synonymous with the hunchback kingÂ immortalised by Shakespeare.
There was, however, no evidence of a witheredÂ arm, which was also part of the Richard myth.
Speaking to 140 journalists who hadÂ travelled from across the world for the announcement, the university’sÂ leadÂ archaeologist Richard Buckley described the identity of the remains as ‘beyondÂ reasonable doubt.’
‘It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Greyfriars inÂ AugustÂ 2012 is indeed King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King ofÂ England.’
Deputy registrar Richard TaylorÂ describedÂ the discovery as ‘truly astonishing’ and said it could ‘proveÂ to be one of theÂ biggest archaeological discoveries of recent times’.
The long-awaited announcement was greeted byÂ cheers.
Richard, depicted by WilliamÂ Shakespeare asÂ a monstrous tyrant who murdered two princes in the TowerÂ of London, died at theÂ Battle of Bosworth Field, defeated by an army led by Henry Tudor.
According to historical records, hisÂ bodyÂ was taken 15 miles to Leicester where it was displayed as proof ofÂ his deathÂ before being buried in the Franciscan friary.
The team from Leicester UniversityÂ set outÂ to trace the site of the old church and its precincts, including the site whereÂ Richard was finally laid to rest.
They began excavating the city centre location in August last year and soon discovered the skeleton, whichÂ was foundÂ in good condition with its feet missing in a grave around 680Â metres (2,231Â feet) below ground level.
It was lying in a rough cut grave with theÂ hands crossed in a manner which indicated they were bound when he was buried.
To the naked eye, it was clear that theÂ remains had a badly curved spine and trauma injuries to the rear of the head.
But archaeologists were keen to make noÂ official announcement until the skeleton had been subjected to months ofÂ tests.
Speaking at today’s press conference, University of Leicester geneticist Dr Turi King described howÂ researchers hadÂ traced Richard’s descendants to confirm the body wasÂ indeed that of England’sÂ last medieval king.
These were Canadian born furnitureÂ makerÂ Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of the Richard’s sister Anne of York, and aÂ second person who has asked to remain anonymous.
Dr King said: ‘The DNA sequenceÂ obtainedÂ from the Grey Friars skeletal remains was compared with the two maternal lineÂ relatives of Richard III.
‘We were very excited to find thatÂ there isÂ a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the family of Richard III and theÂ skeletal remains we found at the Grey Friars dig.’
The analysis showed the individualÂ had aÂ slender physique and severe scoliosis – a curvature of the spine – possibly withÂ one shoulder visibly higher than the other.
This is consistent with descriptions ofÂ Richard III’s appearance from the time, the researchers said today.
Trauma to the skeleton showed theÂ king diedÂ after one of two significant wounds to the back of the skull – possibly causedÂ by a sword and a halberd.
Dr Appleby said this was consistent withÂ contemporary accounts of the monarch being killed after receiving a blow to theÂ head.
The skeleton also showed a number ofÂ non-fatal injuries to the head and rib and to the pelvis, which isÂ believed toÂ have been caused by a wound through the right buttock.
Dr Appleby said these may have been so-called ‘humiliation injuries’ inflicted after his death.
‘The skeleton has a number of unusualÂ features: its slender build, the scoliosis and the battle-related trauma,’ sheÂ said.
‘All of these are highly consistentÂ with theÂ information that we have about Richard III in life and aboutÂ the circumstancesÂ of his death.
TIME FOR A RETHINK ON RICHARD?
Few monarchsÂ in history have been so vilified and scrutinised as King Richard III.
For centuriesÂ historians have put forward varying cases as to whether he should be rememberedÂ as a visionary reformer and brilliant administrator, or as an ambitious usurperÂ and ruthless murderer.
The monarch isÂ famous today for his death at the Battle of Bosworth, which effectively endedÂ the Wars of the Roses – as well as the disappearance of his young nephews, andÂ his derisory portrayal in William Shakespeare’s play The Tragedy Of King RichardÂ III.
But his reputationÂ is surrounded by apparent myths and half-truths.
Described as aÂ ‘deformed’ and ‘unfinish’d’, jealous, and ambitious hunchback in Shakespeare’sÂ play, which was first performed in the 1590s, it is difficult to know if the manÂ the playwright said battled on foot and cried out ‘A horse! a horse! my kingdomÂ for a horse!’, is a true reflection of the king, or merely an act of creativeÂ dramatics.
These days loyalÂ Ricardians battle to repair Richard’s reputation but the traditional view isÂ that Richard, while not as evil as Tudor historians said, was probablyÂ responsible for removing his nephews from the royal line.
Under a pageÂ headed ‘Loyal to the truth’ on The Richard III Foundation’s website is anÂ extract that reads: ‘King Richard III is one of England’s most controversialÂ historical figures often associated with his quest to seize the throne ofÂ England.
‘The prime sourcesÂ of defamation of Richard are superstitious fiction, although this was notÂ understood by some for centuries.
‘The vilificationÂ may be absurd, such as two years in the womb, magically withered arms, and theÂ murder of innocent babies, but it is repeated ad nauseum.
‘It may take theÂ form of ghosts passionately listing the wrongs of an evil king, regardless ofÂ their own dwelling in hell.
‘Or it can take onÂ a more sinister nature, such as what happened to Edward V, a query that modernsÂ cannot positively answer.
‘By blamingÂ Richard for everything, (Henry) Tudor escaped blame for anything for two hundredÂ years, until people were at last free to pose questions.
‘Although itÂ is obvious that Tudor had overwhelming motivation to spread malicious gossip andÂ to smear a dead man, some cannot let go of even the most outrageousÂ slurs.’.
Source: The Daily Mail