Remains Of Richard III Found Beneath British Parking Lot

Archaeologists have confirmed that bones found underneath a parking lot in Great Britain are the remains of one of England’s most infamous monarchs:

LEICESTER, England — In one of Britain’s most dramatic modern archaeological finds, researchers here announced on Monday that skeletal remains found under a parking lot in this English Midlands city were those of King Richard III, for centuries the most widely reviled of English monarchs, paving the way for a possible reassessment of his brief but violent reign.

Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist on a project to identify the bones, told reporters that tests and research since the remains were discovered last September proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that the “individual exhumed” from a makeshift grave under the parking lot was “indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England.”

Part of the evidence came from DNA testing by the geneticist Turi King, who told the same new conference that DNA samples taken from modern-day descendants of Richard’s family matched those of the bones found at the site.

The skeleton, with an arrowhead in its back and bearing other signs of battle wounds, was exhumed in the ruins of an ancient priory. It was found in the same place as historians say Richard III was buried after perishing at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

At the news conference on Monday, researchers showed photographs of the skeleton as they found it, stuffed into a grave without a coffin, clearly displaying curvature of the spine as chronicled in contemporary accounts of Richard III’s appearance.

DNA samples from the remains had been compared with the DNA of two descendants of the monarch’s family. One of them, Michael Ibsen, is the son of a 16th-generation niece of King Richard’s. The second descendant wished to remain anonymous, the researchers said.

The researchers said that the body displayed 10 wounds, 8 of them in the skull and some likely to have caused death, possibly by a blow from a halberd, a kind medieval weapon with an ax-like head on a long pole. Other wounds seem to have been inflicted after his death to humiliate the monarch after his armor was stripped and he was paraded naked over the back of a horse, the researchers said.

Since at least the late 18th century, scholars have debated whether Richard was the victim of a campaign of denigration by the Tudor monarchs who succeeded him. His supporters argue that he was a decent king, harsh in the ways of his time, but a proponent of groundbreaking measures to help the poor, extend protections to suspected felons and ease bans on the printing and selling books.

But his detractors cast Richard’s 26 months on the throne as one of England’s grimmest periods, its excesses captured in his alleged role in the murder in the Tower of London of two young princes — his own nephews — to rid himself of potential rivals.

This discovery is likely to ignite a debate over whether Richard’s remain should be given the same honors typically given to deceased monarchs.

FILED UNDER: General
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    Shouldn’t there be a statute of limitations on those honors? Look, the guy ruled some 700 years ago. He’s not a deceased monarch, he’s a historical curiosity.

  2. Montanareddog says:

    This discovery is likely to ignite a debate over whether Richard’s remain should be given the same honors typically given to deceased monarchs.

    And in other breaking news, the discovery of Achilles’ remains with an arrow wound in the thigh, not the ankle, ignites debate over whether the Achilles Heel should be renamed.

    Or some other totally irrelevant point.

  3. stonetools says:

    ” Now is the winter of our discontent,
    Made glorious summer,
    By this discovery”.

  4. legion says:

    @Montanareddog: It’s not irrelevant to the Brits. If we found Warren Harding’s remains somewhere unexpected, they’d still be given the respect due a dead President. I suspect the remains of a king – even an unpopular one – will still be treated similarly.

  5. aFloridian says:

    @Montanareddog:

    I’m sure it’s not nearly irrelevant to British monarchists as it is to us.

    Also:

    10 wounds, 8 of them in the skull and some likely to have caused death, possibly by a blow from a halberd, a kind medieval weapon with an ax-like head on a long pole.

    It doesn’t sound kind at all! *Ba Dum Chink*

  6. JKB says:

    Only 650 years more and we’ll probably find Jimmy Hoffa’s body. Probably also under a car parking lot.

  7. rodney dill says:

    It’s not always so good to be the king.

  8. neil hudelson says:

    On a related note, if anyone wants to see a great interpretation of Richard III check out the 1995 version with Ian McKellan in the titular role.

  9. Montanareddog says:

    @legion: Perhaps, I expressed myself badly but any “debate” over the type of religious service is far less important than the sheer joy of witnessing different techniques of modern archaeology come together in such a satisfying manner. This was a marvelous piece of detective work using textual analysis. cartographic and oral tradition (to find the likely burial place); then forensics, genealogy and DNA analysis to obtain that rare historical thing – proof.

    The skeleton has scoliosis (lateral deformation of the spine) which fits with many of the near-contemporary reports on Richard having one shoulder higher than the other, not Kyphosis (hunchbacked curvature) as popularised by Shakespeare some 100 years after the event.

    These things are some of the fascinating aspects of the discovery – not some “debate” about the whether he will be given the “honors” normally attributed to a monarch. This debate is not taking place in the British press as far as I can see, and that does not surprise. He is not a recently deceased monarch getting a state funeral – he already had his funeral some 530 years ago. His remains are simply going to be re-interred.

    There is some debate about the religious nature of the service – Richard was, naturally, a Roman Catholic since the Reformation was still some years in future, but it has been decided he will be reburied in the nearby Anglican Cathedral of Leicester and that the service will be “multi-faith” – whether multi-faith means Anglican/Roman Catholic or whether other branches of Christianity and/or non-Christian faiths will be involved is not made clear in what I have read so far.

  10. Matt says:

    A spot! My kingdom for a spot!

  11. Dan says:

    Did anyone else notice from the piece above that the geneticist that did the DNA tests is called King and the lead archaeologist’s name is Richard?

  12. CSK says:

    “A hearse! A hearse! My kingdom for a hearse!’

  13. sam says:

    @stonetools:

    Now is the winter of our discontent,
    Made glorious summer

    Oh, that piece of Tudor propaganda, what?

  14. PJ says:

    @Montanareddog:

    Perhaps, I expressed myself badly but any “debate” over the type of religious service is far less important than the sheer joy of witnessing different techniques of modern archaeology come together in such a satisfying manner. This was a marvelous piece of detective work using textual analysis. cartographic and oral tradition (to find the likely burial place); then forensics, genealogy and DNA analysis to obtain that rare historical thing – proof.

    Well, about that DNA proof…

    Comparing the so-called “mtDNA” from the skeleton with that from a living descendant, Michael Ibsen, showed a match, meaning Ibsen’s mother and the skeleton’s mother (thought to be Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville) are likely to have shared a lineage. So far, so good.

    “Mitochondria is not brilliant for detecting relatedness but, given you’ve got so far back in time, so many generations back, it’s as good as it can get. If the only thing you can compare that ancient DNA with is somebody living today, then you’d want it to be mitochondria,” said Mark Thomas, a professor of evolutionary genetics at University College London.

    But it is not ideal. Two people could have the same mitochondrial type just by chance and it would not necessarily mean they shared a common ancestor at the time of Richard III. “If Richard III had a very common type of mitochondrial DNA, then there will be plenty of people in the country that have got the same,” said Thomas.

    Even if there is good circumstantial evidence to suggest two people are related, they might still share the same mtDNA by chance. One thing to look out for in any forthcoming research paper is just how rare the mtDNA type is that King’s team measured – the rarer it is, the less likely it is to be a chance result and the more likely it is to be a robust family connection.

  15. rodney dill says:

    @CSK:

    “A hearse! A hearse! My kingdom for a hearse!’

    Winner winner, chicken dinner!