A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been
confirmed as that of English king Richard III.
Experts from the University of
Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a
press conference to applause: "Beyond reasonable doubt it's Richard."
Richard, killed in
battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.
Mr Buckley said the bones had been subjected to
"rigorous academic study" and had been carbon dated to a period from
Dr Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from the university's School of
Archaeology and Ancient History, revealed the bones were of a man in his late
20s or early 30s. Richard was 32 when he died.
His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at
around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.
One was a "slice" removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed
weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull - a depth of
more than 10cm (4ins).
Dr Appleby said: "Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant
loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.
Who was Richard III?
- Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, where Mary
Queen of Scots was later executed
- As Duke of Gloucester, Richard took a rampant white boar as his sign
- His coronation took place in Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony very similar
- Richard had one of the shortest reigns in English history - 26 months
- He was the last English king to die in battle, killed by the forces of the
future Henry VII
Source: BBC History
"In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had
penetrated 7cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death
would have been instantaneous."
Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head.
There was also evidence of "humiliation" injuries, including a pelvic wound
likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the
Richard III was portrayed as deformed by some Tudor historians and indeed the
skeleton's spine is badly curved, a condition known as scoliosis.
However, there was no trace of a withered arm or other abnormalities
described in the more extreme characterisations of the king.
Without the scoliosis, which experts believe developed during teenage years,
he would have been about 5ft 8ins (1.7m) tall, but the curvature would have made
him appear "considerably" shorter.
Dr Appleby said: "The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult
male but was an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man.
"Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case
for identification as Richard III."
Richard was a royal prince until the death of his brother Edward IV in 1483.
Appointed as protector of his nephew, Edward V, Richard instead assumed the
reins of power.
Edward and his brother Richard, known as the Princes in the Tower,
disappeared soon after. Rumours circulated they had been murdered on the orders
of their uncle.
Challenged by Henry Tudor, Richard was killed at Bosworth in 1485 after only
two years on the throne.
He was given a hurried burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the centre
Mr Buckley said the grave was clumsily cut, with sloping sides and too short
for the body, forcing the head forward.
University of Leicester findings
• Wealth of evidence, including radiocarbon dating, radiological evidence,
DNA and bone analysis and archaeological results, confirms identity of last
Plantagenet king who died over 500 years ago
• DNA from skeleton matches two of Richard III's maternal line relatives.
Leicester genealogist verifies living relatives of Richard III's family
• Individual likely to have been killed by one of two fatal injuries to the
skull - one possibly from a sword and one possibly from a halberd
• Ten wounds discovered on skeleton - Richard III killed by trauma to the
back of the head. Part of the skull sliced off
• Radiocarbon dating reveals individual had a high protein diet - including
significant amounts of seafood - meaning he was likely to be of high status
• Radiocarbon dating reveals individual died in the second half of the 15th
or in the early 16th Century - consistent with Richard's death in 1485
• Skeleton reveals severe scoliosis - onset believed to have occurred at the
time of puberty
• Although about 5ft 8in tall (1.7m), the condition meant King Richard III
would have stood significantly shorter and his right shoulder may have been
higher than the left
• Feet were truncated at an unknown point in the past, but a significant time
after the burial
"There was no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would
have left the bones in a more compact position.
"Unusually, the arms are crossed and this could be an indication the body was
buried with the wrists still tied," he added.
Greyfriars church was demolished during the Reformation in the 16th Century
and over the following centuries its exact location was forgotten.
However, a team of enthusiasts and historians managed to trace the likely
area - and, crucially, after painstaking genealogical research, they found a
17th-generation descendant of Richard's sister with whose DNA they could compare
Joy Ibsen, from Canada, died several years ago but her son, Michael, who now
works in London, provided a sample.
The researchers were fortunate as, while the DNA they were looking for was in
all Joy Ibsen's offspring, it is only handed down through the female line and
her only daughter has no children. The line was about to stop.
But the University of Leicester's experts had other problems.
Dr Turi King, project geneticist, said there had been concern DNA in the
bones would be too degraded: "The question was could we get a sample of DNA to
work with, and I am extremely pleased to tell you that we could."
She added: "There is a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants
of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Greyfriars
"In short, the DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard
In August 2012, an excavation began in a city council car park - the only
open space remaining in the likely area - which quickly identified buildings
connected to the church.
owes much to the way he was characterised by Shakespeare
The bones were found in the first days of the dig and were eventually
excavated under forensic conditions.
Details of the reburial ceremony have yet to be released, but Philippa
Langley from the Richard III Society said plans for a tomb were well
She said of the discovery of Richard's skeleton: "I'm totally thrilled, I'm
overwhelmed to be honest, it's been a long hard journey. I mean today as we
stand it's been nearly four years.
"It's the culmination of a lot of hard work. I think, as someone said to me
earlier, it's just the end of the beginning.
"We're going to completely reassess Richard III, we're going to completely
look at all the sources again, and hopefully there's going to be a new beginning
for Richard as well."