The University of Leicester has today confirmed that the bones found in a local council parking lot last year are indeed those of Richard III, the last English king to die in battle.
The British aren’t usually quite so absent-minded about where they leave the remains of their monarchs. However, following Richard’s death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, he was buried at Leicester’s Greyfriars Church, the site of which was long lost – until last year.
But, from the first, the archaeologists couldn’t help suspecting that they’d found the skeleton of the last Plantagenet king. For a start, it was found under the choir floor of the church, a high-status spot. And the fact that it was, unusually, buried without either a coffin or a shroud fits with contemporary accounts that Richard was buried ‘irreverently’.
Even more tellingly, the skeleton showed the spinal curvature associated with scoliosis, which would have left one shoulder noticeably higher than the other – just like contemporary portraits of the king. There was also a severe injury to the skull, and an arrowhead was found embedded in the skeleton’s vertebrae.
Richard III has come in for quite a bit of vitriol over the centuries – from Shakespeare, amongst others – for his reported murder of his two nephews, the so-called Princes in the Tower. There are now calls for similar tests to be carried out on a set of childrens’ bones found in the Tower of London in 1674. So far, Westminster Abbey and the Queen have refused to allow it.
Richard’s bones are now set to be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral.