DNA reveals Richard III is buried in Leicester

Richard III, whose remains have been dug up from a car park in Leicester.
Richard III, whose remains have been dug up from a car park in Leicester.

Tests have established that a skeleton found under a car park in Leicester is that of Northamptonshire-born King Richard III.

Scientists at the University of Leicester confirmed the news at a press conference in the city.

The university’s lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said the tests proved the remains were the king’s “beyond reasonable doubt”.

Deputy registrar Richard Taylor described the discovery as “truly astonishing”.

Archaeologists previously said there was strong circumstantial evidence to suggest the bones, exhumed from a car park behind social services offices in the city are those of the Plantagenet king but did not want to make any academic decision before the skeleton was subjected to a number of tests.

Read what our columnist Helen Back thinks of the discovery here.

The skeleton, with a metal arrow in its back and severe trauma to the skull, was exhumed in September last year during an archaeological dig.

It was found in the same area of what was Grey Friars church where Richard III was recorded to have been buried after his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the last major act in the Wars of the Roses.

Initial examinations showed the bones to be those of an adult male and the remains were said to be in a good condition.

The skeleton had a curved spine, consistent with accounts of Richard III’s appearance.

DNA taken from the skeleton has been analysed and compared with that of Michael Ibsen, a descendant of Richard III’s family. Radiocarbon tests and genealogical studies have also taken place.

Richard III’s demise was dramatised by Shakespeare, who had the king calling out “a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse” before he was killed on the battlefield.

Richard III, born on October 2, 1452, at Fotheringay Castle in Northamptonshire, was the last Yorkist king of England.

His father was Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, and his mother Cecily Neville.

One of the major causes of the Wars of the Roses was his father’s conflict with Henry VI, something which dominated his early life.

In 1460 his father and older brother died at the Battle of Wakefield.

The next year, 1461, his brother Edward, became Edward IV and created him Duke of Gloucester.

The brothers were exiled in 1470 when Henry VI was briefly restored to the throne.

Upon their return to England the following year, Richard contributed to the Yorkist victories at Barnet and Tewkesbury that restored Edward to the throne.

Edward died in April 1483 and Richard was named as protector of the realm for Edward’s son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V.

Richard became involved in a power struggle with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville, about the young king who was the rightful heir but too young to rule.

Richard managed to imprison Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, in the Tower of London, and the two boys were never seen again.

An act of Parliament declared the nephews illegitimate, supposedly due to an earlier, secret marriage of Edward IV that invalidated his marriage to Elizabeth, and Richard III was crowned on July 6, 1483.

A rebellion raised by the Duke of Buckingham in October quickly collapsed, but Buckingham’s defection, along with his supporters, eroded Richard’s power and support among the aristocracy and gentry.

In August 1485, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who was a Lancastrian claimant to the throne landed in South Wales.

He engaged Richard in battle on Bosworth Field on August 22. Although Richard possessed superior numbers, a number of his key lieutenants defected.

Refusing to flee the battlefield, Richard was killed in battle and Henry Tudor took the throne as Henry VII.