His crown is long gone, but scientists have confirmed that the 500-year-old skeletal remains dug up from under a parking lot in the English city of Leicester end the long search for the body of King Richard III.
Monday’s positive identification of the remains, which included a caved in skull and partial spine that shows a distinct curvature, solves the age old mystery of what happened to the monarch, who was the last King of England to die in battle and gained worldwide notoriety thanks to one of William Shakespeare‘s most famous plays, Reuters.com reported.
Many historians have questioned Shakespeare’s damning portrayal of Richard III as an odious, tyrannical, hunchback, hated by the masses, but all are agreed that the monarch was slain during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, allegedly crying out the now infamous line: “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
“It’s the academic conclusion … that beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in September 2012 is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England,” lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said of what has been described as one of the most significant archaeological finds of recent history.
A total of 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, were discovered on the remains and were ruled as having been inflicted in battle – suggesting the king had lost his helmet during the brutal fight - in addition, the back of the skull had been hacked away by a blade and metal fragments were found in the vertebrae.
Richard’s death marked the end of a bloody 30-year conflict waged between the houses of York and Lancaster, known as The Wars of the Roses, and was celebrated by his enemy – who subsequently crowned himself King Henry VII – but not before he paraded the slain monarch’s naked corpse around Leicester.
Along with the fatal blows, the skeleton also displays “humiliation” wounds, believed to have been inflicted after the fallen king was stabbed with swords, daggers or halberds, in addition, his hands had been bound and his feet were missing.
The remains were identified by researchers at the University of Leicester, who compared DNA from the bones to a sample taken from Michael Ibsen, a Canadian carpenter living in London who is the 17th great-grand-nephew of Richard’s older sister. After learning of the positive identification, Ibsen described the revelation as “difficult to digest.”
It is believed that Richard’s corpse was given to an order of monks to dispose of and that they buried him in the grounds of their monastery. However, during the future King Henry VIII‘s tyrannical reign many monasteries were destroyed and burned to the ground as part of his campaign to convert the nation from Catholicism to the newly formed Church of England. Over time the location of the monastery was forgotten and it was built over many times before eventually becoming a parking structure.
After being found buried under the modern, gray, concrete lot, Richard III’s remains will now have a much more regal resting place at Leicester Cathedral, which traces its history back to a Saxon bishop in AD 680.
The King was 32 at the time of his death and had only spent two years on the throne. He was portrayed as a deformed tyrant by Laurence Olivier in the 1955 film version of Shakespeare’s Richard III.