Richard III, Infamous English King, Found Under Parking Lot

Discovery ends one of the 500-year mysteries surrounding Richard III.

Remains found underneath a car park last September in Leicester have been declared "beyond reasonable doubt" to be the long lost remains of England's King Richard III, missing for 500 years. (University of Leicester/AP)
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A skeleton found under a parking lot in central England is in fact the remains of King Richard III, the last English king to die on the battlefield, archaeologists at the University of Leicester announced Monday.

The discovery solves a 500-year mystery surrounding Richard III, whose death coincided with the end of the Middle Ages and marked the end of that era's royal dynasty.

"It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in August 2012 is indeed King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England," Richard Buckley, the lead archaeologist for the project, announced Monday morning.

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Using radio carbon dating and bone analysis, Buckley and his team found some truth in the historical record—and Shakespearean legend—that surrounded the slain king. The team found that King Richard was likely killed by trauma to the skull and had a severe curvature of the spine seen in the hunchbacked character of Shakespeare's famous play, Richard III.

"The skeleton has a number of unusual features: its slender build, the scoliosis and the battle-related trauma," Jo Appleby, another of the Leicester team, said in the announcement. "All of these are highly consistent with the information that we have about Richard III in life and about the circumstances of his death."

The skeleton was riddled with injuries from Richard's last battle and its aftermath, including a partially sliced off skull, a metal fragment between vertebrae, and post-mortem injuries that are consistent with bound hands and "humiliation injuries."

The Leicester team also matched DNA from the skeleton to two of Richard's maternal line relatives, including Michael Ibsen, a Canadian-born furniture maker who is descended from Richard's sister, Anne of York, according to Reuters.

Richard died in 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth, which effectively ended the 30-year War of the Roses, a civil war between two houses vying for the English throne. In the battle, then-King Richard boldly charged the opposition leader Henry Tudor. Richard was struck down by a blow to the head from a sword or a long ax called a halberd, the archaeologists claim, which ended the war and crowned Richard's opponent King Henry VII, the first of the Tudor dynasty.

After his death, Richard was buried in what the archaeologists say was "hastily dug" grave that was "not big enough," and contained no shroud or coffin. The grave was dug near a small Catholic monastery but disappeared after the church was razed by King Henry VIII, when he broke from the Catholicism in the 1530s, according to AFP.

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Archaeologists exhumed the body during a dig in August 2012, but could not confirm it was Richard's at the time. His remains will be interred at nearby Leicester Cathedral.

Richard became one of England's most famous kings in part because of Shakespeare's tragedy, which depicted him as a deformed, power-hungry tyrant. Richard is also immortalized in the story of the Princes in the Tower—the story of two brothers who were heirs to the English throne and disappeared after being escorted to the Tower of London by Richard. Shortly after their disappearance, Richard took the throne, leading some to believe he orchestrated the boys' death.

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