Scientists Confirm Remains Of King Richard III Have Been Found

Richard IIIArchaeologists from the University of Leicester have confirmed that they have found the remains of King Richard III beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England.

Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet kings and fought an epic struggle with the Tudors during the War of the Roses for control of England. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Support for the Plantagenet line crumbled and soon Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII.

After the battle, Richard III’s body was buried in the church choir of the Franciscan friary of the Grey Friars. Dr. Richard Buckley, lead archaeologist for the project, explained that the church’s location has always been generally known although the friary was dissolved in 1538 and soon all trace of the building above ground had disappeared.

Two trenches were dug at the site last August and human remains were found almost immediately. One male skeleton had suffered from scoliosis that led to curvature of the spine. It was also unusually slender and aged in its early thirties. All characteristics agree with contemporary descriptions of Richard III.

There are ten trauma wounds on the body. Eight are on the skull. One was from a bladed weapon that cut off a section from the base of the skull. A second injury, also on the base of the skull, cut through the bone as well. Both of these wounds would have been fatal. Several other blows shaved off pieces of bone or left pockmarks in the skull. It appears that Richard wasn’t wearing a helmet by this point in the battle.Two cut marks on the rib and pelvis also appear to have been inflicted after his armor was removed. The archaeologists theorize that Richard III was stripped and given “humiliation injuries,” a common practice with dead or dying victims in the Middle Ages. Historical sources state that Richard’s naked body was slung over a horse and brought to town after the Battle of Bosworth. It may have been at this time that the extra injuries occurred.

Richard III almost suffered another humiliation centuries later when the foundation for a 19th-century brick outhouse nearly cut into his grave.

Initially the archaeologists thought they’d found a barb, perhaps from an arrow, in the body but it turns out that this was probably a Roman nail disturbed from an earlier site. No other artifacts were found in the burial.

The next step was to radiocarbon date the bone. Results showed that they dated to the late 15th early 16th century. This was all interesting but still only circumstantial evidence. There was still no proof that they had found the lost king. There was also the troubling popular legend that an angry mob threw his remains into the River Soar after the dissolution of the friary. There’s even a historic plaque at the location where this was supposed to have taken place.

The university tracked down some descendants of Richard III who agreed to give DNA samples to compare with DNA extracted from the skeleton. This was the clincher. Project geneticist Dr. Turi King confirmed at a press conference today that, “The DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III.”

Dr. Richard Buckley added that they could now confirm that the body is that of Richard III “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Back in December, some of this information was leaked to the press, but today’s news conference is the first official confirmation that archaeologists have, indeed found a lost medieval king.

Richard III’s remains will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral early next year. A permanent exhibition about Richard III and the excavation will open in town at about the same time. The university has also launched a new Richard III website.

[Top photo courtesy University of Leicester. Bottom image of the Battle of Bosworth courtesy Wikimedia Commons]

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Reassembling The Skeletons Of Medieval Royalty

medieval
A team of scientists from Bristol University are using DNA analysis to identify the remains of early medieval English royalty.

The bones are kept in several mortuary chests in Winchester Cathedral and include the remains of King Cnut, a Norse ruler who conquered England and ruled it from 1016-1035. The other remains are of Emma, his queen, and later kings Harthacnut, Egbert, Ethelwulf and William Rufus.

During the English Civil War the cathedral was looted by the supporters of Parliament, who disliked the “Popish” trappings of the elegant house of worship. In addition to stealing everything of value, they opened the mortuary chests and scattered their contents. The bones were replaced but of course are now mixed up.

The Daily Mail reports that the team will use DNA matching to determine which bones belong to which person. One of the DNA matches they will use will be from a recently excavated 10th century queen from Saxony named Eadgyth, who was related to some of the royals kept at the cathedral. The team is working within the cathedral so as not to remove the bones from hallowed ground.

Winchester Cathedral is the longest Gothic cathedral in Europe and dates to 1079. Like most historic churches in England, there was an earlier church on this site and many later changes to the present structure. The nave has a beautiful vaulted ceiling and some very nice stained glass, as well as an interesting museum. The town of Winchester boasts not only the cathedral, but also some other fine medieval buildings. It’s an hour by rail from London and makes a good day trip.

[Cathedral photo courtesy Tony Hisgett. Photo of coin bearing the inscription “Cnut King of the English” courtesy Wikimedia Commons]
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Have Archaeologists Found The Lost Tomb Of Richard III?

Richard III
Back in August, we covered a new excavation in the English city of Leicester searching for the lost tomb of King Richard III. Now the University of Leicester reports that their team has discovered bones in the church where he is said to have been buried.

Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet kings and fought an epic struggle with the Tudors during the War of the Roses for control of England. He was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Support for the Plantagenet line crumbled and soon Henry Tudor was crowned King Henry VII.

After the battle, Richard III’s body was buried in the church choir of the Franciscan friary of the Grey Friars. The church and friary were demolished in the 1530s during the reign of Henry VIII and the precise location was eventually lost. Using old maps, archaeologists figured out the church lay beneath a modern parking lot.

Archaeologists from the university and the Richard III Society sunk trenches through the parking lot and soon located the friary’s chapter house and the cloister, a courtyard with a covered walkway around it. Soon after, the team found the church itself. A public day last weekend attracted more than 1500 people.

Artifacts uncovered include inlaid floor tiles, a medieval silver penny, metal letters that perhaps once were part of an epitaph, and architectural elements from the choir and church. An added bonus was the discovery of a garden from an early mayor of Leicester.

Now the excavation has revealed two skeletons, one of a female and one of a male. The male was found in what archaeologists believe is the choir, where Richard was said to have been buried. This well-preserved skeleton shows trauma to the skull from a bladed instrument and a barbed metal arrowhead was found between the vertebrae of the upper back. The skeleton also has spinal abnormalities.

The university press statement says: “We believe the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature. The skeleton was not a hunchback. There appears to be no evidence of a ‘withered arm.'”

Richard was said to have had a hunched back and withered arm, but many historians believe this was later propaganda. Perhaps it was an exaggeration of a real ailment?

Is this the skeleton of King Richard III? The university can’t say for sure. Richard was probably not the only person buried in the church choir, this being a common practice, so the bones will have to be analyzed further. Genealogists have tracked down a direct descendant of Richard’s sister who can provide DNA to check for a match.

The university says a full analysis may take up to 12 weeks. When the results come in, we’ll be sure to report on it.

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London’s Most Famous Landmark Gets A New Name

London, Big Ben
Pop Quiz: what’s this called?

Undoubtedly, 99% of people will immediately answer, “Big Ben.” Actually, only the clock’s bell is called Big Ben. The tower as a whole is called Clock Tower. Everybody knows this iconic sight in London but nearly everyone misidentifies it.

Now the name is getting changed. In honor of the Queen Elizabeth II’s Jubilee, the UK government has decided to honor her 60 years on the throne by renaming the tower Elizabeth Tower.

While this is a nice sentiment, they should have probably picked some other landmark. Everyone is still going to call it Big Ben. The clock itself will keep its name, and everyone calls the tower by the clock’s name.

Big Ben/Elizabeth Tower is not open to the public, but you can get nice photos of it from several spots. Two good ones are about two-thirds of the way across Westminster Bridge, and from the little unsigned park just across the street from Victoria Tower Gardens, just to the south of the Houses of Parliament.

[Photo courtesy Vicky Brock]

15 palace hotels that will make you feel like royalty

crown Have you ever wondered what it’s like to live like a king or queen? While you may not have been born into royalty, you can still live lavishly, if only for a weekend.

While five-star hotels can offer plush bedding, spacious penthouse suites, and high-class amenities, it’s nothing compared to the luxurious living offered at these palace properties. Genuine artifacts from centuries ago adorn the halls, acres of lush gardens, furniture made of gold – no expense is spared at a palace hotel. Not only that, but you’ll be sleeping in the same space as kings, queens, and society’s most elite members once did, long ago.

Sound like fun? Before you start planning your next royal getaway, check out the gallery below.

[flickr image via CSvBibra]

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