Gray Friars skeleton is last Plantagenet king, say Leicester team on trail of Richard III

By Culture24 Reporter | 04 February 2013
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A compelling press conference, including individual testimonies and evidence from a team of experts alongside leaders from Leicester Cathedral, has concluded "beyond reasonable doubt" that the skeleton found beneath a car park in the city is the body of Richard III.

A photo of a skeleton from an archaeological dig in a pit next to a measuring stick
© University of Leicester
Scientists were able to match the DNA of the skeleton, found in September 2012, with Michael Ibsen, a Canadian-born carpenter who is a descendent of Anne of York, the Plantagenet King’s eldest daughter.

Geneticist Dr Turi King said the link, established during elaborate investigations, would have been impossible to confirm if the remains had been found by a later generation.

A photo of sections of a curved spine shown against a dark black scientific background
The spine of the skeleton was curved© University of Leicester
A full picture of the body was revealed for the first time, as well as details of ten injuries found on the King.

Two “potentially fatal” blows were struck to the skull, with stabs to the buttock, cheek and jaw thought to have been dealt as “humiliation injuries” after his death in battle, as well as a cut mark to the rib which was probably made after the removal of his armour. A blade wound to the pelvis penetrated the bone.

The announcement, broadcast live on the BBC’s website, swiftly became the hottest trend on Twitter, with a dedicated website set up by the university to tell the full story of a complex project.

Standing around five foot eight inches tall, Richard was 32 when he died. In a stipulation from the Ministry of Justice, the Cathedral will take care of the skeleton, which has a curved spine indicating scoliosis.

“Right from the start this was a long shot,” admitted Professor Kevin Schürer, of the university.

“It was always overly hopeful and ambitious. We discovered several blind alleys.

“If any of the DNA didn’t match, the skeleton may not have been related to Anne of York and the line may have been false.

“As far as all of the evidence shows, the lineage is good.”

Lead Archaeologist Richard Buckley's statement drew cheers and applause.

“It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that, beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars in September 2012 is, indeed, Richard III – the last Plantagenet King of England,” he said.

  • Visit www.le.ac.uk/richardiii for the full story. Follow the University of Leicester on Twitter @uniofleicester for updates. A documentary on the project, Richard III: King in the Car Park, will be shown on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight.

Facts and figures:

  • The skeletal DNA matches two of Richard III’s maternal line relatives.

  • The likely fatal blows to the skull are thought to have been struck by a sword and halberd.

  • Richard III was killed by trauma to the back of the head.  Part of his skull was sliced off.

  • Radiocarbon dating shows he had a high protein diet, including significant amounts of seafood.

  • The skeleton reveals “severe” scoliosis – believed to have occurred at the time of puberty.

  • He had an “unusually slender, almost feminine” build for a man – matching contemporaneous accounts.

  • No evidence for the “withered arm”  – as portrayed by Shakespeare – was found.

  • His hands may have been tied.

  • The grave was hastily dug, of insufficient size and lacking a shroud or coffin.

More pictures:

A photo of light yellow bones making up a male skeleton against a black background
The complete skeleton shows the extent of the curvature© University of Leicester
A close up photo of a large male human skull in light brown from Medieval times
The blade wound to the pelvis© University of Leicester
A close-up photo of a curved section of bone from a human skeleton against darkness
The head was propped on a twisted torso© University of Leicester
A photo of a curved light brown section of human bone against a black background
The cut mark on the right rib© University of Leicester
A photo showing a close-up of the inside of a human skull in dark brown bone
The base of the skull shows the larger, potentially fatal wounds© University of Leicester
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