King Richard III To Be Re-Interred At Leicester Cathedral

Category: Media & Culture / Feb 04, 2013 3:28PM EDT
King Richard III, the last king to die in battle, will be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral after genetic tests confirmed on Monday (February 4) that a skeleton found under a car park was his. Richard was slain as he fought to keep his crown at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, crying out: "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" In one of the most significant archaeological finds of recent English history, a team from the University of Leicester said evidence showed a skeleton found last year in excavations of a mediaeval friary under a city car park was that of Richard. Richard, who died aged 32 after two years on the throne, will be interred at the Cathedral, which traces its history to a Saxon bishop in AD 680, in line with guidelines about burying bodies close to where they are exhumed. The grey, concrete car park with its red-brick walls and a payment hut, under which the bones were found, contrasts sharply with the grandeur of traditional sepulchres for English kings and queens at Windsor Castle and Westminster Abbey. Richard's skeleton was found just 68 cm (2 feet) below the present ground level. Mathew Morris, an archaeologist involved in the find, said the team found Richard fairly quickly. "We found the skeleton on the very first day, in fact we found it within the first couple of hours of the very first trench being opened," Morris told Reuters, but said the discovery posed a problem. " But the problem was we'd found it too early, and we hadn't found the friary before we'd found the skeleton. So we didn't know where it was in the friary. So that's why it wasn't excavated until a week later. We had to prove that it was in the east end of the church within the choir of the church, and that took a lot of careful excavations the next week," Morris said. The skeleton had 10 wounds, eight of them to the head, clearly inflicted in battle and suggesting the king had lost his helmet. The skull showed a blade had hacked away part of the rear of the skull. A metal fragment was found in the vertebrae. "When we started excavating it and Jo found the skull with the battle trauma, we were sort of thinking: 'Don't be ridiculous. We're not going to find him, anyone can get conked on the head.' And the very last thing to be found was the spine, the 'S' shaped spine, it was literally the last thing we uncovered of the skeleton. It wasn't until that point that we suddenly thought 'bloody hell' we might have actually done it," Morris said. The victor, the future King Henry VII, had Richard's naked body exposed to the people of Leicester to show the battle was won, ending the bloody 30-year civil conflict known as The Wars of the Roses between the houses of York and Lancaster. The team used radar and radiocarbon dating as part of the project that located the body in front of the choir stalls of the friary. No clothes or personal objects were found and there were no traces of a coffin. The evidence ends the centuries-old mystery which has fascinated historians in Britain and around the world and which has provided material for a welter of legends, one of which maintained the body was dug up in the reign of Henry VIII, thrown in a river and the stone coffin used as a horse trough. (Video Source: Reuters)