Buried under a parking lot, bones of a British monarch

On Monday, a team of experts from the University of Leicester confirmed the new reports that a skeleton discovered last fall in Leicester, England belonged to the infamous King Richard III of England. In addition to the titular Shakespeare play, the monarch plays a seminal role in the legend of “The Princes in the Tower”, a story that is told to British children.

According to the researchers, the conclusion had been reached “beyond any reasonable doubt” that the bones belonged to the fallen King who died on August 22, 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, a significant loss in the Wars of the Roses.

“I think he wanted to be found, he was ready to be found, and we found him, and now we can begin to tell the true story of who he was,” said Philippa Langley, a member of the Richard III Society, an organization that aims to promote research into the life of the monarch (The New York Times, “Bones Under Parking Lot Belonged to Richard III”, 2.4.13). “Now, we can rebury him with honor, and we can rebury him as a king.”

The team’s leading geneticist, Turi King, said at a news conference that the DNA extracted from the remains matched samples taken from two modern-day descendants of Richard III’s family.

Also indicative of the findings are the array of injuries to the skeleton that are consistent with historical accounts of the fatal blow Richard III suffered. The fatal wound found on the skeleton was almost certainly a massive skull fracture resulting from a large medieval weapon called a halberd.

The most conclusive evidence from the skeletal remains is the deep curvature of the upper spine, demonstrating that the remains belonged to someone who suffered scoliosis, a disease many think Richard III suffered from. The disease has been famously highlighted by such works as Shakespeare’s play, Richard III, which deemed it the monarch’s most unappealing feature.

Among those who found his remains, there is a growing belief that the new attention drawn to King Richard III could inspire a reevaluation of the medieval king. They believe that perhaps, the remains would portray him as a leader who greatly sympathized with the plight of the common man. This would be in stark contrast with the prevailing opinions of the former monarch, whose depictions in English literature paint him as a withered, hunchbacked murderer who would kill anyone who got in his way.

Now, the remains can be honored and given a proper burial. The British government confirmed in October the remains would be interred at Leicester Cathedral, and the mayor of Leicester said on Monday that a ceremony would take place sometime next year. This process is complicated by the town of York, who also claims ownership of the newly-identified remains.

Richard III was the last monarch of the house of York, grew up in Yorkshire Dales and visited York several times during his short reign; He ruled over England from 1483 until his death two years later.  Some historians even believe that Richard III wished to be buried at York Minster.

An online petition to the British government pushing for the king to be buried in York has received more than 1,100 signatures. A similar petition has been started in favor of Leicester’s claim to the remains. This petition has received 271 signatures.

Although people from both York and Leicester have claimed the king’s remains, under the terms of the exhumation license, Leicester is likely to win the fight.

Even so, the campaign for the relocation of the remains to York is gaining more noticeable support from citizens.

As Paul Toy, from the York Gateway Richard III Museum said, “It seems unfortunate that if he is buried at, say, Leicester, his wishes are ignored and he has to fit in with the parameters of other people’s preoccupations.”

He added, “It’s purely by chance that he was in Leicester because he got killed at Bosworth” (MailOnline.com, “Richard III: Why England’s most maligned monarch may prove to be the unlikely tourist ‘attraction’ of 2013”, 2.5.13).

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