The body of a man found buried beneath a council car park in Leicester is almost certainly that of the last Plantagenet King of England, Richard III, according to academics.
The remains, undisturbed less than a metre (3.3 feet) below ground on the site of an old friary in Leicester for more than 500 years, will now be interred in the city’s cathedral.
DNA recovered from the remains, radio-carbon dating, battlefield wounds found on the skeleton, and the link between what was found during the dig and what was mentioned in documentary sources from the period, combined to allow Leicester University academics to conclude the identity was “beyond reasonable doubt”.
King Richard, the last of the country’s Plantagenet monarchs, was cut down at the decisive and bloody Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, ending the Wars of the Roses and leaving Henry VII as the new king and first of the Tudor dynasty. At the time it was recorded that King Richard had been buried in Grey Friars, a friary in the city following the battle.
He was born in October 1452 in Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire.
Four years ago, a fundraising drive kick-started by the Richard III Society embarked on a push to finally uncover the truth of his final resting place, by making an archaeological dig on the site of the friary - a modern-day city council car park.
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester recovered a body - which showed signs of battle injuries including 10 separate wounds, and scoliosis (a curvature) of the spine, in tune with unflattering historic accounts claiming the king was hunch-backed.
Following extensive tests, Richard Buckley, dig project leader, said: “It is the academic conclusion that beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in September 2011 is King Richard III - the last Plantagenet King of England.”
Significant weight was placed on the DNA evidence, linking Richard III to a living descendant Michael Ibsen - through the female line of Anne of York.
Studies of the bones revealed the body of the man was aged late 20s to late 30s, with the king killed when he was 32, while radio-carbon dating revealed the male had died in the second half of the 15th, or early 16th century, which is consistent with the dates of the Wars of the Roses.
Further study showed the remains to be those of a man standing 5ft 8in (1.73m), with what academics called an “unusually slender build” for a male.
The male had 10 wounds covering his body, but among these were two principal head wounds which were likely to have killed him - one delivered by sword and the other likely to have come from a long-handled polearm, thought to be a halberd. More gruesome, however, was evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including several head wounds - part of the skull was sliced away - a cut to the ribcage and a pelvic wound likely caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.