Archaeologists Confirm Parking Lot Remains Are King Richard III

Scientists say some bones that were dug up in a parking lot in Leicester are those of King Richard III, the much maligned fifteenth century monarch. The research was driven by those who believe that the king was the victim of a posthumous smear campaign in which Shakespeare played a role.

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A few months ago, the British were told that a royal skeleton might have been located under what the Brits call a car park. And they were told the remains might belong to the 15th century King Richard III. Many were skeptical, but now they can believe it. Today, experts confirmed that the bones belong to Richard III, a monarch immortalized by William Shakespeare.

NPR's Philip Reeves tells us more.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Richard ruled England for only two years. But his terrible reputation survived five centuries. History has marked him up as tyrant and a murderer. The announcement confirming his skeleton has been recovered was made by Richard Buckley, lead archeologist in the bid to find the king in the car park.

RICHARD BUCKLEY: Ladies and gentlemen, it is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that beyond reasonable doubt, the individual exhumed at Greyfriars on September 2012 is, indeed, Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.

(APPLAUSE)

REEVES: Leicester is a city 100 miles north of London. The quest to find the king was led by the Richard III Society. Its members believe Richard was a pretty good king, vilified by history, and especially Shakespeare. Leicester University provided the expertise. Professor Lin Foxhall is delighted by the findings.

LIN FOXHALL: This is great. We found a whole new king that nobody knew was there before. Well, we knew he was there, but now we've got him.

REEVES: The search for King Richard began with a demolished church. That's where his remains ended up in 1485 after he was killed in the last great battle over the crown in what's known as the War of the Roses. The church was trashed a few decades later by Henry the Eighth and wound under a municipal parking lot.

Archaeologists found the skeleton on the first day of digging. It has a curved spine - thought to be the result of scoliosis - though there's no evidence of a hunch, despite the picture painted by Shakespeare. It's also of very light build, tallying with historical accounts and has some spectacular battle wounds. Part of the skull has been sliced off, apparently by a heavy blade.

And Jo Appleby, one of the research team, says there's evidence of a big wound in Richard's buttocks.

JO APPLEBY: Historical sources suggest that Richard's naked body was flung over a horse after the Battle of Bosworth before being carried back to Leicester. Whilst we can never be certain of what happened, if so, this would have provided an ideal opportunity for a wound such as this to be inflicted as a symbolic act of humiliation to the body.

REEVES: The most compelling evidence came from DNA. A sample from the skeleton matched that of Michael Ibsen, a Canadian descendant of Richard's sister Anne of York. Ibsen is delighted.

MICHAEL IBSEN: It's absolutely thrilling. To be involved in the project at all is fascinating. And to be here speaking now at the conclusion and having discovered that we do indeed have Richard III, is extraordinary.

REEVES: There are plans to reinter Richard the III's remains at Leicester Cathedral. That's about 100 yards from the car park, where the king was found.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, London

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