King Richard III

February 2013

King Richard III

This page is about the discovery of the remains of King Richard III, here in Leicester. Originally on the Historic Buildings page, we developed so much copy on this subject that we decided to devote a whole page to this subject.

King Richard III

Who was Richard III?

Richard was the last of the line of english kings known as the Plantagenets. He lived in the fifteenth century, from 1452 to 1485, in what we call the Middle Ages. He reigned for only two years, being killed at the Battle of Bosworth, the final battle in the War of the Roses, a date regarded as being the end of the Middle Ages. He is also known as Richard Plantagenet and was a member of the House of York.

His father was Richard Duke of York, a title that Richard later claimed for himself. At this time there was political rivalry between the Yorkists and the Lancastrians. Richard’s wife Anne was crowned with him at his coronation at Westminster Abbey in 1483. Their son, Edward, was made Prince of Wales in a ceremony held at York.

Richard’s bones were discovered, buried beneath the car park of the Social Services building in the centre of Leicester. The archaeological dig that unearthed the bones was said to be the biggest archaeological discovery of recent times.

After his death, the King’s body was brought to Leicester, so that the victor of the battle, who became Henry VII, could allow the people to see that the king was in fact dead. Richard had been crowned King of England in 1483 but his claim to the throne was seen as contentious by many powerful barons. Henry Tudor led a rebellion against the king and it was this that led to the Battle of Bosworth Field where Richard’s was killed and his army defeated.

Eventually, Richard (sometimes called ‘the warrior king’) was buried in the church of the Greyfriars Monastery, which is where his bones were found in 2013, 528 years later. He was the last English King to die in battle. During his life he was said to be a skilled military commander. In 1471 Richard claimed the Dukedom of York. It was because he was the Duke of York that the city made a claim to become the rightful resting place of Richard’s remains, rather than Leicester.

Richard has long been associated with the disappearance of the two young princes who were held in the Tower of London. Opinion is divided about this with advocates saying that it was a Tudor Myth that was invented to discredit the Plantagenet king. Archaeologists have never discovered the remains of the princes, so the story has never been proven one way or the other.

Richard was a Yorkist and fought the Lancastarians, this being known as the War of the Roses, because the Yorkist’s emblem was a white rose, whilst, for the Lancastrians, it was a red rose.

white rose emblem of the house of york
Image from Wikipedia

More information about Richard 3rd

Richard III on Wikipedia | The Richard III Society |

Archaeology news 2012 – King Richard III

14th February

Design for tomb of Richard III revealed

The BBC news revealed the design for the tomb that has been designed for the final resting place of the bones of Richard 3rd.

The seven foot long limestone monument is to be placed in Leicester Cathedral in readiness for the final internment of the bones, some time in 2014.

Meanwhile an exhibition about the discovery of the king’s remains has been attracting over one thousand visitors a day since it opened last week.

See the BBC Leicester web site

Exhibition attraction

The exhibition, at Leicester’s medieval Guildhall, has pulled in over 1,000 visitors each day since it opened its doors to the public on Friday, February 8th.

The display is due to remain on show for about a year, until a planned permanent exhibition opens at the former Alderman Newton School, next to the grave site, in St Martins, in early 2014.

Visitors to the temporary Guildhall exhibition – entitled Richard III: Leicester’s Search for a King – can see for the first time stunning new evidence from scientists, historians and archaeologists shedding light on the life, death and burial of England’s last Plantagenet king.

An exact recreation of King Richard’s battle-scarred skull, created by Loughborough University and based on detailed scans of the original skull carried out by the University of Leicester, takes pride of place at the exhibition.

There is also a touch-screen skeleton on which visitors can learn more about King Richard’s remains, as well as vivid reconstructions and a wealth of archaeological finds and evidence bringing to life medieval Leicester and King Richard’s final days.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “There has been an enormous amount of interest in this incredible find, and this exhibition guides visitors through the whole story of the discovery, the analysis and the identification of these remains. ” [Source: Leicester City Council]

Further information is available from the Visit Leicester web site

BBC Question Time came from Leicester tonight and was broadcast from Curve. Right at the end of the programme there was a question about Richard III, asking about whether the king’s remains should be interred at Leicester or elsewhere, such as York. Labour’s Mary Creagh said they should remain in the city in which they were found. It was a very short section right at the very end of the show.

14th February

Richard III-themed events for all ages

EVENTS bringing to life the story of King Richard III are taking place in and around Leicester’s Guildhall over the coming week. Visitors of all ages can get involved in a programme of activities including in drop-in sessions, craft workshops, and guided tours through the streets of Leicester’s Old Town to relive the life and times of the Last Plantagenet king.

Events at the Guildhall include Medieval Marvels, on Friday, February 15, from 1pm to 5pm, which includes storytelling sessions for children aged from five to 11. Children can also design their own banners or medieval coat of arms at a session from 11am to 3pm.

On Saturday, February 16, youngsters can make medieval-themed pennants and crowns at a drop-in craft session at the Guildhall from 11am to 3pm. There will also be two Blue Badge Guided Walks of Leicester taking place on Saturday, February 16 and again on Saturday, February 23, departing from outside Leicester Cathedral. The guided walks will take place each Saturday at 11am and again at 2pm, taking visitors to important sites including the Bow Bridge, the Newarke, the site of the Blue Boar Inn, the Greyfriars site and grave, and the stunning new exhibition – Richard III: Leicester’s Search for a King – at the Guildhall itself.

Booking for the Blue Badge Walks is essential and can be done by contacting the Guildhall on 0116 253 2569. Full details of the Richard III story and related events are available at:

[Source: Leicester City Council]

4th February 2013 – breaking news

Bones set to tell story of royal remains

Archaeologists are set to tell the world the results of their tests on the bones found under a car park in Leicester, in a programme to be broadcast this evening by Channel Four. The programme will include a reconstruction of the king’s face, allowing comparison to portraits.

Many experts appear to be confident that the bones are those of the king who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. This is based on a preliminary examination of the bones.

Today the results of DNA tests might give us the final proof that many people are hoping for that these bones are in fact those of the last of the Plantagenet kings, whose death saw the end to the war of the roses.

DNA testing was developed by researchers at the University of Leicester.

Interest in this story is world wide, placing Leicester on the International map in many western countries.

Images of the skull found in the excavations has been released.

The archaeology is being lead by a team at the University of Leicester.

Part of the process by which the bones are to be verified involved obtaining DNA samples from a current day descendent, a man who lives in Canada.

Commenting in History Extra, Tracy Borman said ‘Richard III is one of the most controversial figures in history. Demonised by the Tudors (and Shakespeare in particular) as a crook-backed murderer, he has since been at least partially rehabilitated by the likes of the Richard III Society. But the debate continues to rage amongst historians today.’

If the find is confirmed, it will finally put to rest the legend that the bones were dug up in the Middle Ages and thrown into the river Soar.

A press conference is being held at 10 am and is being broadcast live by BBC Radio Leicester.

Once the remains have been fully examined, they are to be interred in Leicester Cathedral. A plaque commemorating the king has been in place in the church for many years.

The press conference has attracted media from all over the world, reports Radio Leicester.

Tourist chiefs foresee a Richard III experience offering a “whole day out for the family”, turning both county and city into a money-earning theme park.

Vice Chancellor says this is a “research adventure”, bringing together a wide range of disciplines.

Richard was buried in the Greyfriars Monastery, which is where the car park now stands. The bones that were found showed signs that suggested they were those of Richard III. The skeleton was in good condition and showed curvature of the spine. It was been buried in a shroud rather than a coffin.

The bones were subject to radio carbon dating that suggested that they could be traced back to around 1485.

The skeleton confirmed to be those of a male, late 20s to late 30s and with a slender build. There was curvature of the spine. These findings are consistent with what is known about the dead king.

The skull shows a wound at the base of the skull, made with a bladed weapon. Most likely cause of death.

Other wounds are consistent with warfare injuries or by attacks that took place after death – post-mortem defilement.

Richard’s naked body is reputed to have been thrown on a horse before being taken back to Leicester.

“Taken as a whole the skeletal evidence confirms that this is likely to be Richard III” said Dr. Jo Appleby.

Prof. Kevin Shurer looked into the genealogical work that lead to the discovery of the king’s living descendents including Michael Ibsen.

This allowed DNA from the skeleton to be compared with that of living descendents.

Dr. Turi King, the project’s geneticist, said that DNA had been extracted from the remains but it is too early to confirm a match.

There is a DNA match between the family of RichardIII and the bones from the excavation, pointing to these being indeed the remains of the king.

The press conference confirmed that the remains would in fact be interred at Leicester Cathedral, early next year.

Overall conclusion is that Richard III has in fact been found.

See our news page for latest announcements.

Follow this story on The Guardian web site

25th September 2012

THE site of a grave believed to be that of King Richard III is due to remain open to enable further investigation and interpretation to take place.

Human remains, provisionally identified as those of the last Plantagenet king, who was killed in the battle of Bosworth in 1485, were discovered in one of three trenches opened by a team of archaeologists, from the University of Leicester, earlier this month.

The battle-scarred skeleton, which also had significant spinal abnormalities, is currently undergoing DNA testing to help establish whether investigators really have discovered the long-lost grave of the king, within the grounds of the former Grey Friars church.

Richard had been portrayed as a hunchback with a withered arm. This image was likely to have been a spin placed on the Monarch by Tudor propagandists, incuding William Shakespeare.

The section of trench in which the bones were discovered will now be kept open and covered by a protective tent, marking the historically-important site until a further decision on how best to present the site is made.

Following Richard’s death at Bosworth Field, the dead king’s remains were buried at the Church of Grey Friars. It is this site that has been unearthed by the trenches dug into the municipal car park, not far from Leicester Cathedral.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “We are committed to developing plans so that visitors in future will be able to understand and interpret the site and appreciate its importance in Leicester’s history, so preserving and presenting the grave site properly is a key part of that.”

Some of the other trenches containing the most fragile medieval evidence, such as areas where mortar from the original tiled cloister floor is still visible, will be infilled to preserve them and protect them from exposure to wet and cold weather.

The work is being carried out by Leicester City Council, working alongside archaeologists from the University of Leicester, and will take place over the coming days.

Archaeologists will first line the most vulnerable areas with a protective geotextile membrane, and then backfill the trenches with the same material which was originally dug out.

The site will then be handed over to Leicester City Council’s highways team, which will carefully complete the infilling and resurfacing work.

The shift of focus to look now at the future of the dig site follows six very successful public open days which have attracted thousands of visitors over the last two weeks. Infilling of the trenches had been delayed to allow visitors to see for themselves the ongoing work, which has revealed for the first time the location of the long-lost medieval Grey Friars church, where Richard III is believed to have been buried after his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The City Mayor added: “Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have revealed to us glimpses of a lost medieval world within these remarkable excavations, and it is vitally important that the evidence at this site is preserved for future investigations.

“With winter weather upon us already, we are working with the university to fill in the trenches and protect what they”e discovered so far.

“The work will be done in a way that will both enable them to be re-opened for further investigations if need be, and also to ensure what we’ve already uncovered is preserved for future generations.”

The University of Leicester’s co-director of archaeological services, Richard Buckley, added: “Most of the site needs to be backfilled as soon as possible to ensure that fragile remains, such as the mortar bedding for tiled floors, can be protected from erosion by autumn and winter weather. “We will be covering up the most vulnerable areas with geotextile membrane, with some hand backfilling, before handing over to Leicester City Highways who will carefully complete the trench infill and reinstatement process.”

[Source: Leicester City Council]

17th September

Crowds flock to Richard III events

A COLOURFUL programme of events across Leicester highlighting the story of King Richard III is attracting thousands of visitors.

The announcement last week that human bones had been unearthed in an archaeological dig at the old Greyfriars church – believed to be Richard’s burial place following his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 – sparked a huge surge in interest in the life and death of the last Plantagenet king.

This weekend’s events saw 1,400 visitors a day flocking to the Greyfriars dig site, with 2,000 people visiting Leicester’s Guildhall to see artefacts from the dig, and 600 people viewing information panels telling the story of the search for King Richard III at Highcross Leicester.

The Guildhall: Objects from the excavation, plus information panels on Richard III and the excavation.

For more information see The Story of Leicester web site.

12th September

Channel 4 to broadcast Richard film.

Channel 4 has commissioned independent production company Darlow Smithson to make a history programme about the extraordinary hunt for the remains of Richard III – beneath a council car park in Leicester.

More informtion from the Channel 4 website

11th September

THE University of Leicester is announcing that the archaeological dig at Greyfriars will continue for a third week as archaeologists get ‘tantalisingly close’ in their search for King Richard III.

The University of Leicester is leading the archaeological search for the burial place of King Richard III with Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society.

Now, Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby has authorised the work to continue for at least another week following the success of the dig so far and the huge level of interest in it.

In 1485 King Richard III was defeated at the battle of Bosworth. His body, stripped and despoiled, was brought to Leicester where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as the Grey Friars.

Over time the exact whereabouts of the Grey Friars became lost. Over the past two weeks, the team has made major discoveries about the heritage of Leicester by: determining the site of the site of the medieval Franciscan friary known as Grey Friars, finding the eastern cloister walk and chapter house, locating the site of the church within the friary, uncovering the lost garden of former Mayor of Leicester, Alderman Robert Herrick, revealing medieval finds that include inlaid floor tiles from the cloister walk of the friary, paving stones from the Herrick garden, window tracery, elements of the stained glass windows of the church, a medieval silver penny a stone frieze believed to be from the choir stalls amongst others.

Work stopped over the weekend for a public open day which saw over 1,500 people tour the site of a council car park which is the scene for the archaeological investigation.

Richard Buckley, co-director of University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said: “There was an incredible turnout at the dig and the level of public interest in our work is phenomenal. I would like to thank the public for their generous support and it has provided huge motivation for us to continue our quest.

“We are now tantalisingly close in our search and will investigate the choir where Richard is presumed to be buried. Whether we find Richard or not, this dig has been a huge success in terms of revealing the heritage of Leicester and I am proud that the University of Leicester has played a pivotal role in the telling of that story. There has been global media attention on this dig which is a measure of the power of archaeology to excite the public imagination.”

The dig is being filmed by Darlow Smithson Productions for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary to be aired later this year.

30th November

Council buys former grammar school building

A VACANT Victorian building next to the site where humans remains believed to be King Richard III have been unearthed has been purchased by Leicester City Council.

St Martins Place – the stunning former home of Leicester Grammar School – has today been purchased by the city council and could now potentially be brought back into use as a visitor centre linked to the neighbouring archaeological dig site.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby today authorised the purchase of the freehold for the high Victorian Gothic Revival building, which dates from 1864, for £850,000.

The site borders the city-council owned social services offices and Grey Friars car park, beneath which archaeologists from the University of Leicester have uncovered the lost medieval Grey Friars church and likely grave of Richard III.

DNA tests are currently being carried out to try to establish the identity of the battle-scarred warrior’s skeleton found buried beneath the car park in what would have once been the choir area of the ancient church.

The find has sparked international interest in the fate of the last Plantagenet king, who is believed to have been buried in Grey Friars after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The discovery of the Grey Friars church alone is a significant find, being the first time its location has been pinpointed since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1536.

St Martins Place itself, which was home to Leicester Grammar School until 2008, is a stone’s throw from Leicester Cathedral, the historic Guildhall and The Lanes, and in the heart of the area proposed for improvements under the Connecting Leicester, Cathedral Gardens and market redevelopment projects.

It contains over 10,000 sg ft of space with on-site parking, and was being marketed as office space.

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “It’s very evident that St Martins Place is a building that has potential to be used for a number of different purposes.

“It is particularly of interest because it’s immediately adjacent to the excavation site, and also to our social services offices. Some of those offices are more suited to continue as offices than others, so I am convinced this is an investment worth making.”

[Source: Leicester City Council]