Remains confirmed as King Richard III

The remains show a spinal curvature, which is considered King Richard III’s most prominent physical feature.
University of Leicester via Associated Press
The remains show a spinal curvature, which is considered King Richard III’s most prominent physical feature.

LEICESTER, England — Until it was discovered beneath a city parking lot last fall, the skeleton had lain unmarked, and unmourned, for more than 500 years.

Friars fearful of the men who slew him in battle buried the man in haste, naked and anonymous, without a winding sheet, rings, or personal adornments of any kind, in a space so cramped his cloven skull was jammed upright and askew against the head of his shallow grave.

On Monday, confirming what many historians and archaeologists had suspected, a team of experts at the University of Leicester concluded on the basis of DNA and other evidence that the skeletal remains were those of King Richard III, for centuries the most reviled of English monarchs.


Among those who found his remains, there is a belief that new attention drawn to Richard by the discovery will inspire a reappraisal that could rehabilitate the medieval king and show him to be a man with a strong sympathy for the rights of the common man, who was deeply wronged by his vengeful Tudor and Elizabethan successors.

Get Today's Headlines in your inbox:
The day's top stories delivered every morning.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Far from the representation of him as the limping murderer of his two princely nephews in Shakespeare’s Richard III, these enthusiasts believe the recovery of his remains can be a springboard to a new age of scholarship and popular reappraisal.

Richard Taylor, the University of Leicester official who served as a coordinator for the project, said the last piece of the scientific puzzle fell into place with DNA findings that became available on Sunday, five months after the skeletal remains were uncovered.

‘‘We knew then, beyond reasonable doubt, that this was Richard III,’’ Taylor said.

The team’s leading geneticist, Turi King, told a news conference that DNA samples taken from two modern-day descendants of Richard III’s family provided a match with samples taken from the skeleton found in the priory ruins. Kevin Schurer, a historian and demographer, tracked down two living descendants of Anne of York, Richard III’s sister.


King said tests found that the descendants’ mitochondrial DNA matched that extracted from the parking lot skeleton. She said all three samples belonged to a type of mitochondrial DNA carried by only 1 to 2 percent of the English population, a rare enough group to satisfy the project team that a match had been found.

Other evidence included confirmation that the body showed an array of injuries consistent with historical accounts of the fatal blows Richard III suffered on the battlefield at Bosworth Field in 1485. He was defeated by the army of Henry Tudor, who succeeded Richard as King Henry VII.

Perhaps the most conclusive evidence from the skeletal remains was the deep curvature of the upper spine that the research team said showed the remains to be those of a sufferer of a form of scoliosis, a disease that causes a hunchback.