Body found in city car park is Richard III

The skeleton of King Richard III, found under a car park in Leicester. Photograph: Reuters

The skeleton of King Richard III, found under a car park in Leicester. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Feb 5, 2013, 00:00

So much of the life of Richard III, the last of England’s Plantagenet kings, has been shrouded in myth, his reputation blackened beyond repair by Henry Tudor after the War of the Roses.

Now, however, he is to buried in hallowed ground again after remains found last year under a car park in Leicester were yesterday formally identified as his, following DNA tests.

For the people of the Tudor age, Richard was the personification of evil, the man who had killed “the princes in the tower”, Edward and Richard, after his brother, Edward IV, had died.

William Shakespeare, happy to obey the Tudor writing of history, thrilled audiences, having Richard cry, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse,” as he met his end on Bosworth Field in 1485.

Equally, Shakespeare’s portrayal of him as a hunchback exaggerates, since the spine of the corpse found last September showed signs of curvature, but no more.

Some historians sniffed at yesterday’s display by the University of Leicester, believing the event to be a PR stunt for funds, lacking the dignity of academe.

However, the public disagrees: more than 100 journalists turned up for the announcement, while Radio Leicester changed its jingles to Plantagenet airs for the day. Now the city awaits tourists.

Richard, half of whose army refused to fight that day, was hacked down in marshy ground after he charged Henry Tudor, having earlier declared: “This day I will die as a king, or win.”

Two axe-blows to the base of the skull ended his life, said Dr Jo Appleby, though a dagger injury on his cheekbone and a cut on his jaw indicate that he was hacked afterwards.

His identity was confirmed after DNA matched a sample taken from Canadian Michael Ibsen, a direct descendent of Richard’s sister, Anne of York.

“He was a king, but just one of the dead. He lived in very violent times, and these deaths would not have been pretty or quick,” said Ibsen.

Now, the last of the Plantagenet kings is to be buried in Leicester’s Anglican cathedral, though traditionalists pointed out that he died a Catholic and should be buried as one.