Many thanks to Anna for finding this. Richard III is always interesting as the last of the Medieval kings to those of us who love Shakespeare and/or English history. My ancestry was to the north, but affairs English always have had an effect on us Scots.
- Team say dig is ‘exceeding expectations’, and now plan to look for the monarch’s burial site
- Archaeologists have identified the franciscan friary known as Greyfriars from window and tile fragments
- If remains are found, they will undergo DNA analysis at the University of Leicester to confirm that they are those of Richard III
By Mark Prigg
PUBLISHED: 09:12 EST, 31 August 2012 | UPDATED: 10:17 EST, 31 August 2012
Archaeologists today moved a step closer to finding the remains of King Richard III.
They confirmed they have found the Greyfriars friary where he is believed to be buried in the most unlikely of settings – under a council car park in Leicester.
They have found medieval window tracery, glazed floor tile fragments, part of what may be the Greyfriars cloisters walk and a section of wall.
The team has so far excavated two 30-metre trenches in the Leicester City Council car park which is believed to cover the Greyfriars site where Richard was taken after meeting his end at the Battle of Bosworth.
The team believe that the church is the most likely location for a monarch’s burial place – and the next step will be to dig another trench with the aim of intersecting the church itself.
Richard Buckley, Co-Director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said: ‘Today, what we are saying is that we have found the Greyfriars and have uncovered tantalising clues as to the location of the church.
‘It has gone about as well as we could hope for.’
‘We aim to dig a contingency trench over the weekend to see if these walls are the church.
‘If this is the case we can point to the area where Richard III might have been buried.’
Philippa Langley, of the Richard III society, said: ‘We are in the right area.
‘We have started to get a sense of where Richard’s body may have been brought.
‘I did not think we would be where we are now at the start of the dig.
‘I am totally thrilled.
‘For me, the whole dig is now coming to life.’
The dig is being filmed for a forthcoming Channel 4 documentary to be aired later this year.
The researchers believe King Richard III was buried in a Franciscan friary in the area after being killed by the army of Henry Tudor during the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
The friary was, however, knocked down during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, and the exact location of the burial site has been one of Britain’s enduring historical mysteries ever since.
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After closely examining ancient maps, archaeologists believe the most likely site for the church is a car park of a social services office in the centre of Leicester. Last week, they began digging it up.
Richard was King of England for two years, from 1483 until the Battle of Bosworth.
His death at the age of 32 marked the end of 30 years of civil war, known as the Wars of the Roses, and the end of the middle ages.
It also marked the dawn of the Tudor dynasty and the demise of the Plantagenets.
His clothes and armour were removed and his naked body carried on horseback to Leicester, where the corpse was displayed in public for three days.
He was then buried in the Franciscan friary, known as Greyfriars, but just over 50 years later the church was destroyed.
SHAKESPEARE’S TYRANT KING
The 69p stamp featuring Richard III
Born in 1452, Richard III was King of England for two years, from 1483 until his death in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field.
According to another tale, Richard consulted a seer in Leicester before the battle who foretold that ‘where your spur should strike on the ride into battle, your head shall be broken on the return’.
On the ride into battle his spur struck the bridge stone of the Bow Bridge; legend has it that, as his corpse was being carried from the battle over the back of a horse, his head struck the same stone and was broken open.
Richard III was the last English king to be killed in battle
He was the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty.
Although Richard III has gone down in history as a monstrous tyrant with a hunchback and a withered arm, most historians now claim such an image is purely fictitious and down largely to how he was portrayed by Shakespeare.
Legend says the body was removed and cast into the river Soar, but historians hope to prove wrong this disputed version of events by finding it at the council site.
The archaeologists, from Leicester University, along with members of the Richard III Historical Society, hope finding the remains will help to change the way the monarch is viewed historically.
Richard III is traditionally seen as a tyrant who murdered his way to the throne, disfigured by a hunchback and a withered arm.
Many historians, however, claim that a distorted image of the king was deliberately created by the Tudors, the most notorious example of which is Shakespeare’s play about him.
The Richard III Historical Society said it hoped the excavation, which is projected to last two weeks, would end ‘the enormous disparagement’ of his reputation.
The site of the friary was bought by Alderman Robert Herrick, the Mayor of Leicester, in 1612, after the church was demolished in 1538. He built a mansion there.
In 1914, Leicestershire County Council bought the land, later turning it into a car park.
Archaeologists will start by digging two long trenches across the car park, hoping to find remains of the church and narrow down the search. They will also use ground-penetrating radar to find the best places to dig.
Richard Buckley, co-director of the Archaeology Service at the university, said: ‘It is quite a long shot but it’s a very exciting project. We don’t know precisely where the body would have been buried but we suspect it would be in the choir or near the altar.’
If bones are found they will be assessed for trauma to the skeleton.
Richard was hacked down after being surrounded and one historical account suggests that the blow which finally felled him was so hard that fragments of his helmet were left in his skull.
They will also be subjected to DNA analysis. The remains will be matched against the DNA of Joy Ibsen, a 16th generation descendant of Anne of York, the sister of Richard III. Mrs Ibsen died four years ago, aged 82.
At the site yesterday, Mrs Ibsen’s son Michael, 55, watched as the search began.
The furniture-maker, who was born in Canada but now lives in London, said his mother would have been thrilled by the project.
‘The family were entertained when she got the call several years ago from a historian claiming she was a descendant,’ he added.
VIDEO: Hear from an archeology expert on the search for Richard III…
THE DECISIVE BATTLE IN THE WAR OF THE ROSES
The Battle of Bosworth Field was fought on the morning of August 22, 1485, and marked the end of the War Of The Roses, the 30-year civil war between the houses of York and Lancaster.
One of the most important clashes in English history, it saw the death of Richard III, ushered in the Tudor dynasty and gave Shakespeare one of his best known quotations.
The leading role has been played by Laurence Olivier and Sir Ian McKellen, and the battle has also been immortalised in many artworks.
The battle marked the final confrontation between the Yorkist king Richard III and his challenger Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond and leader of the House of Lancaster.
The seeds of Richard’s downfall were sown when he seized the throne from his 12-year-old nephew Edward V in 1483.
Support for the monarch was further diminished when Edward and his younger brother disappeared and Richard was involved in the death of his wife. Henry laid claim to the throne from across the Channel.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to invade England from his base in France, Henry arrived on the coast of Wales on August 1, 1485.
Gathering support as he marched inland, Richard hurriedly mustered troops and intercepted Henry’s army south of Market Bosworth in Leicestershire.
After Richard’s death on the battlefield his rival was crowned King Henry VII and became the first English monarch of the Tudor dynasty, which lasted until 1603.