Exhumation of Richard III of England

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Richard III, by unknown artist, late 16th century. The raised right shoulder was a visible sign of Richard's spinal deformity.

The exhumation of Richard III of England from his burial place within the former Greyfriars Friary Church in the city of Leicester, England, took place in September 2012. The last king of the Plantagenet dynasty, Richard III, was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485, during the War of the Roses. His body was brought to Greyfriars Friary in Leicester, where it was buried in a crude grave in the friary church. Following the friary's dissolution in 1538 and its subsequent demolition, Richard's tomb was lost. An account arose that Richard's bones had been thrown into the River Soar at the nearby Bow Bridge.

A search for Richard's body began in August 2012, initiated by the Looking for Richard Project with the support of the Richard III Society. The dig was led by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, working in partnership with Leicester City Council. On the first day of the dig a human skeleton belonging to a man in his thirties was uncovered. It showed signs of severe injuries and had a number of unusual physical features, most notably a severe curvature of the back. It was exhumed to allow scientific analysis, which found that the man had probably been killed either by a blow from a large bladed weapon, probably a halberd, that cut off the back of his skull and exposed the brain, or by a sword thrust that penetrated all the way through the brain. There were signs of other wounds on the skeleton which had probably been caused after death as "humiliation injuries" inflicted as a form of posthumous revenge.

The bones' age at death matched the age at which Richard died; they were dated to about the period of his death and were mostly consistent with physical descriptions of him. Preliminary DNA analysis also showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of two 17th-generation matrilineal descendants of Richard's sister Anne of York. On the basis of these points and other historical, scientific and archaeological evidence, the University of Leicester announced on 4 February 2013 that it had concluded beyond reasonable doubt that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

As a condition of being allowed to disinter the skeleton, the excavators agreed that, if Richard was found, his remains would be reburied in Leicester Cathedral. A controversy arose over whether York Minster or Westminster Abbey would be more suitable places for a reburial. A legal challenge confirmed that there was no public law grounds for the courts to be involved in that decision, and the burial will take place in Leicester on 26 March 2015.

Death and burial[edit]

An 1864 conception of Richard III in the Battle of Bosworth Field

Richard was killed fighting Henry Tudor in 1485, at the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn gave the credit for Richard's death to Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a Welsh member of Henry's army who was said to have struck the fatal blow.[1] Following his death, Richard was stripped naked and brought to Leicester[2][3] where his body was put on public display. The anonymous Ballad of Bosworth Field says that "in Newarke laid was hee, that many a one might looke on him" – possibly a reference to the church of St Mary-in-the-Newark, a Lancastrian foundation on the outskirts of medieval Leicester.[4] According to the chronicler Polydore Vergil, Henry VII "tarried for two days" in Leicester before moving on to London, and on the same date as Henry's departure – 25 August 1485 – Richard's body was buried "at the convent of Franciscan monks [sic] in Leicester" with "no funeral solemnity".[5] The Warwickshire priest and antiquary John Rous, writing between 1486 and 1491, recorded that Richard had been buried "in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester".[5] Although later writers ascribed Richard's burial to other places, the accounts of Vergil and Rous were seen by modern investigators as the most credible.[5]

Burial site[edit]

No 1, Grey Friars, County Offices for Leicestershire County Council from 1936 to 1965. It is on the site of the Herrick mansion.
Main article: Greyfriars, Leicester

In 1495, ten years after the burial, Henry VII paid for a marble and alabaster monument to mark Richard's grave.[6] Its cost is recorded in surviving legal papers which relate to a dispute over payment and show that £50 and £10.1s were paid to two men to make and transport the tomb from Nottingham to Leicester.[7] No contemporary descriptions of the tomb survive, but Raphael Holinshed wrote in 1577 (perhaps quoting someone who had seen it in person) that it incorporated "a picture of alabaster representing [Richard's] person".[8] Sir George Buck wrote 40 years later that it was "a fair tomb of mingled colour marble adorned with his image." Buck also recorded the epitaph inscribed on the tomb.[8]

Following the dissolution of Greyfriars in 1538, when the friary was demolished, the monument was either destroyed, or decayed as a result of being exposed to the elements. The site of the friary was sold to two Lincolnshire property speculators and was later acquired by Robert Herrick, the Mayor of Leicester. He built a large mansion close to Friary Lane, on a site that is now buried under the modern Grey Friars street, and turned the rest of the land into gardens.[9] Although Richard's monument had evidently disappeared by this time, it was still known where his grave was. The antiquary Christopher Wren (father of Christopher Wren the architect) recorded that Herrick erected a monument on the site of the grave, in the form of a stone pillar three feet (1 m) high carved with the words, "Here lies the Body of Richard III, Some Time King of England." The pillar was visible in 1612 but had disappeared by 1844.[10]

Around when Herrick's pillar was erected, the cartographer and antiquarian John Speed wrote in his Historie of Great Britaine (1611) that local tradition held that Richard's body had been "borne out of the City, and contemptuously bestowed under the end of Bow-Bridge, which giveth passage over a branch of Soare upon the west side of the town."[11] His account was widely accepted by later authors. In 1856 a memorial plaque to Richard III was erected next to the Bow Bridge by a local builder, stating, "Near this spot lie the remains of Richard III the last of the Plantagenets 1485". The discovery in 1862 of a skeleton in the river sediments near the bridge led to claims that Richard's bones had been found, though closer examination showed that they were probably those of a man in his early 20s and therefore were not Richard's.[12]

The origin of Speed's claim is unclear; it was not attributed to any source, nor did it have any antecedents in other written accounts.[12] The writer Audrey Strange suggests that the account may be a confused retelling of desecration of the remains of John Wycliffe in nearby Lutterworth in 1428, when a mob disinterred him, burned his bones and threw them into the River Swift.[13] The independent British historian Dr. John Ashdown-Hill proposes that Speed made a mistake over the location of Richard's grave and invented the story to account for its absence. If Speed had been to Herrick's property he would surely have seen the commemorative pillar and gardens, but instead he reported that the site was "overgrown with nettles and weeds" and there was no trace of Richard's grave. The map of Leicester that Speed drew showed Greyfriars wrongly where the former Blackfriars was, suggesting that he had looked for the grave in the wrong place.[14]

Another local legend arose about Richard's supposed stone coffin, which Speed wrote was "now made a drinking trough for horses at a common Inn". The coffin certainly seems to have existed; John Evelyn recorded it on a visit in 1654, and Celia Fiennes wrote in 1700 that she had seen "a piece of his tombstone [sic] he lay in, which was cut out in exact form for his body to lie in; it remains to be seen at ye Greyhound [Inn] in Leicester but is partly broken." William Hutton found in 1758 that the coffin, which had "not withstood the ravages of time", was now kept at the White Horse Inn on Gallowtree Gate. Although the coffin's location is no longer known, its descriptions do not match those of late-15th-century-style coffins and it is unlikely to have had any connection with Richard. It is more likely that the coffin was salvaged from one of the religious establishments demolished following the Dissolution.[12]

Herrick's mansion, Greyfriars House, remained in the possession of his family until his great-grandson Samuel sold it in 1711. The property was subsequently divided up and sold off in 1740; three years later, New Street was built across the western part of the site. Many burials were discovered when houses were laid out along the street. A new townhouse, 17 Friar Lane, was built on the east part of the site in 1759 and survives today. During the 19th century, the site became increasingly built up. In 1863 the Alderman Newton's Boys' School built a schoolhouse on part of the site. Herrick's old mansion was demolished in 1871, the present street of Grey Friars was laid though the site in 1873, and more commercial developments, including the Leicester Trustee Savings Bank, were built. In 1915 the rest of the site was acquired by Leicestershire County Council, which built new offices there in the 1920s and 1930s. The council moved out in 1965 when Leicestershire's new County Hall was opened, and Leicester City Council moved in.[12] The rest of the site, where Herrick's garden had once been, was turned into a staff car park around 1944 but was not otherwise built on.[15]

In 2007, a single-storey building dating from the 1950s was demolished on Grey Friars Street. This gave archaeologists the opportunity to carry out an excavation to see if any trace of the medieval friary could be found. Very little was unearthed, apart from a fragment of a post-medieval stone coffin lid. The results of the dig suggested that the remains of the friary church were farther west than previously thought.[16]

Looking for Richard[edit]

The location of Richard III's body was a long-running interest for members of the Richard III Society, a group which was originally established with the intent of bringing about a reappraisal of the king's tarnished reputation. In 1975 an article by Audrey Strange was published in the Society's journal, The Ricardian, suggesting that the remains were buried under Leicester City Council's car park.[17] This idea was later repeated when, in 1986, historian David Baldwin suggested that the remains were still in the Greyfriars area of the city.[18] He speculated, "It is possible (though now perhaps unlikely) that at some time in the twenty-first century an excavator may yet reveal the slight remains of this famous monarch."[19] In 2004 and 2005, John Ashdown-Hill tracked down two 17th-generation matrilineal descendants of Richard III's sister Anne of York.[20] He also concluded from his knowledge of the layout of Franciscan priories that the ruins of the priory church at Greyfriars were likely to lie under the car park and had not been built over.[21]

Although the Richard III Society remained interested in discussing where the king's grave was, it did not search for Richard's remains. Individual members suggested possible lines of investigation, but neither Leicester University nor local historians and archaeologists took up the challenge, probably because it was widely thought that the grave site had been built over or the skeleton had been scattered, as John Speed's account suggested.[22]

In 2004 and 2005 Philippa Langley, secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Richard III Society, carried out her own research in Leicester in connection with a biographical Richard III screenplay. She became convinced that the car park was the key location that needed to be investigated and contacted Ashdown-Hill after hearing of his DNA research.[23] At her urging, he contacted Channel 4's Time Team archaeology series to propose an excavation of the car park but they declined to become involved, as the dig would take longer than the standard three-day window for Time Team projects. Three years later, another writer, Annette Carson, independently came to the conclusion in her book Richard III: The Maligned King (2008) that his body probably lay under the car park. She joined forces with Langley and Ashdown-Hill to carry out further research,[24] in the course of which she found what she calls a "smoking gun" – a medieval map of Leicester showing the Greyfriars Church at the north end of what was now the car park.[25]

In February 2009, Langley, Carson and Ashdown-Hill teamed up with two Richard III Society members – Dr. David Johnson and his wife Wendy – to launch a project with the working title Looking for Richard: In Search of a King, which she envisaged as "a proposed landmark TV special".[16] Its premise was a search for Richard's grave "while at the same time telling his real story",[26][16] with an objective "to search for, recover and rebury his mortal remains with the honour, dignity and respect so conspicuously denied following his death at the battle of Bosworth."[27]

The project acquired the backing of several key partners – Leicester City Council, Leicester Promotions (responsible for tourist marketing), the University of Leicester, Leicester Cathedral, Darlow Smithson Productions (responsible for the planned TV show) and the Richard III Society.[26] Funding for the initial phase of pre-excavation research came from the Richard III Society's bursary fund and members of the Looking for Richard project,[28] with Leicester Promotions agreeing to pick up the £35,000 cost of the dig. The University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) – an independent body with offices at the university – was appointed as the project's archaeological contractor.[29]

Greyfriars project and excavations[edit]

Site of Greyfriars, shown superimposed over a modern map of the area. The skeleton of Richard III was recovered in September 2012 from the centre of the choir, shown by a small dot.

In March 2011 an assessment of the Greyfriars site began to identify where the monastery had stood, and which land might be available for excavation. A Desk-Based Assessment (DBA) was first conducted to determine the archaeological viability of the site, followed by a survey in August 2011 using ground-penetrating radar (GPR).[16] The GPR results were inconclusive; no clear building remains could be identified, due to a layer of disturbed ground and demolition debris just below the surface. The survey was, however, useful in finding modern utilities crossing the site, such as pipes or cables.[30]

Three possible excavation sites were identified: the staff car park of Leicester City Council Social Services, the disused playground of the former Alderman Newton's School and a public car park on New Street. It was decided to open two trenches in the Social Services car park, with an option for a third in the playground.[31] Because most of the Greyfriars site had been built on over the years, only 17 percent of its former area was available to excavate, while because of the limitations of the project's funding, the area to be investigated amounted to just 1 percent of the site.[32]

The excavation was announced in the June 2012 issue of the Richard III Society's magazine, the Ricardian Bulletin. It very nearly failed to go ahead, as one of the main sponsors of the project pulled out only a month later, leaving a £10,000 funding shortfall. An appeal was launched which resulted in members of the several Ricardian groups donating £13,000 in only two weeks.[33] A press conference was held in Leicester on 24 August to announce the start of the work. Archaeologist Richard Buckley admitted the project was a long shot: "We don't know precisely where the church is, let alone where the burial site is."[34] He had earlier told Langley that he thought the odds were "fifty-fifty at best for [finding] the church, and nine-to-one against finding the grave."[35]

Digging began next day with a trench 1.6 metres (5.2 ft) wide by 30 metres (98 ft) long roughly north-south. A layer of modern building debris was removed before the level of the former monastery was reached. Two parallel human leg bones were discovered about 5 metres (16 ft) from the north end of the trench at about 1.5 metres (4.9 ft) deep indicating an undisturbed burial.[36] The bones were covered temporarily to protect them while excavations continued further along the trench. A second trench was dug parallel next day to the south-west.[37] Over the following days, a series of medieval walls and rooms were uncovered, allowing the archaeologists to pinpoint the area of the friary.[38] It became clear that the bones found on the first day lay inside the east part of the church, possibly the choir, where Richard was said to have been buried.[39] On 31 August, the University of Leicester applied for a licence from the Ministry of Justice to permit the exhumation of up to six sets of human remains. To narrow the search, it was planned that only the remains of men in their 30s, buried within the church, would be exhumed.[38]

The bones found on 25 August were uncovered on 4 September and the grave soil dug back further over the next two days. The feet were missing, and the skull was found in an unusual propped-up position, consistent with the body being put into a grave that was slightly too small.[40] The spine was curved in an S-shape. No sign of a coffin was found; the body's posture suggested it had not been put in a shroud, but been hurriedly dumped into the grave and buried. As it was lifted from the ground, a piece of rusted iron was found underneath the vertebrae.[41][42] The skeleton's hands were in an unusual position, crossed over the right hip, suggesting they were tied together at the time of burial, though this could not be established definitively.[43] After the exhumation, work continued in the trenches over the following week, before the site was covered with soil to protect it from damage and re-surfaced to restore the car park and the playground to their former condition.[44]

Analysis of the discovery[edit]

The site of Richard III's grave, up against a wall in the choir of the former Greyfriars Church
Archaeologists working in a trench in the playground of the former Alderman Newton's School

On 12 September, the University of Leicester team announced the human remains were a possible candidate for Richard's body, but emphasised the need for caution. The body was of an adult male; it was buried beneath the choir of the church; there was severe scoliosis of the spine, possibly making one shoulder higher than the other (to what extent would depend on the severity of the condition).[45] There was an object that appeared to be an arrowhead under the spine and there were severe injuries to the skull.[46][47]

DNA evidence[edit]

After the exhumation the emphasis shifted "from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis".[47] There were several lines of enquiry: Ashdown-Hill had previously used genealogical research to track down matrilineal descendants of Anne of York, Richard's older sister, whose matrilineal line of descent is extant, through her daughter Anne St Leger. Academic Kevin Schürer subsequently traced a second unnamed individual in the same matriline.[48]

Ashdown-Hill's research came about as a result of a challenge, in 2003, to provide a DNA sequence for Richard's sister Margaret, in order to identify bones which had been found in her burial place, a Franciscan priory church in Mechelen, Belgium. He first tried to extract a mitochondrial DNA sequence from a preserved hair of Edward IV held by the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. This proved unsuccessful due to degradation of the DNA. He turned instead to genealogical research to identify an all-female-line descendant of Cecily Neville, Richard's mother.[49] After two years' work he found that a British-born woman who emigrated to Canada after World War II, Joy Ibsen (née Brown), was a 16th-generation great-niece of Richard's in the same direct maternal line.[50][51] Joy Ibsen's mitochondrial DNA was tested and belongs to mitochondrial DNA Haplogroup J, which by deduction should be Richard's mitochondrial DNA haplogroup.[52] The mtDNA he obtained from her showed that the Mechelen bones were not those of Margaret.[49]

Joy Ibsen died in 2008. On 24 August 2012 her son, Michael Ibsen, gave a mouth-swab sample to the research team so it could be compared to samples from the human remains found at the excavation.[53] Analysts found a mitochondrial DNA match between the exhumed skeleton, Michael Ibsen, and the second unnamed direct maternal line descendant who shares a relatively rare mitochondrial DNA sequence,[54][55][56] mitochondrial DNA haplogroup J1c2c.[57][58]

Despite the match on the mitochondrial DNA, geneticist Turi King continued to pursue a link between the paternally-inherited Y-DNA and that of descendants of John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster. Four living descendants of Gaunt have been located, and their results are a match to each other. Although the Y-DNA from the skeleton is somewhat degraded, King said she hoped to amplify it enough to get a match to the four men.[55][59][60]


Osteology was used to analyse the condition of the bones. They are generally in good condition and largely complete, apart from the missing feet, which may have been destroyed by Victorian building work. It was immediately apparent that the body had suffered major injuries, and further evidence of wounds was found as the skeleton was cleaned.[43] The skull shows signs of two lethal injuries; the base of the back of the skull had been completely cut away by a bladed weapon, exposing the brain, and another bladed weapon had been thrust through the right side of the skull to impact the inside of the left side through the brain.[61] Elsewhere on the skull, a blow from a pointed weapon had penetrated the crown of the head. Bladed weapons had clipped the skull and sheared off layers of bone, without penetrating it.[62] Other holes in the skull and lower jaw were found to be consistent with dagger wounds to the chin and cheek.[63] The multiple wounds on the King’s skull indicated that he was not wearing his helmet, which he either removed or lost when he was on foot after his horse was stuck in the marsh. [64][65] One of the right ribs had been cut by a sharp implement, as had the pelvis.[66] There was no evidence of the withered arm that afflicted the character in William Shakespeare's play Richard III.[67][68]

Taken together, the injuries appear to be a combination of battle wounds, which were the cause of death, followed by post-mortem "humiliation wounds" inflicted on the corpse. The body wounds show that the corpse had been stripped of its armour, as the stabbed torso would have been protected by a backplate and the pelvis would have been protected by armour. The wounds were made from behind on the back and buttocks while they were exposed to the elements, consistent with the contemporary descriptions of Richard's naked body being tied across a horse with the legs and arms dangling down on either side.[63][66] There may have been further flesh wounds but these are not apparent from the bones.[67]

The head wounds are consistent with a 1485 poem by Guto'r Glyn saying that a Welsh knight, Sir Rhys ap Thomas, had killed Richard and "shaved the boar's head". It had been thought that this was a figurative description of Richard being decapitated, but the skeleton's head had clearly not been severed. Guto's description may instead be a literal account of the injuries that Richard suffered, as the blows sustained to the head would have sliced away much of his scalp and hair and slivers of bone.[69]

The severe curvature of the spine was evident as the skeleton was excavated. It has been attributed to adolescent-onset scoliosis. Although it was probably visible in making his right shoulder higher than the left and reducing his apparent height, it did not preclude an active lifestyle.[70] The bones are those of a male with an age range estimation of 30–34,[65] consistent with Richard, who was 32 when he died.[67]

Radiocarbon dating and other scientific analyses[edit]

Radiocarbon dating was used to determine the age of the bones. The results came out at between 1430 and 1460[note 1] and 1412–1449[note 2] – both too early for Richard's death in 1485. However, mass spectrometry carried out on the bones found evidence of the consumption of large quantities of seafood. This is known to distort the apparent age of a sample because marine organisms absorb carbon-14 at a different rate from land organisms, skewing the dating of any terrestrial organism that consumes a significant proportion of seafood. A Bayesian analysis found that there was a 68.2 percent probability that the true date of the bones was between 1475 and 1530, rising to 95.4 percent for between 1450 and 1540. This did not prove by itself that the skeleton is Richard's, but it was consistent with the date of his death.[71] The mass spectrometry result indicating the rich seafood diet was confirmed by a chemical isotope analysis of two of his teeth, a femur and one rib. From the isotope analysis of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen in the teeth and bones the researchers found that the diet included a lot of freshwater fish and exotic birds such as swan, crane and heron, and that he consumed a vast quantity of wine.[72]

An X-ray analysis was performed on the corroded metal found under the vertebrae, which the excavators had speculated might be an arrowhead formerly embedded in the man's back. The analysis revealed that it was a nail, probably Roman, that by chance had been in the ground immediately under the grave and had nothing to do with the body.[67]

Identification of Richard III and other findings[edit]

On 4 February 2013, the University of Leicester confirmed that the skeleton was Richard's.[73][74][75] The identification was based on mitochondrial DNA evidence, soil analysis, and dental tests, as well as physical characteristics of the skeleton which are highly consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance. Osteoarchaeologist Jo Appleby commented: "The skeleton has a number of unusual features: its slender build, the scoliosis, and the battle-related trauma. All of these are highly consistent with the information that we have about Richard III in life and about the circumstances of his death."[73]

Caroline Wilkinson, Professor of Craniofacial Identification at the University of Dundee, led the project to reconstruct the face with a commission from the Richard III Society.[76] On 11 February 2014, University of Leicester announced the project headed by Turi King to sequence the entire genome of Richard III and Michael Ibsen – a direct descendant of Richard's sister, Anne of York – whose mitochondrial DNA confirmed the identification of the excavated remains. Richard III will be the first ancient person with known historical identity to have the genome sequenced. [77] The conclusion that the skeleton is that of Richard has, however, since been challenged by two academics, Michael Hicks and Martin Biddle, who have suggested that an "inquest-type hearing" should be held to examine the evidence.[78]

The story of the excavation and the subsequent scientific investigation was told in a Channel 4 documentary, Richard III: The King in the Car Park, broadcast on 4 February 2013.[79] It proved a ratings hit for the channel, with up to 4.9 million viewers,[80] and later won a Royal Television Society award.[81] Channel 4 subsequently screened a follow-up documentary on 27 February 2014, Richard III: The Untold Story, which detailed the scientific and archaeological analyses that led to the identification of the skeleton as Richard III.[80]

The site was re-excavated in July 2013 to learn more about the site of the friary church. To archaeologists' surprise, they found another skeleton, of unknown identity, inside a sealed lead coffin within a stone sarcophagus.[82] The skeleton was at first assumed to be male, perhaps that of a knight called Sir William de Moton who was known to have been buried there, but later examination showed it to be of a woman – perhaps a high-ranking benefactress.[83]

Plans for reinterment[edit]

St Martin's Place, site of the former Alderman Newton's Boys School, and of the projected Museum building

The initial plan was to reinter Richard's body in Leicester Cathedral. However, the choice of burial site was controversial, as there were proposals for Richard to be buried at Westminster Abbey (alongside 17 other English and British kings), or in York Minster, which some claimed was Richard's own preferred burial site. The original decision was challenged in court and was the subject of a judicial review. The Conservative MP and historian Chris Skidmore proposed a state funeral should be held, while John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, suggested the body should be buried in Worksop in his constituency – halfway between York and Leicester. The Mayor of Leicester retorted: "Those bones leave Leicester over my dead body."[84]

The present British Royal Family made no claim on the body, and so the Ministry of Justice initially confirmed that the University of Leicester would finally decide where the bones should be re-buried.[85] David Monteith, Canon Chancellor of Leicester Cathedral, said Richard's skeleton would be reinterred at the cathedral in early 2014 in a "Christian-led but ecumenical service".[86] He said it would not be a formal reburial but rather a service of remembrance, as Richard would already have had a funeral service at the time of burial.[87]

Richard's wife Anne Neville is buried within Westminster Abbey. It is uncertain where their only child Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, is buried; theories have included Sheriff Hutton Church, or Middleham, both in North Yorkshire.[88] Richard's parents are both buried in Fotheringhay Church, in Northamptonshire.

After legal action brought by 15 of Richard's distant relatives, known as the "Plantagenet Alliance", his final resting place remained uncertain for nearly a year.[89] Those bringing the legal challenge wanted Richard to be buried within York Minster, which, they believed, was his "wish".[90][89] The Dean of Leicester, however, called their challenge "disrespectful", and confirmed the Cathedral would not be investing any more money until the matter was decided.[91] In August 2013 a judge granted permission for a judicial review as the original burial plans ignored the Common Law duty "to consult widely as to how and where Richard III's remains should appropriately be reinterred".[90] Mark Ormrod of the University of York expressed scepticism over the idea that Richard had devised any clear plans for his own burial.[92] Mathematician Rob Eastaway calculated that Richard III may have millions of living collateral descendants saying that "we should all have the chance to vote on Leicester versus York".[93]

The judicial review opened on 13 March 2014 and was expected to last two days [94] but the decision was deferred for four to six weeks. Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, said the court would take time to consider its judgment.[95] On 23 May the High Court ruled that there was "no duty to consult" and that "There was no public law grounds for the court to interfere", so that re-burial in Leicester could proceed. The reinterment ceremony was scheduled for spring 2015 with a new design for the tomb expected to be revealed in "three or four weeks".[96]

Reburial and commemorations[edit]

The existing memorial to Richard III in Leicester Cathedral

In February 2013 Leicester Cathedral announced a procedure and timetable for the reinterment of Richard's remains. The Cathedral planned that he would be buried in a "place of honour" within the cathedral.[97] Initial plans for a flat ledger stone; perhaps modifying the existing memorial stone to Richard installed in the chancel in 1982,[98] proved unpopular. A table tomb was both the choice of the Richard III society in polls of Leicester people.[99][100] In June 2014 a final design was announced, in the form of a table tomb of Swaledale fossil stone.[101] Also in June the statue of Richard III that originally stood in Leicester's Castle Gardens was moved to the Cathedral Gardens as part of a redesign which was formally declared open on 5 July 2014.[102]

The reburial will take place after a week of events between 22 and 27 March 2015. The sequence of events will include:


One of the galleries in the Richard III visitor centre in Leicester

Richard Buckley of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), who had previously said that he would "eat his hat" if Richard was discovered, fulfilled his promise by eating a hat-shaped cake baked by a colleague.[87]

After the discovery, Leicester City Council set up a small temporary exhibition on Richard III in the city's medieval guildhall.[105] The council announced that it would create a larger permanent attraction and spent £850,000 to buy the freehold of St Martin's Place, formerly part of Leicester Grammar School, in Peacock Lane, across the road from the cathedral. The site adjoins the car park where the body was found, and overlies the chancel of the Greyfriars Friary Church.[84][106] The building was converted into a £4.5 million visitor centre telling the story of Richard's life, death, burial and rediscovery, with artefacts from the dig including Philippa Langley's Wellington boots and the hard hat and high-visibility jacket worn by archaeologist Mathew Morris on the day of his discovery of Richard's skeleton. Visitors can also see the grave site under a glass floor.[107] The council anticipated that the visitor centre, which opened in July 2014, would attract 100,000 visitors a year.[105]

In Norway, archaeologist Øystein Ekroll hoped that the interest after the discovery of the English king would spill over to Norway. In contrast to England where, with the possible exception of Edward V, all the kings since the 11th century have now been discovered, in Norway around 25 medieval kings are buried in unmarked graves around the country. Ekroll proposed to start with Harald Hardrada, who is most probably buried anonymously in Trondheim, beneath what is today a public road. A previous attempt to exhume Harald in 2006 was blocked by the Norwegian Directorate for Cultural Heritage (Riksantikvaren).[108]


  1. ^ Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC)
  2. ^ University of Oxford's Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit


  1. ^ Rees, p. 212
  2. ^ Hipshon, p. 25.
  3. ^ Rhodes, p. 45
  4. ^ Morris & Buckley, p. 22
  5. ^ a b c Carson, Ashdown-Hill, Johnson, Johnson & Langley, p. 8
  6. ^ Baldwin, pp. 21–22.
  7. ^ Ashdown-Hill, John (2013). The Last Days of Richard III (revised and updated ed.). History Press. ISBN 9780752492056. 
  8. ^ a b Carson, Ashdown-Hill, Johnson, Johnson & Langley, p. 17
  9. ^ Morris & Buckley, p. 26
  10. ^ Halsted, p. 401.
  11. ^ Morris & Buckley, p. 28
  12. ^ a b c d Morris & Buckley, p. 29
  13. ^ Carson, Ashdown-Hill, Johnson, Johnson & Langley, p. 22
  14. ^ Langley & Jones, pp. 7, 10
  15. ^ Carson, Ashdown-Hill, Johnson, Johnson & Langley, pp. 35, 46
  16. ^ a b c d Langley, Philippa (June 2012). "The Man Himself: Looking for Richard: In Search of a King". Ricardian Bulletin (Richard III Society): 26–28. 
  17. ^ Strange, Audrey (September 1975). "The Grey Friars, Leicester". The Ricardian (Richard III Society). vol. 3 (no. 50): pp. 3–7. 
  18. ^ Baldwin, p. 24.
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  • Ashdown-Hill, John (2013). The Last Days of Richard III and the Fate of His DNA. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-9205-6. 
  • Ashdown-Hill, John (2010). The Last Days of Richard III. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7524-5404-7. 
  • Ashdown-Hill, John; David Johnson; Wendy Johnson; Pippa Langley (2014). Carson, Annette, ed. Finding Richard III: The Official Account of Research by the Retrieval & Reburial Project. Horstead: Imprimis Imprimatur. ISBN 978-0-9576840-2-7. 
  • Baldwin, David (1986). "King Richard's Grave in Leicester". Transactions (Leicester: Leicester Archaeological and Historical Society) 60. Retrieved 18 April 2009. 
  • Bennett, Michael John (1985). The Battle of Bosworth. Alan Sutton. ISBN 978-0-8629-9053-4. 
  • Buckley, Richard; Mathew Morris; Jo Appleby; Turi King; Deirdre O'Sullivan; Lin Foxhall (2013). ""The King in the Car Park": New Light on the Death and Burial of Richard III in the Grey Friars Church, Leicester, in 1485". Antiquity 87 (336): 519–538. Retrieved 24 May 2013. 
  • Halsted, Caroline Amelia (1844). Richard III, as Duke of Gloucester and King of England. Volume 2. Carey and Hart. 
  • Hipshon, David (2009). Richard III and the Death of Chivalry. History Press. ISBN 978-0750950749. 
  • Langley, Philippa; Michael Jones (2014). The Search for Richard III: The King's Grave. John Murray. ISBN 978-1-84854-893-0. 
  • Mathew, Morris; Richard Buckley (2013). Richard III: The King Under the Car Park. Leicester: University of Leicester Archaeological Services. ISBN 978-0-9574792-2-7. 
  • Penn, Thomas (2011). Winter King – Henry VII and the Dawn of Tudor England. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4391-9156-9. 
  • Rees, E.A. (2008). A Life of Guto'r Glyn. Y Lolfa. ISBN 9780862439712. 
  • Rhodes, Neil (1997). English Renaissance Prose: History, Language, and Politics. Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies. ISBN 978-0-8669-8205-4. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°38′02″N 1°08′11″W / 52.634025°N 1.136295°W / 52.634025; -1.136295