In a startling discovery, researchers in the United Kingdom confirmed Monday that a skeleton found beneath a parking lot in Leicester belonged to King Richard III, one of the more despised monarchs in English history, and who is said to have died in battle.
Researchers with the University of Leicester used DNA testing to confirm that “a battle-scarred skeleton with spinal curvature” belonged to the monarch, who ruled between 1483 and 1485, they said in a press release. The skeleton’s DNA matches two of Richard III’s maternal-line relatives.
Richard was canonized in William Shakespeare’s play Richard III, depicted as a villainous character who murdered Henry VI, but in the last century there have been efforts to dispel some of the misconceptions around the last Plantagenet family monarch. After his death, the House of Tudor family ruled for the next 120 years.
“The skeleton was likely to have been killed by one of two fatal injuries to the skull—one possibly from a sword and one possibly from a halberd. A total of 10 wounds were discovered on the skeleton,” reads a press release from the university.
“Radiocarbon dating revealed that the individual had a high protein diet–including significant amounts of seafood—meaning he was likely to have been of high status,” it said, adding that the person died in the second half of the 15th century or the early 16th century. Richard died in 1485.
In Shakespeare’s play and other historical depictions, Richard is described as a man with a number of physical deformities, with one shoulder higher than the other. There was no evidence that he had a “withered arm,” as depicted in the Shakespeare play, according to the press release.
Researchers with the university found that “the skeleton had severe scoliosis (curvature of the spine)—and the onset is believed to have occurred at the time of puberty,” adding that “his right shoulder may have been higher than the left.”
Richard’s skeleton showed he had endured “humiliation injuries,” including a sword wound in the right buttock, the university said. But it appears that he died after one or two massive injuries to the back of the head, by possibly either a sword or a halberd, a type of pole-arm commonly used in the Middle Ages.
“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. Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III,” said Dr. Jo Appleby, of the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, in a release.
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