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Skeleton Found Under a Parking Lot May Be English King Richard III

A skeleton consistent with that of the long-dead king was unearthed recently in Leicester


For two whole years, from July 1483 to August 1485, Richard III ruled England. His reign, which began upon the death of his brother Edward IV, was cut short by his death at the hands of those loyal to Henry Tudor, then the Earl of Richmond.

Richard III, says the CBC, “is believed to have been buried inside the church of a Franciscan friary known as Greyfriars, whose location was forgotten after the church was suppressed in 1538 when King Henry VIII abolished the monasteries.”

Though the graveyard was lost to time, archeologists from the University of Leicester think they have found it once again, located underneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. What’s more, the team has found a skeleton which they think may be that of the long-dead king. Giving weight to that claim, the researchers said in a statement, is the fact that the skeleton appears to have belonged to someone who had been afflicted by scoliosis—a finding consistent with depictions of Richard III’s disfigurement. The person to whom the skeleton belonged also seems to have died in battle, with an arrowhead in its back and wounds to the head. The CBC:

Richard III has often been portrayed in historical and literary accounts as a hideous villain. He was famously described by William Shakespeare as “deform’d, unfinished” and portrayed in the playwright’s 16th-century work Richard III as a monster with a deformed conscience who murdered his nephews in the Tower of London in order to gain the throne.

The research team at Leicester, however, questions Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III as a murderer.

More than a century after Richard’s death, the playwright conjured up a tyrant who coveted the crown from an early age and mercilessly destroyed anyone who stood in his way. Shakespeare’s dramatic genius created a character who is imprinted in our national psyche, yet this image of Richard would have been totally unrecognisable to anyone who lived during his lifetime.

More from Smithsonian.com:
To Be…Or Not: The Greatest Shakespeare Forgery

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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