The date was August 25, 1485. King Richard III of England was being laid to rest in the choir of the Leicester Greyfriars Church after being defeated at the Battle of Bosworth two days earlier. This defeat ended the 331 years of Plantagenet rule and ushered in the reign of the Tudors under King Henry VII. The change in power also ended the Middle Ages and ushered in the Renaissance Period in England.
527 years to the day, on August 25, 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester, England, King Richard III’s remains have been located and exhumed from the remains of the Greyfriars Church. DNA testing performed by the renowned Dr. Turi King at the University of Leicester and compared against known descendants of Richard III’s sister, Anne of York, has since confirmed that the exhumed remains are in fact that of King Richard III.
But is it really King Richard III? Since the news has come out, many scientists are unsure at least until the results of the studies are publicized and can be peer reviewed. Questions as to the type of DNA testing performed are the main point of contention to those doubting the results. It seems that due to the age of the remains and the surviving relatives that mitochondrial DNA testing was all that could be performed and as a result, could result in a false positive due to the fact that individuals could potentially share mitochondrial DNA and not be related. What makes a mitochondrial relative is the sharing of rare variations in the DNA. As this data has not yet been published, it is difficult for some to accept the data.
While DNA testing provides firm evidence as to whose remains were found, one only has to look at the corroborating evidence surrounding this case. It is well known that Richard III had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. This caused one of his shoulders to be much higher than the other, which may be where the hunchback stories came from. William Shakespeare wrote about this deformity in his works. It is also well documented of the wounds that Richard III sustained during the battle as well as the post mortem “humiliation” wounds. The wounds on the remains match up to what has been documented. It is also well known that Richard III was buried in the choir of the Greyfriars church. While the church was destroyed as a result of a dissolution decree of all monasteries by King Henry VIII in 1538, it was found as a result of research done by members of The Richard III Society and the University of Leicester, who tracked down medieval maps to locate the best approximation of the remains of the church.
Additionally, facial reconstruction was performed using the skull and astonishingly, the result closely matches known painted images of King Richard III. While no paintings done while he was alive are known to exist, it is assumed that existing paintings are based off of paintings that have long since been destroyed.
Anytime you deal with 500+ year old remains, there will always be questions. When you have strong corroborating evidence in addition to DNA evidence, it leads one to believe that King Richard III has indeed been found beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England. His body will soon be interred at Leicester Cathedral sometime in 2014.