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Second burial for Richard's remains

Richard III is at last to be given a burial fit for a king after academics confirmed a skeleton found under a council car park was that of the last Plantagenet monarch.

The king will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral next year after being discovered beneath a social services car park in Leicester last year.

Experts from the University of Leicester unearthed the monarch from the remains of the choir of the Grey Friars Church during a dig last September.

Following extensive tests, the researchers revealed the skeleton was that of King Richard III to media from around the globe at a press conference at the university today.

DNA from the skeleton was found to match that of two female-line descendants - Canadian-born Michael Ibsen, whose mother was a direct descendent of the king's sister Anne of York, and a second person, who has asked to remain anonymous.

The researchers said the king's skeleton was found in a grave which had been hastily dug and too short for him.

Unusually the king was buried without a shroud or coffin and possibly with his hands still tied as archaeologists found him with his arms crossed across the front of his pelvis.

Consistent with historical accounts that he died following a blow to the head, 10 wounds were found on the skeleton, with eight injuries to his skull.

The scientists at the University of Leicester concluded the king most likely died after a blow to the skull either from a sword or halberd.

The skeleton also showed the king's body was more than likely subjected to "humiliation injuries" by the enemy following his death, including a sword through the right buttock.

And in keeping with contemporaneous accounts of his curved back, the researchers found the skeleton had severe scoliosis, which would have left the king standing significantly shorter than his 5ft 8in frame.

However, there was no trace of a withered arm or other abnormalities seen in the more extreme characterisations of the monarch.

Dr Jo Appleby, from the University's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said: "The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male, but with an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man. This is in keeping with historical sources which describe Richard as being of very slender build. There is, however, no indication that he had a withered arm - both arms were of a similar size and both were used normally during life.

"The skeleton is that of an individual aged between the late 20s and late 30s. We know that Richard III was 32 when he died, and this is entirely consistent with the Grey Friars skeleton.

"Without the spinal abnormality, the Grey Friars skeleton would have stood roughly 5ft 8in (1.72m) high. This would have been above average height for a medieval male; however, the curve in the spine would have taken a significant amount off his apparent height when standing.

"This individual was not born with scoliosis, but it developed after the age of 10. The condition would have put additional strain on the heart and lungs, and it may have caused pain, but we cannot be specific about this.

"Our work has shown that a large wound to the base of the skull at the back represents a 'slice' cut off the skull by a bladed weapon. We cannot say for certain exactly what weapon caused this injury, but it is consistent with something similar to a halberd.

"A smaller injury, also on the base of the skull, was caused by a bladed weapon which penetrated through to the inner surface of the skull opposite the entry point, a distance of 10.5cm (4.13 inches). Both of these injuries would have caused almost instant loss of consciousness, and death would have followed quickly afterwards.

"A further three wounds have been identified on the outer surface of the vault of the skull. In addition to these, there is a small rectangular injury on the cheekbone. Finally on the skull, there is a cut mark on the lower jaw, caused by a bladed weapon, consistent with a knife or dagger. We speculate that the helmet had been lost by this stage in the battle.

"This has led us to speculate that they may reflect attacks on the body after death, although we cannot confirm this directly from the bones. Examples of such 'humiliation injuries' are well known from the historical and forensic literature, and historical sources have suggested that Richard's body was mistreated after the battle.

"In addition, there is a cut mark on a rib which did not penetrate the ribcage and an injury on the right pelvis. This is highly consistent with being a blade wound from a knife or dagger, which came from behind in an upward movement.

"Detailed three-dimensional reconstruction of the pelvis has indicated that this injury was caused by a thrust through the right buttock, not far from the midline of the body.

"These two wounds are also likely to have been inflicted after armour had been removed from the body. This leads us to speculate that they may also represent post-mortem humiliation injuries inflicted on this individual after death."

Mathew Morris, archaeological site director, University of Leicester, said: "I'd realised the skeleton was going to be interesting as soon as Jo found the battle injuries on the skull but was still not seriously considering that it could be Richard III; so it was a bit of a shock when the curve of the spine was found.

"Then, with a lot of disbelief, there was this dawning realisation that if you had a check list of everything you wanted to see on a skeleton to say it was Richard III, this ticked every box. The enormity of the discovery didn't sink in till much later though.

"As an archaeologist it is really unusual to be given a chance to looking for someone who you can actually put a name to, who isn't anonymous but is an important historical figure with a tangible story. Sometimes it feels a bit surreal, Indiana Jones-ish even - 'The University of Leicester and the Quest for the Lost King'!"

Few details of a reburial ceremony have been announced but David Monteith, Leicester Cathedral Canon Chancellor, said the remains would be re-interred early next year in a Christian-led but ecumenical service.

Philippa Langley, from the Richard III Society, said plans for a tomb were well advanced.

Speaking of the findings, she said: "This has been an extraordinary journey of discovery. We came with a dream and today that dream has been realised. This is an historic moment that will rewrite the history books.

"We're going to completely reassess Richard III, we're going to completely look at all the sources again and hopefully there's going to be a new beginning for Richard as well."

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