Intelligencer Journal/Lancaster New Era
500-year-old remains are King Richard III's
BY JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
LEICESTER, England -- He wore the English crown, but he ended up defeated, humiliated and reviled.
Now things are looking up for King Richard III. Scientists announced Monday that they had found the monarch's 500-year-old remains under a parking lot in the city of Leicester -- a discovery Richard's fans say will inspire new research into his maligned history.
University of Leicester researchers say tests on a battle-scarred skeleton unearthed last year prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that it is the king, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and whose remains have been missing for centuries.
"Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England, has been found," said the university's deputy registrar, Richard Taylor.
Bone specialist Jo Appleby said study of the bones provided "a highly convincing case for identification of Richard III."
The Plantagenets were a royal dynasty whose strong-tempered rulers conquered Wales, battled France, and helped transform England into a thriving medieval kingdom.
The last of the dynasty, Richard III also was the last English monarch to die in battle, immortalized by William Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies -- including those of his two princely nephews, murdered in the Tower of London -- on his way to the throne.
DNA from the skeleton matched a sample taken from a distant living relative of Richard's sister. Geneticist Turi King said Michael Ibsen, a Canadian carpenter living in London, shares with the skeleton a rare strain of mitochondrial DNA. She said combined with the archaeological evidence, that left little doubt the skeleton belonged to Richard.
Ibsen said he was "stunned" to discover he was related to the king -- he is a 17th great-grand-nephew of Richard's older sister.
"It's difficult to digest" he said.
Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine, said he found the evidence persuasive.
"I don't think there is any question -- it is Richard III," said Pitts, who was not affiliated with the research team.
He said it was one of the most exciting archaeological discoveries in ages.
"The identification of the king is just the very beginning of a whole range of new ideas and research that will change the way we view this period of history," he said.
Richard III ruled England between 1483 and 1485, during the decades-long tussle over the throne known as the Wars of the Roses. His brief reign saw liberal reforms, including introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.
His rule was challenged, and he was defeated and killed by the army of Henry Tudor, who took the throne as King Henry VII.
Many historians say his bloodthirsty image is unfair, and argue Richard's reputation was smeared by his Tudor successors.