Remains of King Richard III found in car park thanks to Canadian DNA

Matthew Coutts
National Affairs Reporter
Daily Brew

A skeleton with a cleaved skull found under an English parking garage has been confirmed to be the long-lost remains of King Richard III, killed in battle some 500 years ago and rumoured to have been desecrated and lost for all time.

Archaeology experts at the University of Leicester confirmed the identity using radiocarbon dating, historical comparisons and DNA results from direct descendants — a Canadian family.

The discovery of Richard’s burial site solves a mystery 500 years in the making and could reopen a debate about the king’s rule and his reputation as a tyrant.

But here in Canada, people are just as excited about the way the battle-scarred corpse was confirmed to be that of the historical monarch.

British experts had tracked Richard’s family tree through 18 generations and found the Canadian Ibsen family. Joy Ibsen, a former Canadian journalist, passed away in 2008. But her son was alive and well and living in London.

[ Related: Cdn family's DNA proves corpse is Britain's King Richard III ]

Jeff Ibsen's family is directly descended from Anne of York, Richard's eldest sister.

Ibsen told the Canadian Press that he was warned long ago his family might be asked to provide samples if the king's remains were ever discovered.

Experts involved in the Greyfriars dig — named after the buried and ancient monastery where Richard was found — also used carbon dating to confirm the age of the remains and the remains themselves were studied for historical context.

Here's a video on the excavation from the University of Leicester:

The university said the skeleton showed signs of severe scoliosis and as many as 10 wounds were discovered.

According to Reuters:

The skeleton showed signs of injuries consistent with wounds received in battle; a bladed implement appeared to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull while a barbed metal arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton's upper back.

Here's a history lesson. Richard III was the last English king to die in battle. He was chopped down in 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field.

His killer was Henry Tudor, who would succeed Richard and eventually rule England as King Henry VII. Richard was believed to have been laid to rest in a simple grave.

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Richard would later be depicted as a tyrant, specifically in Shakespeare's play Richard III, lending some credence to stories that claimed Richard's grave may have later been desecrated and his remains thrown into the river.

Richard supporters, known as Ricardians, have long believed that his rule was not as maligned as now commonly believed and that his remains were likely left in peace.

An excerpt from The Richard III Society:

Richard had made good laws and earned respect as a ruler. His death had been lamented. There was no reason why he should not have been left to rest in peace at the site of the old friary known as the Greyfriars.

The Richard III Society believes the discovery will reopen a debate about Richard’s place in history. In fortuitous timing, an all-day conference on the subject has already been scheduled for next month.

All of this found under a car park in Leicester.