Exhumation and reburial of Richard III of England

The exhumation and reburial of Richard III began with the discovery of the king's remains within the site of the former Greyfriars Friary Church in Leicester, England, in September 2012. Following extensive anthropological and genetic testing, the remains of Richard III, the last English king killed in battle, were ultimately reinterred at Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.

Richard III, the final ruler of the Plantagenet dynasty, was killed on 22 August 1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the last significant battle of the Wars of the Roses. His body was taken to Greyfriars Friary in Leicester, where it was buried in a crude grave in the friary church. Following the friary's dissolution in 1538 and subsequent demolition, Richard's tomb was lost. An erroneous account arose that Richard's bones had been thrown into the River Soar at the nearby Bow Bridge.

A search for Richard's body began in August 2012, initiated by the Looking for Richard project with the support of the Richard III Society. The archaeological excavation was led by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, working in partnership with Leicester City Council. On the first day a human skeleton belonging to a man in his thirties was uncovered showing signs of severe injuries. The skeleton, which had several unusual physical features, most notably a severe curvature of the back, was exhumed to allow scientific analysis. Examination showed that the man had probably been killed either by a blow from a large bladed weapon, probably a halberd, which cut off the back of his skull and exposed the brain, or by a sword thrust that penetrated all the way through the brain. Other wounds on the skeleton had probably occurred after death as "humiliation injuries", inflicted as a form of posthumous revenge.

The age of the bones at death matched that of Richard when he was killed; they were dated to about the period of his death and were mostly consistent with physical descriptions of the king. Preliminary DNA analysis showed that mitochondrial DNA extracted from the bones matched that of two matrilineal descendants, one 17th-generation and the other 19th-generation, of Richard's sister Anne of York. Taking these findings into account along with other historical, scientific and archaeological evidence, the University of Leicester announced on 4 February 2013 that it had concluded beyond reasonable doubt that the skeleton was that of Richard III.

As a condition of being allowed to disinter the skeleton, the archaeologists agreed that, if Richard were found, his remains would be reburied in Leicester Cathedral. A controversy arose as to whether an alternative reburial site, York Minster or Westminster Abbey, would be more suitable. A legal challenge confirmed there were no public law grounds for the courts to be involved in that decision. Reinterment took place in Leicester on 26 March 2015, during a televised memorial service held in the presence of the Archbishop of Canterbury and senior members of other Christian denominations.

Richard was killed fighting Henry Tudor at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the last major battle of the Wars of the Roses. The Welsh poet Guto'r Glyn credited Richard's death to Sir Rhys ap Thomas, a Welsh member of Henry's army who was said to have struck the fatal blow.[1] Following his death, Richard's body was stripped naked and taken to Leicester[2][3] where it was put on public display. The anonymous Ballad of Bosworth Field says that "in Newarke laid was hee, that many a one might looke on him" —almost certainly a reference to the collegiate Church of the Annunciation of Our Lady of the Newarke,[4] a Lancastrian foundation on the outskirts of medieval Leicester.[5] According to the chronicler Polydore Vergil, Henry VII "tarried for two days" in Leicester before leaving for London, and on the same date as Henry's departure—25 August 1485—Richard's body was buried "at the convent of Franciscan monks in Leicester" with "no funeral solemnity".[6] The Warwickshire priest and antiquary John Rous, writing between 1486 and 1491, recorded that Richard had been buried "in the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester".[6] Although later writers ascribed Richard's burial to other places, the accounts of Vergil and Rous were seen by modern investigators as the most credible.[7]

In 1495, ten years after the burial, Henry VII paid for a marble and alabaster monument to mark Richard's grave.[8] Its cost is recorded in surviving legal papers relating to a dispute over payment showing that two men received payments of £50 and £10.1s, respectively, to make and transport the tomb from Nottingham to Leicester.[9] No first-person descriptions of the tomb survive, but Raphael Holinshed wrote in 1577 (perhaps quoting someone who had seen it in person) that it incorporated "a picture of alabaster representing person".[10] Sir George Buck 40 years later wrote that it was "a fair tomb of mingled colour marble adorned with his image".[10] Buck also recorded the epitaph inscribed on the tomb.[10]

This page was last edited on 20 June 2018, at 15:52 (UTC).
Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exhumation_and_reburial_of_Richard_III_of_England under CC BY-SA license.

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