‘A horse. A horse. My Kingdom for a horse!’

By Rizwan Safir, Archaeologist

Archaeologists knew Richard III’s body might show signs of his violent death

Well unfortunately for Richard III – the much maligned monarch to whom Shakespeare attributed these words – he wasn’t able to get hold of a horse, nor reclaim his kingdom for that matter. He has, however, managed to reassert his fame through a remarkable discovery by archaeologists at Leicester University. Although we still await confirmation from DNA analysis, archaeologists have unearthed the remains of an individual from Greyfriairs church in Leicester which was believed to be the burial place of the said monarch. This has the potential to be one of the most exciting finds in British archaeological history. What’s more is that examination of the skeletal remains show the individual to have sustained substantial injuries as well as, most importantly, evidence of a curved spine. Why is this important? Primarily because Shakespeare’s depiction of Richard III, in addition to historical and other documentary evidence, all associate him with having a ‘hunchback’. It looks like they may well have found him!

This finding, if confirmed, has additional significance due to the manner of Richard’s death. He was the last English king to have died in battle (at the Battle of Bosworth) and was subsequently, and unsurprisingly, denied a royal burial by the incumbent Henry VII. Debate has already begun on whether his remains should be reburied elsewhere and given a royal burial. His death, in 1485, is believed by some to have marked the end of the Middle Ages in England and inaugurated the Tudor era. Tudor propaganda, including that of the works of Shakespeare, continually portrays Richard as a villainous, deformed and ugly character. The truth is that not much is really known about him beyond the highly subjective accounts written after his death.

For now however, we await the results of the DNA analysis, (funnily enough from an individual in Canada who has been identified as a direct descendant of Richard), to confirm or deny the findings. All very exciting stuff. Check out the BBC link below for the incredible account of how the archaeologists came about discovering the body. I will provide another update as soon as the findings are released (sometime around Christmas) as well as other archaeological updates as they come!





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