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Richard III Found?

03 Nov

Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England, died on August 22, 1485 during the Battle of Bosworth Field. His death wasn’t a pleasant one. Recently skeletal remains that might be those of the King have been unearthed from the ruins of Grey Friars Church in Leicester, the location where many believe Richard was buried.

 

The remains apparently show significant scoliosis, a bending of the spine that often raises one shoulder higher than the other. Historical documents, as well as the famous play by William Shakespeare, indicate that Richard was a “hunchback.” This condition is most often caused by kyphosis, a more forward curving of the spine, which is not the case with these remains. But the distinction probably wasn’t appreciated in 1485 so people who suffered either scoliosis or kyphosis were often termed “hunchback.”

How can researchers prove these are indeed Richard’s remains? The best bet is mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed down from generation to generation through the maternal line. This type of DNA doesn’t change often, mutating only about once every 6500 years, making it ideal for ancestry studies.

 

To employ this technique, they will need mtDNA from a known maternal descendent of Richard. And it seems they have located Londoner Michael Ibsen, the 17th great-grand nephew of Richard. His late mother, Joy Ibsen, was apparently a direct descendent of Richard’s eldest sister Anne. If true, and if the mtDNA matches, that would constitute fairly strong evidence that the remains are indeed those of Richard.

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11 responses to “Richard III Found?

  1. lemitchellrn

    November 3, 2012 at 7:50 am

    Wow! Did Grey Friars survive the Dissolution? I remember reading that Richard III was also skilled with the battle ax and his right shoulder was much more developed than his left one, making it look like he was hunchbacked vs being truly hunchbacked. Were there other remains found as well? Maybe I’ll re-read The Daughter of Time. I think that Richard’s been given a bad rap down through time and there were many other people (besides him and Henry Tudor) with the motive and opportunity to get rid of the Little Princes.

     
  2. Mary Hooker

    November 3, 2012 at 8:59 am

    The findings on Richard III and the mtDNA is fascinating. Thanks for the information in your report.

     
  3. raventracks

    November 3, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    I’ve heard about this. There are currently arguments going as to where he will be re- buried, if the DNA results turn out as expected. Everyone, I think, wants the tourism. ;-) I don’t think Greyfriars did survive the Dissolution, which is when the remains were supposedly thrown into the river(obviously not true, if this does turn out to be him). Amazing how many of us turned fan by reading Daughter Of Time. I now have it on ebook.

     
  4. Kate

    November 3, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    I remember reading that there was also a female skeleton found. Whether she is related to Richard is unknown. I would like to know what happened to Greyfriars. Supposedly, a private home was built on the spot, which suggests it was demolished. There was a marker in the garden of this private home which supposedly mentioned Richard. The land became city land and then a parking lot. A great detective story.

     
  5. Brenda

    November 3, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    I always enjoy these interesting and educational blog posts. Thanks for another good one!

     
  6. Pat Marinelli

    November 4, 2012 at 7:41 am

    Awesome info and medical history lesson. Love it.

     
  7. Gerrie Ferris Finger

    November 5, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Years ago in London we went to Madame Tussauds. I could walk up to the wax effigy of Richard III. At 5’6″ I’m taller than he; one shoulder was higher than the other and what struck me most was his anxious look. Not like Richard Lion Heart who is supposed t have said, “What do you take me for, an Englishman?” He was French and some historians say he never visited his English kingdom. Thanks. I’m keeping up with the mtDNA results.

     
    • lemitchellrn

      November 5, 2012 at 8:10 am

      From what I’ve read in contemporaneous accounts, Richard III was a very conscientious individual, with regard to his family and political responsibilities.

       
      • Gerrie Ferris Finger

        November 5, 2012 at 8:32 am

        I believe it entirely possible that Shakespeare (I love most of his work) slandered/libeled (in acted plays and written word) Richard III to please the Tudors. He had to have the support of Elizabeth I to succeed. There are historians who believe the Tudors were responsible for the deaths of the two princes. Like any mystery, I’d like to see it solved, but probably won’t be.

         
      • lemitchellrn

        November 5, 2012 at 8:46 am

        That’s most likely true. Artists and writers survived (or didn’t) by patronage. So, you don’t do things to annoy your patrons. Except for Henry V and a few others, the Plantagenet kings didn’t fare very well in Shakespeare.

         
  8. Carmel Schmidt

    May 8, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    King Richard was 5 ft. 8 in. tall, taller than the average Englishman of his time. His spine appears to have been wrenched to one side, broken, during burial.

     

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