A King of England discovered under a parking lot

Last August, a human skeleton was discovered underneath a parking lot in a town called Leicester in the United Kingdom. Recently, scientists confirmed that the bones which were dug up belong to one of England’s kings from over 500 years ago. Richard III lived from 1452 to 1485, and was supposed to have been buried in Greyfriars Church in Leicester. However, in the 1500s, the church was broken down. There were also other stories about how his remains were thrown in a river. For all these years, nobody knew where Richard III’s remains were.

Richard III was King of England for just two years until he was killed in a battle in 1485 at the age of 32.  He was born into a royal family, and his older brother was King of England until 1483. His brother’s 12-year old son, Edward V, was the next King of England, and Richard III was chosen as the kingdom’s protector until he grew up. However, Edward V’s right to the throne was declared illegal, and Richard III became King of England. Edward V and his younger brother were sent to the Tower of London to live, and nobody knows what happened to them. Were they killed or sent away? The brothers are often referred to as “The Princes in the Tower”. Richard III was described to have a curved back. He was also made famous by William Shakespeare’s play written about a 100 years after his death called “Richard III”.

Many years ago, some scientists set out on a mission to find the remains of Richard III. The scientists traced the descendants of Richard III and his family, and found two living descendants. One descendant wants to stay private. Michael Ibsen is the other descendant. He is Richard III’s nephew 17 generations later. Ibsen is a Canadian furniture-maker and currently lives in the UK. His family didn’t know about this link, and was surprised when scientists first contacted them to tell them they were related to a King of England. Imagine getting such a phone call! Now why did the scientists spend so much time to find relatives of Richard III? In case they found his bones, they wanted to be able to do a DNA match to help confirm that the bones were of Richard III. All living things are made up of cells, and our DNA is stored inside each cell. DNA is a code that makes us who we are. The closer two people are in relationship, the closer their DNA is.

Scientists estimated where the church must have been located at the time of Richard III’s death. It was believed to be in Leicester in a spot where there is now a parking lot. They dug up the lot and found a skeleton there. The bones were analyzed and were dated to the years 1450-1550. The skeleton belonged to a male in his late 20s or early 30s. The skull belonged to somebody who had been hit hard on the head at the time of his death. The spine discovered was curved. The skeleton’s DNA was matched to Richard III’s relatives. All of this convinced the scientists that they had found the skeleton of Richard III.

Well, what did Richard III look like? There are no portraits that we have from when he lived. The portrait shown above is one done after his death in the early 1500s. Scientists used the skull discovered to reconstruct his face. The image shown here is what they came up with.

Here is a video about the dig.

Did you know? Here are a few events that took place around the time Richard III lived, which is between the mid to late 1400s. Christopher Columbus, the Italian explorer, sailed to the Americas for the first time from Spain.  Guru Nanak, the founder of the religion Sikhism, was born in what today is the town of Nankana Sahib, Pakistan. Nicolaus Copernicus, a Polish astronomer, was born. Copernicus came up with the theory that the Earth revolved around the sun, and not the other way around which was the accepted belief at the time. The Korean alphabet, also known as Hangul, was created. Leonardo da Vinci, the Italian painter, mathematician, sculptor, inventor, and writer, was born the same year as Richard III.


Did you know? William Shakespeare was an English playwright and poet who lived from 1564 to 1616. One very famous line from William Shakespeare’s plays is “To be, or not to be, that is the question” (from the play Hamlet).


Image Credits: Society of Antiquaries of London for Richard III’s portrait; Richard III Society and University of Dundee for the reconstructed image of Richard III;