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Scientific Sleuthery Confirms the Identity of Richard III’s Remains


DNA tests have confirmed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the remains found last year underneath a parking lot in Leicester do in fact belong to Richard III, the notorious hunchback/(possible) nephew-killer and last English king to die in battle. He was also the subject of Shakespeare’s Richard III and, more amusingly (not that Richard III didn’t have its moments), a pair of Kate Beaton history comics.

Archaeologists at the University of Leicester already believed that the remains belonged to the king, who died in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth Field, due to their “famed spinal curvature” and fatal battle wounds. But it took a blessed union of science and history to prove it.

DNA from the remains was compared to that of a Canadian family directly descended from Anne of York, Richard’s eldest sister. One of those royal descendants is cabinet-maker Jeff Ibsen, who “says he was warned long ago that his family might be called upon if the king’s burying place was ever discovered,” reports the CBC. Someone get Anne Hathaway on the line, I have a Princess Diaries spinoff idea that I want to get her opinion on.

(And the Shakespeare/Anne Hathaway connections keep piling up…)

Writes the CBC:

The last English king to die in battle, Richard was immortalized in a play by William Shakespeare as a hunchbacked usurper who left a trail of bodies — including those of his two young nephews, murdered in the Tower of London — on his way to the throne.

Many historians say that villainous image is unfair

“It will be a whole new era for Richard III,” the [Richard III Society's] Lynda Pidgeon said. “It’s certainly going to spark a lot more interest. Hopefully people will have a more open mind toward Richard.”

In addition to archaeologists, historians, and the members of the Richard III Society, local tourism officials are also apparently invested in the skeleton belonging to Richard III. I can see it now: A Richard III Amusement Park, featuring a Tower of London Drop Ride (probably not historically accurate, but hey, they serve mini-pizzas and smoothies at Renaissance festivals) and a food court with Hunchback Hamburgers and Nepoticide Nachos.

(via: io9)

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  • http://twitter.com/jewelmcjem jewelmcjem

    Wow, I’d always heard that he possibly was not hunchbacked at all, but was portrayed so by historians to make him seem more evil.

  • Rebecca Pahle

    That squares with what I’ve read too, actually—that his back got “curved” over time due to a medical condition, but that the hunchback thing isn’t true (or at least isn’t proven to be true).

  • http://twitter.com/ReallyOnlyErin Erin Treat

    Shakespeare probably didn’t believe most of what he wrote about Richard III himself. He was just writing a hit play and trying not to piss off Queen Elizabeth.

  • Anonymous

    He wasn’t hunchbacked. The skeleton they found has pronounced scoliosis (a sideways curvature of the spine), which causes uneven shoulders and hips depending on where the curve rests, but no curling, so no hunching forward and no lump on the back. But I’m not sure they could tell the difference in the 15th century.

    The article on the Guardian website says that the condition might not have been noticed by anyone other than his close family until he was stripped naked after death and paraded around Leicester (and also stabbed in the butt) .

  • Anonymous

    THEY FOUND HIM. There are no words, my heart is breaking with joy.

  • Anonymous

    “And the Shakespeare/Anne Hathaway connections keep piling up…” Even moreso when you consider the fact that Shakespeare was married to Anne Hathaway.