“Off with his head!”
– Shakespeare’s King Richard III, Act III, Scene IV.
In a stunning archaeological discovery, British scientists announced Monday that DNA results confirm “beyond reasonable doubt” that the human remains found under a parking lot in Leicester, central England, are those of the nation’s King Richard III – who was killed two years into his reign, at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. He was 33.
“We’re certain now, as certain as you can be of anything in life,” said Richard Taylor, the University of Leicester registrar who coordinated the team of archaeologists, historians, genealogists and geneticists who, since the bones were discovered five months ago, set out to identify the remains, reports The New York Times.
Archaeologists say Richard – one of the most reviled monarchs in history, scheming, murderous, and physically deformed, as Shakespeare’s play reminds audiences to this day – met his own violent death. As shown in his remains, he received two severe blows to the head, and that’s not all, reports CNN.
The lead archeologist on the project, Richard Buckley, said it looks like Richard, who suffered curvature of the spine, was buried with his hands tied.
“The skull was in good condition, although fragile, and was able to give us detailed information,” added Jo Appleby, a university lecturer in human bioarchaeology involved in the project.
The DNA tests were conducted with matches from the skeleton – found when archaeologists used ground-penetrating radar – and from Michael Ibsen, a Canadian who is a direct descendent of Richard’s sister Anne of York.
Ibsen, a cabinetmaker, told CNN he reacted with “stunned silence” when told the top-secret results on Sunday. “I never thought I’d be a match, and certainly not that it would be so close, but the results look like a carbon copy,” he said.
Next up for Richard, once his remains are more closely examined: a reburial, this time in Leicester Cathedral, in a memorial service likely to take place early next year.