Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Lost King is Found

A Lost King is Found
NOTE: The final installment of the Wake Island series will be presented on my next blog entry.
Every English monarch has a known burial place.  All save one, that is.  The burial place of Richard III, the last Plantagenet king, has been lost to history - at least until now.
A stained glass in Leicester honoring Richard and his queen
In 1485 Henry Tudor defeated King Richard III at the battle of Bosworth Field.  Richard was killed and his enemies stripped and desecrated his body.  He was the last English monarch to be killed in combat.  The Greyfriars, who were sympathetic to the Yorkist cause, brought his body to Leicester where he was buried under the choir of the Greyfriars Church.  You can read more about Richard and Henry in this earlier blog entry that was presented on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field:

In the late 1530s, Henry VIII seized and broke up the Greyfriars Friary during the dissolution of the monasteries and the break from the Catholic Church.  All Greyfriars property was sold off by the Crown.  Over time the exact whereabouts of the Greyfriars church became lost.

Earlier this month I was excited to learn that my old alma mater, The University of Leicester, was leading a project to determine the exact location of the old Greyfriars Church.  They even had a wild hope that they might discover the lost remains of Richard III.  Two exploratory trenches in a parking lot in Leicester England revealed the walls and floors of a medieval church.  Greyfriars had been found.  With the walls located, the architectural layout was relatively easy to determine. 
The parking lot in Leicester where Greyfriars was thought to be. 
Medieval floor tiles recovered from the Greyfriars site.
Dr.  Richard Buckley tells about the intent of the search and what he hopes to find in this short video.

Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley with a piece of tracery which once held a window.

Is seems that the wild hope my not have been so wild after all.  On September 12th the university announced that a fully articulated male skeleton was found under what would have been the choir area of the church. (The remains were first discovered on September 4th, but the university completed a cursory examination before they announced the find.)  The skull showed signs of lethal trauma from a bladed weapon and an iron arrowhead still remained embedded in one vertebra - plain indicators of death in battle. Furthermore, the skeleton showed clear signs of scoliosis, a spinal condition that Richard was known to have suffered. 

Only extensive laboratory scrutiny and DNA analysis can determine if Richard has actually been found.  I’m proud of the University of Leicester’s archaeology department.  Hats off to Dr. Buckley!  He exhausted all of this historical research before he ever stuck a spade into the soil.  He knew exactly where to dig.  The excavation proceeded quickly and found results swiftly.  The site is sure to yield other data, just as important, about the Greyfriars and their medieval role in Leicestershire.

I’ll be pay close attention to this project.  Should the university make any determination regarding the identity of the remains, I’ll post them here.

Official University of Leicester web site on the project

September 12th announcement about the discovery of remains:

Graphic Art Slide Show inspired by the Greyfriars Project


  1. I like the way you put your historical posts together especially this one about King Charles 111 who is much in the news. I do hope the archaeologists are rewarded for their hard work and it is indeed the Kings remains they have discovered. Thanks for this most interesting post.

    1. Rita, thanks again for your kind words. This is a truly historic find in so many ways. I hope the lab results are in soon.