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February 04, 2013

Richard III horror story: Axed in head, stabbed in rear, bones dug up

Posted in: Trivia

Richard III's skeleton was found under a parking lot in the town of Leicester. (University of Leicester)

A front view of the skull believed to belong to Richard III. (University of Leicester)

A back view of the skull shows where a sword chipped off part of the bone.(University of Leicester)

This post has been updated. Please see note at the bottom for details.

King Richard III has not been treated well in popular culture, and as the recent discovery of his skeleton shows, he was not treated well in death either.

The skeleton of the  medieval monarch  who was demonized by William Shakespeare, and who also popped up in the 1939 and ’62 horror films “Tower of London,” is missing its feet, and its wrist bones were found close together, suggesting that the hands were tied together when he was buried.

There were 10 wounds discovered on the skeleton, including two deadly blows to the back of the head, one of which sliced part of the skull off. And archaeologists from the University of Leicester, who found the royal skeleton,  say the  corpse was also subjected to “humiliation injuries” including a sword through the right buttock.

Then, a parking lot was built over his final resting place.

On Monday the archaeology team who found the skeleton last summer said they have proved beyond a reasonable doubt that it is indeed the remains of Richard III.

The spine shows clear signs of scoliosis, which fits with the physical description of the king as being hunched over with a raised right shoulder.

Radiocarbon dating places the skeleton bones from 1455 to 1540. King Richard III reportedly died on the battlefield in 1485.

An osteo-archaeologist says the bones belong to a man in his late 20s or early 30s. King Richard was just 32 when he died.

And then there was the DNA test, which compared DNA from the skeleton to two of Richard’s maternal line relatives. It was a match.

The skeleton discovery may prove to be a boon for Richard III’s reputation. The world’s fascination with the king’s bones under the parking lot may provide an opening for another telling of the young king’s life that is more sympathetic than Shakespeare’s ruthless villain.

– Deborah Netburn

[For the Record, 2:54 p.m., Feb. 4:  An earlier version of this story said Richard III's remains were found under a parking garage. They were found under a parking lot.]


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