England’s lost King Richard III may have just been found. For centuries, it has been a mystery where the king, who ruled England from 1483 to 1485, was buried after he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth. Now, a team of scientists plans to announce the results of genetic testing conducted on a body believed to be Richard’s.
According to the Associated Press, scientists from the University of Leicester will make the announcement on Monday.
Why has the king's burial site been unknown for 528 years?
Richard III ruled England during a particularly brutal period known as the War of the Roses, a decades-long struggle between his House of York and the rival Lancasters for the throne. Richard III became king following the death of his brother King Edward IV, and the proclamation that his child, counted in history as Edward V, was not legitimate and thus unable to become king.
Richard III was accused of murdering Edward and his little brother Richard, the "Princes in the Tower," in the Tower of London, the story told in Shakespeare's play. After only two years, he was killed at Bosworth Field by the army of a rival claimant to the throne, Henry Tudor, who took over as Henry VII.
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Richard III was said to have been buried by Franciscan monks at a monastery in Leicester, about 100 miles north of London. However, barely 50 years after Richard III’s death, Henry VIII broke from the Catholic Church and ordered all monasteries in the country dissolved.
Over time, people simply forgot where the monastery in Leicester had been, meaning that Richard III’s remains had seemingly been lost to the ages.
Dedicated teams of historians, scientists, and interested laymen have looked for Richard III’s grave for years, but none had turned up any conclusive evidence. Last September, however, a team from the University of Leicester announced they may have found him after five centuries.
Archaeologists found a body that, by all accounts, lines up almost exactly with historical descriptions of Richard III. The unknown man had clearly been killed in combat, just as Richard III was, as his skull was damaged and an arrowhead was found in the body’s vertebrate.
Archaeologists and fans of Richard III -- who maintain he was maligned by history -- hope that discovery of Richard’s remains will make the king more legitimate in the public’s eye. Lynda Pidgeon of the Richard III Society says that for years, the Tudors had slandered Richard III and made him out to be a villain in English history. It doesn’t hurt, she says, that Henry VII’s son, Henry VIII, was a bit more exciting of a king.
"With Henry VIII you've got six wives, sex and things going on," Pidgeon told the Associated Press. "It's a bit hard to compete with that when you are a bit more straight-laced, as Richard was."