Richard III: Family reunion with a difference as Michael Ibsen ‘meets’ 528-year-old distant relative...
It's not every day you get the chance to come face-to-face with a 528-year-old distant relative.
But the 17th great grandnephew of Richard III, Canadian-born Michael Ibsen, did just that at the unveiling of the anatomical bust of his royal ancestor in London yesterday.
The Richard III Society officially revealed the reconstructed face at the Society of Antiquaries, in Piccadilly – although the likeness had been seen by about 3.2 million people the night before during the Channel 4 documentary, The King in the Car Park.
It followed the announcement on Monday which confirmed the Grey Friars remains found in August were those of the last Plantagenet king.
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Michael, who has a furniture workshop in London, said: "It's very bizarre and I know it sounds quite spooky, but he looks like someone I know. It's no-one in the family, but I feel like I know him.
"It's strange to see the face of a man, a relative of mine, who died so violently on the battlefield.
"There's no indication of that in his appearance."
Michael, who had been part of the Grey Friars project from the start, saw the remains for the first time on Monday.
"The new bust has quite a dignified face, and looks quite masculine," he said. "When you compare that with the skeletal remains it's a bit of a contrast because they're almost feminine.
"With the skeleton, you're standing there in front of something that was once Richard III – but even then the bones are somewhat anonymous.
"With the face you can at least imagine a real person.
"What would be really interesting is to see a whole body reconstruction."
The likeness was created by Professor Caroline Wilkinson, of the University of Dundee.
The process involved using a computer image of the skull – which had been CT scanned – adding muscle and tissue to the bones to give an accurate likeness of the medieval monarch.
"There's less than 2mm of error," said Janice Aitkin, who represented the university at the press conference.
"What that means is that when we've tested previous reconstructions against the actual person, the degree of error in the amount of skin and tissue is less than 2mm – which is not enough to change someone's appearance.
"We can say that this is what Richard III would have looked like."
The bust will remain with the Richard III Society until the completion of Leicester City Council's dedicated visitor centre at the old Leicester Grammar School building, in Peacock Lane, which is due to open sometime next year.
Society chairman Dr Phil Stone said the bust may spend some time in York in the meantime, but nothing had been confirmed.
Sarah Levitt, head of arts and museums services for the city council, was also at the unveiling.
She said: "This will have pride of place in our visitor centre giving pleasure and joy to hundreds of people."
Author and historian Annette Carson, who wrote Richard: The Maligned King, explained that the only surviving images of Richard, painted after his death at Bosworth in 1485, were unlikely to be entirely accurate.
She said: "It's fascinating to see the face. The historical portraits, especially the 1510 version, were altered later to give Richard the appearance of having more lines in the face, thin, clenched lips, narrow eyes and, of course, a hunch.
"But they were all added to show him as being more unpleasant."