Richard III: Skeleton in Leicester car park confirmed as much-maligned monarch
Mercury reporter Peter Warzynski, who spent eight days with the academics involved in the Richard III project, describes the moment we learned the skeleton in the car park was the king.
"Ladies and Gentlemen. It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Grey Friars, Leicester, in August, 2012, is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England."
Those were the confident words of lead archaeologist Richard Buckley as he confirmed to the world's media yesterday that the skeleton found beneath the Grey Friars car park was the king.
In an hour-long presentation of facts, evidence and analysis, Mr Buckley and the university team explained the scientific process which led them to their amazing conclusion.
"Rarely have the conclusions of academic research been so eagerly awaited," he said.
A room packed wall to wall with 140 journalists, camera crews and photographers from around the globe, proved he was right.
The Church of England also confirmed the remains are to be interred at Leicester Cathedral.
The world's press heard the evidence of Richard III's curved spine and "gracile" (slender) appearance – which worried archaeologists, who admitted they believed the remains could have been female.
"People think we've known the skeleton's identity for months," said the university's deputy registrar, Richard Taylor.
"But the honest truth is we only found out he was male about a week-and-a-half ago."
Dr Jo Appleby, who exhumed the skeleton, spoke about the battle scars, which included "humiliation injuries" caused after death – the most prominent being signs that a sword was thrust through Richard III's right buttock after death. Richard Buckley described the hastily-dug grave and evidence that Richard's hands were bound when he was buried.
Speaking yesterday, Philippa Langley, of the Richard III Society, which launched the project, said: "The discovery of King Richard III is nothing short of miraculous, an emotional link to a bygone age. This historic moment represents the culmination of an extraordinary four-year quest to uncover the real Richard III.
"Today, that dream has been realised."
Michael Ibsen, the 17th great grandnephew of the Yorkist king, was stunned by the whole affair and only saw the remains of his ancient ancestor for the first time yesterday.
"To think there's part of me in this man lying in front of me, it is too amazing for words," he said.
The media was also given the opportunity to view the 528-year-old royal remains, which looked brittle and worn as they lay on a black velvet cloth beneath a glass case in a private room.
Visitors viewed the skeleton of Richard III in silence.
It was the result the project team had been looking for since they first dug up the city council car park in New Street, Leicester, last August.
The skeleton was found almost immediately and exhumed on September 5, before undergoing thorough scientific scrutiny at the university.
Leicester's Canon Chancellor David Monteith confirmed the Church of England would welcome the remains into the city's cathedral – just a few steps from where the Plantagenet king was unearthed.
However, they first need permission from the Cathedrals Fabric Commission of England, which oversees work to church buildings, and English Heritage before erecting a final resting place for the medieval monarch.
The Richard III Society has designed a tomb which they hope will placed in the cathedral. Canon Chancellor Monteith said: "They've registered their interest in providing a tomb, but we will want to consult with a number of designers before making a decision."
The exhumation licence from the Ministry of Justice, which the university obtained before the excavation, confirms the remains will be buried at Leicester Cathedral.
City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said it would be at least a year before the interment was possible, but guaranteed it would go ahead.
"All the necessary arrangements are in place and there's no mechanism available which can alter that decision," said Sir Peter.
The university will keep the bones until the interment.
The project, which cost £35,000, was apparently saved from collapse when members of the Richard III Society managed to raise £10,000 to keep the dig going.
Society secretary Philippa said: "To those around the world who saved the Greyfriars dig from disaster and cancellation, you gave us our mandate when you said, 'search for him, find him, honour him'.
"It is now time to fulfil this mandate and honour this much-maligned monarch with a reburial that befits a king, and a total reassessment of his life and times.
"This is the stuff of legends."
Closing the press conference, Richard Taylor, said: "This is the university that gave the world DNA fingerprinting.
"Now this is the university that has discovered King Richard III."