By David Stewart White
"A horse, a horse. My kingdom for a horse." Those were the last words of Richard III according to William Shakespeare's account. The dismounted king was quickly overcome and England's Plantagenet dynasty ended with his death at the Battle of Bosworth.
But there's a new last act to the legendary king's story. On February 4, researchers at the University of Leicester announced conclusive evidence that the bones of Richard III had been positively identified. Their almost-final resting place? Under a parking lot in the central English city.
“We have potentially made one of the greatest medieval discoveries,” claimed University Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Robert Burgess.
The skeleton that Leicester experts unearthed matched much of what was known from historical accounts of the king. Wounds on the bones were consistent with death in battle and the skeleton's curved spine that matched Richard's reported scoliosis. Tests pinned the time of death to the period bracketing the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. But the icing on the archeological cake came when DNA tests on distant descendants matched the unearthed bones.
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley left little doubt. “It is the academic conclusion of the University of Leicester that the individual exhumed at Grey Friars in August 2012 is indeed King Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England.”
Richard III's legacy was clouded. Victorious Tudor forces installed Henry VII on the English throne and the Tudor loyalists denigrated Richard III after his death. William Shakespeare certainly followed this line of thinking—his Richard III was a thoroughly evil king.
Under an agreement between the University, City of Leicester, and the British Ministry of Justice, the bones of the king will be reinterred in nearby Leicester Cathedral.