A new project to locate the remains of Richard III has been launched by archaeologists in Leicester.
The team from the University of Leicester and Leicester City Council will excavate a car park on the site where the monarch is thought to have been buried. Following his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, the king’s body was brought to a Franciscan friary, known as Greyfriars, in the city, although the exact location of the grave is no longer known.
Richard Buckley, co-director of the archaeological service at the University of Leicester, said: “The big question for us is determining the whereabouts of the church on the site, and also where in the church the body was buried. Although in many ways finding the remains of the king is a long shot, it is a challenge that we shall undertake enthusiastically.”
The project is the first time that an attempt has been made to discover the grave of an anointed king of England. Working alongside members of the Richard III Society, the team has undertaken map regression analysis to identify likely sites and will use ground penetrating radar (GPR) to locate the best places to excavate.
Philippa Langley, from the society, said: “Richard III is a charismatic figure who attracts tremendous interest. Partly because he has been so much maligned in past centuries, and partly because he occupies a pivotal place in English history.
“The continuing interest in Richard means that many fables have grown up around his grave. Although local people, such as Alderman Herrick in 1612, knew precisely where he was buried – and Herrick was able to show visitors a handsome stone pillar marking the king’s grave in his garden – nevertheless at the same time unlikely stories were spread of Richard’s bones being dug up and thrown into the river Soar. Other fables, equally discredited, claimed that his coffin was used as a horse-trough.”
If remains are discovered that could be those of the king, they will be transferred to experts from the University of Leicester for DNA analysis. Although the site will not be accessible during the project, the team are expected to make regular updates throughout the course of the dig.