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Richard III grave 'untidy,' too small, researchers say (VIDEO)


The skeleton identified as belonging to King Richard III, showing the deformity of his spine.


University of Leicester

There was no eternal resting place for King Richard III.

New research published on Friday in the journal Antiquity says the medieval English king's grave was too small, his body was at an “odd position” and his hands might have been tied. The grave was prepared quickly or without care, the article says.

That, the academics explain, is because his corpse was stripped naked and paraded to Leicester.

“The haste may partially be explained by the fact that Richard’s damaged body had already been on public display for several days in the height of summer, and was thus in poor condition,” the paper says.

The research comes after archeologists found a gravesite last August at what was once the medieval Grey Friars church in Leicester, destroyed by Henry VIII – and now a Leicester City Council parking lot.

DNA testing in February confirmed the remains belonged to Richard, the last king from the House of York who died in 1485 during the War of the Roses; he was the last British king to die in battle.

The paper reveals that the ruler's grave was too short for him and had an untidy “lozenge” shape, with the bottom of the grave much smaller than it was at ground level.

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The skull was propped up against one corner of the grave, suggesting the gravediggers had made no attempt to rearrange the body once it had been lowered.

There were also no signs of a shroud or coffin, according to a university statement.

This is in stark contrast to the other medieval graves found in the town, which were the correct length and were dug neatly with vertical sides.

This may show that the gravediggers were in a hurry to put the body in the ground – or had little respect for the deceased.

This is in keeping with accounts from the medieval historian Polydore Vergil, who said Richard III was buried “without any pomp or solemn funeral.”

Richard, the “hunchback king,” died fighting Henry Tudor’s armies during the civil war. He was a divisive figure in history, famously described in Shakespeare’s Richard III as a murderous tyrant “deform’d” and “unfinished.” He suffered from scoliosis.

Others suggest he was wrongly vilified and may have actually overcome a disability.

“It demonstrates a strength of character in Richard, that despite that he had this problem, he still rode, he could still fight, he could still lead in battle,” Wendy Moorhen of the Richard III Society told Live Science.

Richard was further maligned in death, the new research says. He suffered two fatal blows to the back of the neck and several “humiliation” wounds inflicted after his killers stripped him of his armor.

He had facial, rib and buttock injuries delivered post-mortem.

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