Archaeologists are hoping to find the lost grave of a medieval monarch in a dig which began this week. Emma Sword reports.
It’s believed to be the first ever archaeological search for the lost grave of an anointed King of England.
Experts from the University of Leicester have begun their quest to find the site of a church in the city where it is believed King Richard III was buried more than 500 years ago.
It is thought the remains of the church may be on land currently being used as a car park for council offices.
King Richard III, the last Plantagenet, ruled England from 1483 until he was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
It is believed his body was stripped and despoiled and brought to Leicester, where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as Greyfriars.
But the exact whereabouts of the church have become lost over time and it is rumoured the monarch’s bones could have been thrown in to the River Soar after the dissolution of the monasteries.
Experts are hoping to dispel the rumours and uncover the site of the church and the monarch’s remains.
Richard Buckley, co-director of the archaeology service at the university, said: “The big question for us is determining the whereabouts of the church on the site, and 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 we shall undertake enthusiastically.
“There is certainly potential for the discovery of burials within the area, based on previous discoveries and the postulated position of the church.”
If remains are found, they will undergo DNA analysis at the university to confirm whether they are those of Richard III.
The Richard III Society, which promotes research into the medieval monarch, has been involved in the project.
Philippa Langley, from the society, said: “This search for Richard’s grave is only one aspect of the ongoing research effort to discover the real Richard III.
“After his defeat his reputation suffered enormous disparagement at the hands of his opponents and successors, the Tudors. The challenge lies in uncovering the truth behind the myths.
“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 like 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.
“This archaeological work offers a golden opportunity to learn more about medieval Leicester as well as about Richard III’s last resting place.
‘‘And, if he is found, to re-inter his remains with proper solemnity in Leicester Cathedral.”