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Discovery heralds the last chapter of Richard

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 18, 2012

  • Excavation site director Mathew Morris at the area of the dig in Leicester where he found the bones that are believed to be those of Richard III

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A Westcountry academic is busily rewriting his forthcoming book after archaeologists unearthed what could be the remains of King Richard III.

The University of Exeter's professor of renaissance literature, Philip Schwyzer, has been working on the text – Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III – for the last five years.

It explores the history of the king's missing body and how the traditions surrounding it might have influenced Shakespeare's play.

But just weeks before his deadline, Professor Schwyzer has been forced into making significant amendments following a major discovery under a Leicester car park.

Archaeologists searching for the lost grave of King Richard III unearthed a skeleton with a metal arrow in its back which they believe could be the remains of the medieval monarch.

"Most of all I am relieved it has happened now," Professor Schwyzer said. "I am about to send my book to the publisher.

"It is tremendously exciting. I think it is probably true that it is him and we are now just waiting for the DNA tests."

The skeleton was found in what is believed to be the choir of the Grey Friars church, which is believed to be the burial site of the monarch according to historical records.

The skeleton has a curved spine, consistent with reports of the monarch's appearance.

Professor Schwyzer said the discovery, if confirmed as Richard III, would "end of a lot of theories".

"It was a popular belief for hundreds of years that on the dissolution of the Grey Friars Priory his body was dug up, dragged through the streets of Leicester and then thrown in the River Soar," he added.

"It is a version Shakespeare knew of and that is why there are so many images of water burial in Richard III.

"The main thing people remember about Richard III's death isn't 'A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse' but the way in which he was treated after his death.

"He was stripped naked, his body was beaten, his body was thrown on the back of a horse, paraded and then put on display.

"It was unthinkable for that to have happened to a king and yet Shakespeare completely ignores it. When Richard dies on stage nobody says anything about it or what will happen with his body."

The DNA from the skeleton will be analysed and compared with that of Michael Ibsen, a descendant of Richard III.

Mr Ibsen, 55, lives in London but was born in Canada to Joy Ibsen, a direct descendent of the King's eldest sister Anne of York.

DNA has been taken from the furniture maker, whose mother was the 16th generation niece of Richard III, and this will be now be compared to samples taken from the skeleton. The results of the tests could take up to 12 weeks to be completed.

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