The royal tombs of the kings and queens of England are scattered throughout the country’s historic abbeys, churches and cathedrals. The graves of the most notable monarchs are at Windsor Castle in Berkshire and Westminster Abbey in London. Most of the graves of all monarchs are accounted for, except Richard III, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 from a blow to the head with a heavy ax. He was buried in an abbey 20 miles from Leicester, England, which was eventually turned into a parking lot.
Why would a king of England, made famous and infamous by the William Shakespeare play that bears his name, be buried in a parking lot rather than in a famous English abbey or cathedral? Surely, no English monarch would be intentionally buried in an area where cars passed him and parked over one of his corpses. Of course, Richard III was not; he was buried in a place that was turned into a parking lot.
The king’s body was buried the same year he was assassinated, but the location of his body was lost over time. His body lay in the Gray Friars church near his altar in Leicester. Unfortunately, the church was destroyed in the 1530s when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution and destruction of the English monasteries. Then, in 1600, a mansion with a garden was built on top of the demolished Iglesia de los Frailes Grises; However, in 1612, Christopher Wren, a famous English architect, placed a memorial stone over Richard’s corpse in the garden. In 1711, houses began to be built around the mansion. The grounds and gardens were converted to office buildings in 1914. In the 1930s and 1940s, parking lots for office buildings were constructed.
Between 2004 and 2005, an investigation was launched to locate Richard’s body and a search for his current relative. The search for his remains turned into trial and error until 2012, when two exhumations were carried out in the parking lot, using sophisticated ground penetrating radar (GPR). At the end of 2012, his skeletal remains were thoroughly analyzed. The use of forensic facial reconstruction in which the putty is meticulously wrapped around the skull, revealed an exact likeness to Richard’s paintings. Furthermore, the complicated DNA test of Richard’s closest female ancestor from long-lost relatives proved to be a positive match to that of the king’s skeleton.
After further analysis of the skeleton, the spine was curved, confirming what Shakespeare described it as a hunchback. However, the scientists who analyzed the bones claimed that Richard suffered from scoliosis, a lateral or lateral curvature of the spine, which must have caused him a lot of pain. The skull reveals a large hole in the back, which was the fatal blow from a large ax that split it.
Fortunately, Richard’s remains have been correctly reburied in modern Leicester Cathedral in England. Perhaps Richard III can finally rest in peace.
More interesting information can be found in the 2013 edition of “The King’s Grave” by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones, St. Martin Press.