LONDON (Reuters) - A 500-year-old mystery of where England’s King Richard III was buried after his death in battle may finally be about to be solved as archaeologists prepare to search for his bones beneath a city centre parking lot.
A team from the University of Leicester starts excavation work on Saturday at the car park, where a Franciscan friary known as Greyfriars housed the monarch’s remains after he died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 - the last English king to die in battle.
“The chances of getting the Greyfriars are about 80 percent. As for Richard III, it’s a real long shot,” said the university’s Richard Buckley.
“Not only have we got to find the Greyfriars building, but we’ve also got to find the precise spot where he was buried,” added Buckley, co-director of the university’s Archaeological Services.
He likened the two-week excavation work to a game of battleships, where archaeologists divide the car park into squares and pick a location in the hopes of hitting the right spot.
“It’s very much pot luck in a sense, in that you dig a trench and you may find all sorts of things,” he added.
Archaeologists have access to Richard III’s DNA after swab samples were taken on Friday from a direct descendant of the king’s sister, Canadian-born Michael Ibsen.
If any of the king’s remains are found, they will be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, just a few steps away from the excavation site.
Bosworth Field is around 14 miles (25 km) away from Leicester in central England and Richard is one of just a few English kings whose final resting place is unknown.
Richard, who only reigned for two years, was portrayed as a power-hungry hunchback in one of William Shakespeare’s most famous plays, “The Tragedy of King Richard the Third.”
His most infamous reputed deed was the murder of two young prices in the Tower of London.
Richard was crowned at Westminster Abbey in July 1483 and died fighting his enemies led by Henry Tudor.
He was the last Plantagenet king and was followed by the Tudor kings Henry VII and Henry VIII.
“If we find him, we’ll be able to answer of all those questions: his height, what his build was and obviously how he died,” said Philippa Langley, secretary of the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society, who is part of the excavation team.
“We know the research tells us we’re in the right place, but as with anything else in archaeology, you’re not going to know until you cut the ground.” (Reporting by Karolin Schaps; Editing by Steve Addison)