Richard III: Being a part of history

Members of the Richard III project team reflect on what the project meant to them

The archaeological dig for Richard III and the ensuing discovery, research and reinterment has proved to be defining in the lives of all those involved in the project.

Here, a number of those involved in the project from the University of Leicester describe what it has meant to them:

Dr Jo Appleby, Lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology

‘The discovery of Richard III happened when I was very new to Leicester and, on a personal level it has enabled me to make many lasting research connections and friendships amongst the team. It was a truly special experience to be part of something so significant, and especially to be there for the reinterment service which was so beautifully put together by Leicester Cathedral.’

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Mathew Morris, Archaeologist who found the remains of Richard III:

'Nearly three years after the discovery, it still seems improbable that we succeeded in finding Richard III. Projects such as this are once in a lifetime and it has been an honour to be involved. Re-writing history is exciting and it is humbling to see how much interest people around the world have taken in our search. I’m glad we didn’t disappoint.'

Leon Hunt, Archaeologist, ULAS:

‘All archaeological projects have a beginning, a middle and an end. I was there right at the very beginning of the work, there during the excavations and I was there at the Cathedral at the very end.

'The reburial ceremony was important to me as it felt as if the work was finally reaching its conclusion, and the person that had played a significant part in our lives for the last 3-4 years could finally be laid to rest. It felt as if we were saying ‘thank you’ to him for changing our lives. Considering how he met his end and the recent political toing and throwing over his remains, the section of the Sikh hymn ‘The Lord Himself has eliminated your enemies, and your misfortunes are past’, seemed oddly moving.’

Professor Guy Rutty, forensic pathologist:

‘I was only there for a small bit but it was an honour to be part of the team and to be part of this historic event.’

Professor Lin Foxhall, School of Archaeology and Ancient History:

‘This project has been a paradigm for collaborative academic research across disciplines at the highest level. But, what really really brought this home to me was to see how much it meant to such a wide range of people. When we proceeded from the Guildhall to Leicester Cathedral the crowds in the streets cheered and applauded. How often does that happen to an academic research team?’

Professor Sarah Hainsworth, Professor of Materials and Forensic Engineering:

‘For me, the Richard III project has been an amazing opportunity to apply techniques from modern forensic engineering science to the mystery surrounding the death of a 500-year-old king.  The marks on the skeleton that showed the killing blows were fascinating, and the fact that the microscopic striations from the edge of the bladed weapon used to create some of the injuries to the skull had persisted over this length of time was remarkable.    Existing collaborations within the University have flourished and new collaborations and friendships have been developed.  I have given talks all over the UK and also internationally to special interest groups and schools, and I am fascinated by the level of interest that has arisen in a historical figure that I knew little about before I started working on this project.  The Open Day at the University on the 21st March 2015 was incredible: Engineering alone had well over 1000 visitors. My colleagues in the Department of Engineering showed how the medieval period “arms race” between arrows and armour led to new developments in materials and technology.  The 3D micro-CT image reconstructions showed the full extent of the injuries to the skull.  The service at the University on 22nd March was special, not just because I had the opportunity to read some of the service but also because I was able to share it with my parents, husband and children.  The response of the people of Leicester and Leicestershire on the route for King Richard’s procession was overwhelming and the number of people queueing outside the cathedral showed the incredible impact that this project has had.  I am both proud and humbled to have been a part of it.’

David Baldwin, Historian:

‘The discovery was a vindication of my belief, first published in the Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society in 1986, that the King's remains had not been exhumed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries but were still buried on the site of the Grey Friary. I've been fascinated by Richard III for nearly sixty years, and being a part of the discovery and reinterment has provided some of the most moving moments of my life.'

Stephen Foster, Chaplain:

‘It was a real privilege and a pleasure to work with, and alongside, a great team here at the University in what proved to be a most memorable and unique occasion. In all our lifetimes nothing like this will ever take place again, and in the ‘doing of it’ alongside the other teams involved from the Cathedral, City and County, it has enhanced the reputation of each of these ‘places’ no-end in the eyes of the nation if not the world. But more importantly, we have played our part in enabling Leicester to never be the same place again and for the good of all.’

Carl Vivian – Video Producer

‘The search and discovery of Richard III has been an extraordinary adventure and part of why it has been so unique is the fact that the archaeologists and scientists have allowed every step of the journey to be filmed and photographed, so everyone can see and share the moments of each discovery being made. I’m really proud of the visual legacy we’ve made and the part it plays in telling the story.’

Ather Mirza, Director of the News Centre

'The success of the Richard III project from a media point of view stems from the excellent teamwork between the professional and academic communities. It has been memorable working with such excellent colleagues and the plaudits from the media – describing it as the best media operation of any university in the UK ever – are a testament to our combined efforts that yielded such impressive results. It was amazing not simply to recount the powerful narratives that emerged through the years, but also to become a part of those narratives.'

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