Historic search for King Richard III begins in Leicester

Posted by pt91 at Aug 24, 2012 12:05 AM |
First ever archaeological search for the grave of an anointed King of England to begin on anniversary of his burial
Historic search for King Richard III begins in Leicester

Portrait of Richard III.


Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 24 August 2012

Media event with photo/interview opportunities from 6.45am- 11am  on Friday 24 August  onwards at Greyfriars Car Park, Leicester including:

- Archaeologists on site, with GPR Survey underway

- Expert commentators available

- Live re-enactors in battle armour

- Genetic Descendent of Richard III on site

- Resources from the Richard III Society

- Media resource

- Images

- Video interview with archaeologist Richard Buckley

Full details of contact spokespeople; photo and film opportunities and location details at end of this release

The University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, in association with the Richard III Society, have joined forces to begin a search for the mortal remains of King Richard III.

On Saturday 25 August 2012 – five hundred years after King Richard III was buried in Leicester - the historic archaeological project will begin with the aim of discovering whether Britain’s last Plantagenet King lies buried in Leicester City Centre.

The project represents the first ever search for the lost grave of an anointed King of England.

A media event will launch the project and introduce the team on Friday 24 August from 6.45am –11.00 at Greyfriars Car Park, New Street, Leicester LE1 5PH. 

In 1485 King Richard III was defeated at the battle of Bosworth. His body, stripped and despoiled, was brought to Leicester where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as the Greyfriars. Over time the exact whereabouts of the Greyfriars became lost.

Led by University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), experts will be seeking to locate the Greyfriars site and discover whether the remains of Richard III may still be found.

Richard Buckley, Co-Director of the Archaeology Service at the University of Leicester, said: “The big question for us is determining the whereabouts of the church on the site and also 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."    

The project's small but dedicated team has undertaken map regression analysis to identify the likely site of the church where Richard was buried - currently in use as a car park for council offices. Ground Penetrating Radar is being employed to help find the best places to cut into the ground.

Councillor Piara Singh Clair, Assistant Mayor for Culture, Leisure and Sports, said: “Richard III is a key figure in the region’s history. This is an exciting opportunity potentially to discover a missing piece of our historical jigsaw.”

Philippa Langley, screenwriter and member of the Richard III Society, is one of the guiding lights behind the project. She said:  "This search for Richard's grave is only one aspect of the on-going 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. A filmed record will be made of the entire historic project.”

Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University of Leicester, added:

“If remains are found that are suspected to be those of Richard III, they will be subject to DNA analysis at the University of Leicester where DNA ‘fingerprinting’ was originally discovered.

“As one of Europe's oldest cities, the story of Leicester is a long and complex one, with people from many different cultures having shaped the urban fabric and contributed to arts, industry and politics on a national and international level.  The University of Leicester, working in partnership with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society, is proud to have a role in telling this story, employing its expertise in archaeology, history and genetics.”

• Visitors are not able to view the dig once it commences, as it is taking place at an operational council area and is not publicly accessible. In addition, the possibility of finding human remains requires maintaining a 'clean site'. However, plans are under discussion to invite visitors towards the end of the dig. Information will be posted on partner websites.


*Media launch on 24 August for interviews with the team of project experts as the Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey gets under way. 

Media are invited to attend between 06.45-11.00 for interviews and filming opportunities

The location to go to is:  Greyfriars Car Park, New Street, Leicester LE1 5PH.

Media requiring parking should use the car park at St Martins House, 7 Peacock Lane, Leicester, LE1 5PZ. Once parked, turn left out of the car park; take the first right onto New Street; then first left into Greyfriars Car Park.

Details of photo opportunities: Ground Penetrating Radar Survey, archaeologists marking up the site for trenching, medieval combat specialists showing the physicality of a medieval knight, Michael Ibsen, representing the Canadian family that hold King Richard’s mtDNA sequence, will be a physical reminder of King Richard, together with the team of experts behind the project.

Resources from the Richard III Society with details of why we are doing the dig here; Richard III history; the man and the myth; FAQs: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jfa3r5f298ccnqq/NuvyejKB7h

Press pack with timeline; details of Richard III’s connections with Leicester; details of research team: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/1fmrc93qzdm4ddd/XVzV8houv_

Images available at: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/562xi0k8nqhrgzq/iScFdHlg1H

Video interview with archaeologist Richard Buckley: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpkzuIj7BMk


• Richard Buckley, University of Leicester Archaeological Services: email rjb16@le.ac.uk

• Philippa Langley, Richard III Society, email: info@philly.co.uk

University of Leicester Press liaison contacts:

• Peter Thorley on 0116 252 2415 email pt91@le.ac.uk

• University of Leicester Media contact on Friday August 24: Ather Mirza  07711 927821


  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society.  The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.

Share this page:

Older press releases

For press releases issued before 4 October 2010, please visit the old eBulletin site.

Get in touch

T: +44 (0)116 252 2160
E: press@le.ac.uk

The Press Office is open 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

For general enquiries about the University, contact the main switchboard on +44 (0)116 252 2522.