It’s been more than 500 years since he died, but England’s notorious King Richard III now appears to have a final resting place. He was entombed Thursday during a service attended by current Royals in the central English town of Leicester, not far from where his body was uncovered recently after being forgotten for centuries in an unmarked grave.
White flowers, a family symbol, sat atop his casket as it was brought into Leicester Cathedral. The deposed monarch’s coffin, made of English oak, was engraved with only brief details of his life: “Richard III, 1452-1485”.
Canadian cabinetmaker Michael Ibsen, 58, crafted the casket, and it was his DNA that had been used to determine if the remains found under a parking lot in 2012 were indeed Richard’s. Ibsen is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson of Richard III’s mother, Cecily Neville.
Archaeologists who discovered bones noticed an unusually curved spine, a characteristic that may have prompted old descriptions of the king as being a hunchback. They also discovered grave wounds to his skull, which matched accounts of how he died.
Queen Elizabeth’s daughter-in-law, the Countess of Wessex, who is married to her son, Edward, was the most senior royal to attend the service. Several other peers and actor Benedict Cumberbatch also were at the service. Cumberbatch read a poem written in honor of the king. He has also been identified as a distant relative of Richard’s third cousin, 16 times removed and has been selected to portray the king in an upcoming BBC production about the War of the Roses.
Richard III died 530 years ago during that war in the Battle of Bosworth Field outside Leicester. His family, the Yorks, were engaged in a 30-year conflict with the House of Lancaster, which eventually won and began the Tudor dynasty.
After Richard’s death, he was hastily buried by Franciscan friars and vilified over the following centuries. William Shakespeare’s Richard III written in 1592 describes him as a “poisonous bunch-back’d toad,” though it should be noted the playwright had Queen Elizabeth I, a Tudor, as a patron. The king was also have said to have been behind the murder his two young nephews, who were in the line of succession and later became known as the Princes in the Tower. It was also claimed he ordered other close relatives and noblemen to be summarily hanged or beheaded.
In recent years The Richard III Society, which is dedicated to researching his life and times, not only supported the dig to find his remains, but has also been trying to rehabilitate his image.