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Old Bones

History paints him as the most notorious of English Kings; Richard III. He was defeated in a battle against the man who would become Henry VII on August 22, 1485, at a place in the centre of England called Bosworth Field. King Richard lost the battle, the crown, and his life.

“Richard charged into battle against Henry, nearly mono y mono,” says Richard Mackinder, a historian who has studied that battle thoroughly. “He was driven back, some hundred yards or six hundred yards potentially, from there, back to the marsh where he lost his horse, tried to fight on foot and then was eventually brought down.”

The king’s remains were lost, but this past summer old bones were recovered under a parking lot in the city of Leicester. Some believe they may be the skeleton of King Richard.

“I mean it’s just incredible, absolutely incredible,” says John Ashdown Hill, a historian. Ashdown Hill has also traced a 17th-generation descendent of the king, Canadian furniture-maker Michael Ibsen.

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Richard was buried under the floor of a church that was later destroyed. For generations, his body remained somewhere in Leicester, but his exact location was unknown.

That all changed when the Richard III Society approached the city of Leicester with the idea of digging up a section of a parking lot they believed had been built over the church.

“I made no secret of the fact that it was a million to one chance that we would find the remains of Richard III,” says Richard Buckley, an archaeologist with the University of Leicester.

Within days of digging, bones were found and the team called an expert, Jo Appleby. When she inspected the bones closely, she had a Eureka moment.

“I started to think we might have found the right skeleton,” she says. “As an archaeologist I just don’t expect to find something that obvious most of the time. I was expecting it to be a normal skeleton.”

But what she found was the skeleton of a body with scoliosis, a curved spine, much like historical descriptions of King Richard. But in order to determine if the remains are indeed his, scientists must now compare the DNA of the remains with that of Richard’s living descendent-Canadian Michael Ibsen.

“I’m intrigued and really, utterly fascinated to see what the results will show,” Ibsen says.

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Those results will not be known until the New Year.