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Wednesday, 19 September 2012

The day they found King Richard III

A week ago today I was up early 4.30am to be precise. Up early to cover a story which has captured the imagination of the world's press......and at the centre of the story, a location two minutes walk away from the BBC studios.

That's why I was in all alone in a car park at 6.45am, radio car mast up, raring to go on a story which has made my heart sing. Was the body of poor, much maligned Richard III really found under a car park owned by Leicester City Council?



At that stage, we didn't know...the University of Leicester had issued a press release saying human remains had been found at the archeolgical dig hunting for the body of the King, and that there would be a press conference at 11am .

So for my first four pieces on air, all I could do was talk about the dig, describe the three trenches that had been dug by archaeologists,



give a potted history about the King, his last battle and his death, and reiterate that the remains found could be his.

But for the University to hold such a press conference, there had to be some real news, and I was so keen to find out. After eight, I interviewed Sir Peter Soulsby, the City Mayor of Leicester live on air...and all the time we spoke he was grinning from ear to ear with a barely suppressed excitement. He still wouldn't tell me whether it was Richard III 's body which had been found of course, but by now, I couldn't wait for 11am.

Meanwhile, it was still quiet in the car park....Matthew Morrison , the archaeologist who was there when they found the skeleton and a few of his team were there at 8am...but it was the lull before the storm.

Here's the exact spot where the remains were found



By half past ten, the beautiful, mediaeval Guildhall in Leicester was heaving with people, lights, cameras. Most of the daily newspapers had sent down  reporters, TV camera crews were there from all the major news networks here in the UK and from Canada.

A panel of experts, from the University of Leicester , led by Richard Buckley, were on stage to give us the news we had all been waiting for......that the remains appeared to be of an adult male.

The remains were found in the choir of the fransciscan friary, and that the Choir was the area reported in the historical record as the burial place of King Richard III.

There was a pause....then we were told the skeleton appeared to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull consistent with an injury received in battle, and a bladed implement appeared to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull.

Notice, at this stage we were getting a lot of "appeared to", but we were already on the edge of our seats. But Philippa Langley, an author, screnwriter and a member of the Richard III Society, told us, in breathy and emotional tones, that a ballad written just after the Battle of Bosworth claimed that Richard III died after being hit on the head with a poleaxe.

We were also informed that a barbed iron arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back.

And then came the killer line....the skeleton found in the Choir area had spinal abnormalities and the individual would have had severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This was consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard's appearance.

There were audible intakes of breath around the Guildhall, and the panel were grinning. However, the experts are still hedging their bets, saying that they cannot confirm anything until the results of DNA tests.

A direct descendent of Richard III has been found...Michael Ibsen is a seventeenth generation descendent through the female line.....and his DNA tests will be compared to those of the body found under the car park.

I really can't wait to hear the results.

So after the press conference, it was back to the dig in the car park to interview Richard Buckley who is heading the dig and archeologist Matthew Morrison. ...which by now was crowded with people, camera crews, the City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and a couple of his bodyguards..



What a genuinely exciting day it was .....with a 500 year old mystery which is within a whisker of being solved.

Mind you, there's a more modern mystery connected with the find. Since the discovery of the body , there's a new account on twitter @richard_third

I don't know who's writing it, but the tweets are hilarious,  topical and make my day in a surreal sort of way.




There's another question which is already being debated - IF the body IS that of Richard III where should his body be reburied? Many say he should stay here in the Cathedral, a stone's throw away. But after 527 years in Leicester, could it be that Richard III could finally leave the city?

Today's track could be no other than this by Supergrass = Richard III!


  1. No - he should stay in Leicester, with the story of his rediscovery beside his new grave. (You could write that?)

    1. Hi Jo, Yes personally I do feel he should stay here ....but people in York are already saying he should be buried there.

      A fascinating story though, and thanks to the skill of the Leicester University Archaeological Services team.....

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  3. Hi Bridget

    Really enjoyed the blog - really wish i'd been in Leicester more to see it too!!!

    I'd really like him to stay in Leicester. One thing that does pass my mind is where would Richard himself would have wanted to be buried! I can't see that Leicester would have crossed his mind, but for the fact he was here - and probably didn't think to make that choice known! I'm sure he would have wanted to be buried with his wife - which would be York now, but if he had survived the battle, l guess it could have been anywhere where they lived at the time!

    ( Have to say i'm really pleased it was Richard that led the project too. We're lucky he's got such an enthusiasm for all things Leicester and couldn't wish for a better person to find it to become part of the city history too)