Is the skeleton really Richard III?

While some argue about where Richard III should be buried, others are still wondering whether the skeleton found in a Leicester carpark is indeed Dickon. In an article posted on BBC’s HistoryExtra online (27 March 2014), Michael Hicks, head of history at the University of Winchester, and Martin Biddle, archaeologist and director of the Winchester Research Unit, raise concerns about the DNA testing, radiocarbon dating and damage to the skeleton. Hicks points out that radiocarbon dating of the bones narrows the date of death to a period of about 80 years–not so precise that it can be said with any assurance that the death occurred at the Battle of Bosworth.


Hicks also points out that mitochondrial DNA is traced through the maternal line, so “the DNA match from the Leicester skeleton could equally be the result of the bones being those of someone descended in the female line from Richard’s mother, Cecily Neville, including her two daughters… or the other daughters of Cecily’s mother, Joan Beaufort, any daughters of her grandmother Katherine Swynford, and so on.”

Martin Biddle would like to see the field records from the dig, and suggests that “something akin to a coroner’s court should be set up to consider all the evidence.”

Philippa Langley, who commissioned and paid for the excavation, replies: “Taking a sceptical view is good for vigorous debate, but to say it cannot be claimed ‘with any confidence’ that this is Richard is quite puzzling. Given the totality of the evidence, it can surely be said with considerable confidence.”

In a poll at the end of the article, over 80% of readers express confidence that the skeleton is indeed Dickon.





One Comment on “Is the skeleton really Richard III?

  1. I’ve followed this discovery as closely as I can from a distance and recently watched the documentary as well. The University of Leicester scientists’ work and assertions are quite convincing although the scholarly scepticism is worth considering. Cheers for this!


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