ON THE streets of Leicester, the most frequently heard comment
from bystanders has been: "There'll never be anything like this
In the ranks of the Richard III Society - founded in 1924 to
secure a more balanced assessment of Richard's reputation - and in
the University of Leicester, the finding, verification, and now
reburial of the king's remains evokes words such as "incredible"
and "amazing", even from those experts who have been with the
project from the start.
Professor Kevin Schürer, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University,
and a genealogy expert, described Sunday, when the remains were
handed over to the cathedral, as "the biggest day in the University
and the city's history".
Speaking at a press conference on Monday, he marvelled at the
"sheer interest and fascination of the public and the media" in the
story and the science. One of those present at the coffining of the
bones - a quiet, reverent and private ceremony of witness attended
by representatives of all the key groups involved in the project,
he said: "You can't help being astounded that you are standing next
to Richard III."
Dr Turi King, the geneticist who carried out the DNA analysis,
said: "We were assured we would never find Richard III." Reports
that the king's body had been thrown into the Soar in 1538, when
the Greyfriars Priory was demolished in the Dissolution, were
proved to be unfounded by John Ashdown-Hill, a historian of the
late-medieval period, in 2004. One of the figures depicted on the
pall, he had begun the previous year to seek the mitochondrial DNA
sequence shared by the king and his siblings, and announced the
result in 2005.
Forensic pathology, bone analysis, radiocarbon dating,
genealogy, and DNA research all contributed to the University's
conclusion in 2014 that it was 99.999 per cent certain that the
bones were indeed the king's. In 2013, a computer scan of the skull
led to craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, and
a three-dimensional plastic model was unveiled by the Richard III
Society at the Society of Antiquaries in London.
The "sheer bloody-mindedness" of Philippa Langley, secretary of
the Scottish branch, and ardent defender of Richard III, was
acknowledged with admiration at the Society's press conference on
Monday as the trigger for the excavation. She is also depicted on
the pall, as the one who raised the money for the excavation and
then organised it. Recalling 2012, she said: "The first time I
stood in that car park, the strangest feeling washed over me. I
thought, 'I am standing on Richard's grave.'"
"That we actually found the king still seems unbelievable,"
representatives of the Society (membership of which has doubled
since 2012) told the press. The Society's chairman, Dr Phil Stone,
who is also depicted on the pall, emphasised the importance of the
craniofacial reconstruction and the analysis of the bones in
proving that Richard was not a hunchback, a deformity associated
with inner evil, the evidence of a twisted soul.
The Society declared itself on Monday to be "lovers of the
underdog, of people who have been done down".
Richard's descendants - Michael Ibsen, son of Joy Ibsen, the
king's 16th-generation grand-niece - and Wendy Duldig, both spoke
of the extraordinary experience of discovering they were related to
the monarch. "When we saw the cortège for the first time, and saw
and felt how Richard had been embraced by the people, a shiver went
down the spine," Mrs Duldig said.
Mr Ibsen, who hand-carved the coffin, observed: "Even though I
made it, I was still taken aback when I saw it reflected in the
Reverence and respect have surrounded the remains since their
retrieval. The last object to be laid in the coffin was a piece of
unbleached linen, embroidered with boars, white roses, and
consecration crosses by Elizabeth Nokes, secretary of the Richard
III Society's London branch. An honour guard of military veterans
stands by the coffin until it is put into the tomb on Thursday.