Richard III facial reconstruction based on the skull found under a car park in Leicester has revealed how the English king may have looked.
The skeleton found in Leicester has been confirmed as that of the king.
The reconstructed face has a slightly arched nose and prominent chin, similar to features shown in portraits of Richard III painted after his death.
Historian and author John Ashdown-Hill said seeing it was “almost like being face to face with a real person”.
The development comes after archaeologists from the University of Leicester confirmed the skeleton found last year was the 15th Century king’s, with DNA from the bones having matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.
Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, at the age of 32 and after just two years on the throne, having been challenged by the forces of Henry Tudor, the future Henry VII.
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, who wrote The Last Days of Richard III, said: “The most obvious features in portraits are the shape of the nose and the chin and both of those are visible in the facial reconstruction.”
Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, originator of the search, said on a Channel 4 documentary earlier: “It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant. I’m sorry but it doesn’t.
“He’s very handsome. It’s like you could just talk to him, have a conversation with him right now.”
Layers of muscle and skin were added by computer to a scan of the skull and the result was made into a three-dimensional plastic model.
Richard III facial reconstruction based on the skull found under a car park in Leicester has revealed how the English king may have looked
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill said: “I had said previously that when I stood by the grave in Leicester that I felt closer to Richard III than I had ever been, but when I saw the facial reconstruction I realised I had been close to a dead Richard III.
“It was just bones, just a body, whereas confronting a facial reconstruction, I felt almost in the presence of a living Richard III.”
The facial reconstruction is particularly important because there are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard III.
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill said: “All the surviving portraits of him – even the very later ones with humped backs and things which were obviously later additions – facially are quite similar [to each other] so it has always been assumed that they were based on a contemporary portrait painted in his lifetime or possibly several portraits painted in his lifetime.”
The Richard III society will officially unveil the reconstruction at 10:00 GMT on Tuesday, at the Society of Antiquaries in London.
It is expected that the reconstruction will be put on public display in future.
Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the skeleton matches that of a descendant of Richard III’s family.
Dr. John Ashdown-Hill said: “We weren’t certain whether the body was Richard III so the facial reconstruction – particularly if it hadn’t been possible to get DNA from the bones – might have been an additional piece of evidence, and still is.”
Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, said: “When the 3D digital bust was complete it was replicated in plastic using a rapid prototyping system and this was painted, prosthetic eyes added and dressed with a wig, hat and clothing.”
Prof. Caroline Wilkinson said the Dundee team artist, Janice Aitken, used the portraits of Richard III at this stage as reference for hair style and color, eye color, skin color and clothing.
“These details are not known from the skeletal remains and are estimated based on the most likely appearance from this period of time,” she said.
The skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.
Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, from the University of Leicester, told a press conference to applause: “Beyond reasonable doubt it’s Richard.”
Richard III, killed in battle in 1485, will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.
Richard Buckley said the bones had been subjected to “rigorous academic study” and had been carbon dated to a period from 1455-1540.
Dr. Jo Appleby, an osteo-archaeologist from the university’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, revealed the bones were of a man in his late 20s or early 30s. Richard III was 32 when he died.
His skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull, at around the time of death. Two of the skull wounds were potentially fatal.
One was a “slice” removing a flap of bone, the other was caused by bladed weapon which went through and hit the opposite side of the skull – a depth of more than 10cm (4ins).
Dr. Jo Appleby said: “Both of these injuries would have caused an almost instant loss of consciousness and death would have followed quickly afterwards.
“In the case of the larger wound, if the blade had penetrated 7 cm into the brain, which we cannot determine from the bones, death would have been instantaneous.”
Other wounds included slashes or stabs to the face and the side of the head. There was also evidence of “humiliation” injuries, including a pelvic wound likely to have been caused by an upward thrust of a weapon, through the buttock.
Richard III was portrayed as deformed by some Tudor historians and indeed the skeleton’s spine is badly curved, a condition known as scoliosis.
However, there was no trace of a withered arm or other abnormalities described in the more extreme characterizations of the king.
Without the scoliosis, which experts believe developed during teenage years, he would have been about 5 ft 8 ins (1.7 m) tall, but the curvature would have made him appear “considerably” shorter.
Dr. Jo Appleby said: “The analysis of the skeleton proved that it was an adult male but was an unusually slender, almost feminine, build for a man.
“Taken as a whole, the skeletal evidence provides a highly convincing case for identification as Richard III.”
The skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III
Richard was a royal prince until the death of his brother Edward IV in 1483. Appointed as protector of his nephew, Edward V, Richard instead assumed the reins of power.
Edward and his brother Richard, known as the Princes in the Tower, disappeared soon after. Rumors circulated they had been murdered on the orders of their uncle.
Challenged by Henry Tudor, Richard III was killed at Bosworth in 1485 after only two years on the throne.
He was given a hurried burial beneath the church of Greyfriars in the centre of Leicester.
Richard Buckley said the grave was clumsily cut, with sloping sides and too short for the body, forcing the head forward.
“There was no evidence of a coffin or shroud which would have left the bones in a more compact position.
“Unusually, the arms are crossed and this could be an indication the body was buried with the wrists still tied,” he added.
Greyfriars church was demolished during the Reformation in the 16th Century and over the following centuries its exact location was forgotten.
However, a team of enthusiasts and historians managed to trace the likely area – and, crucially, after painstaking genealogical research, they found a 17th-generation descendant of Richard’s sister with whose DNA they could compare any remains.
Joy Ibsen, from Canada, died several years ago but her son, Michael, who now works in London, provided a sample.
The researchers were fortunate as, while the DNA they were looking for was in all Joy Ibsen’s offspring, it is only handed down through the female line and her only daughter has no children. The line was about to stop.
But the University of Leicester’s experts had other problems.
Dr. Turi King, project geneticist, said there had been concern DNA in the bones would be too degraded: “The question was could we get a sample of DNA to work with, and I am extremely pleased to tell you that we could.”
She added: “There is a DNA match between the maternal DNA of the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains we found at the Greyfriars dig.
“In short, the DNA evidence points to these being the remains of Richard III.”
In August 2012, an excavation began in a city council car park – the only open space remaining in the likely area – which quickly identified buildings connected to the church.
The bones were found in the first days of the dig and were eventually excavated under forensic conditions.
Details of the reburial ceremony have yet to be released, but Philippa Langley from the Richard III Society said plans for a tomb were well advanced.
She said of the discovery of Richard’s skeleton: “I’m totally thrilled, I’m overwhelmed to be honest, it’s been a long hard journey. I mean today as we stand it’s been nearly four years.
“It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work. I think, as someone said to me earlier, it’s just the end of the beginning.
“We’re going to completely reassess Richard III, we’re going to completely look at all the sources again, and hopefully there’s going to be a new beginning for Richard as well.”