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Literary expert: Shakespeare backlash expected

The remains of Richard III, uncovered in a council car park in Leicester. Credit: PA

"A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" is Richard III's famous cry in Shakespeare's tragedy about the monarch, but there may be a backlash against the bard now it has been revealed he presented an inaccurate physical portrayal of the king, according to one expert.

Today's evidence suggests Richard III's disability was not as severe as suggested in the play, which tells of a monarch blighted by deformity, including details of a pronounced hunchback and withered arm.

Professor Philip Schwyzer, an expert in renaissance literature at the University of Exeter, predicted a surge in interest in the play, but said he also expected criticism of the great writer:

"Shakespeare's physical description of the king sets up a sort of 'chicken and egg' scenario," he said. "Richard III says he cannot prove himself a lover because of his deformity, so he will prove himself a villain.

"Shakespeare poses the question of which came first - is he villainous because of his deformity, or does the deformity emphasise his mental characteristics? Whatever the results of today's findings, the mysteries of Richard III are far from solved."

Richard III: How researchers know it is him

  • The skeleton had suffered severe trauma to the skull and had metal arrow in its back
  • It had a curved spine, consistent with accounts of Richard III's appearance
  • The remains were found in the area where the king was recorded to have been buried after his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
  • DNA taken from the skeleton has been analysed and compared with that of Michael Ibsen, a descendant of Richard III's family.
  • Radiocarbon tests and genealogical studies have taken place


  1. Central

'We have searched for Richard and we have found him'

"Wow, today marks the culmination of an extraordinary journey of discovery.

We have searched for Richard and we have found him, now it is time to honour him."

– Philippa Langley, Richard III Society

She describes how it was a near-miss. The dig almost got cancelled because one of the funding bodies pulled out.

The tomb design will be revealed in the next few weeks.

DNA tests prove Richard III is car park king

Tests that prove Richard III, the last Plantagenet monarch, has been found in a car park behind social services offices in Leicester, were "beyond reasonable doubt", lead archaeologist Richard Buckley told reporters today.

Detailing the extensive research that proves the remains belong to the late king, the city's university researchers revealed that his skull was covered in wounds inflicted at the time of death, he suffered scoliosis and - consistent with accounts of Richard III - had an effeminate build.

Archaeologists previously said there was strong circumstantial evidence to suggest the exhumed bones are those of the king but did not want to make any academic decision before the skeleton was subjected to a number of tests.

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