Spero News

Experts reveal reconstructed face of Richard III
Tuesday, February 05, 2013
by Martin Barillas

Experts have revealed that far from being the freak depicted by Shakepeare’s play about the fated king, a facial reconstruction based on the skull of Richard III has revealed a face that not only a mother could love. This came after archaeologists from England’s University of Leicester confirmed that a skeleton found in 2012 under a public parking lot belonged to the 15th century monarch who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 at the age of 32. DNA evidence taken from the remains showed a match with known co-lineal descendants of the dead king’s sister who are now living.

Dr . John Ashdown-Hill, who wrote The Last Days of Richard III, said of the facial reconstruction, "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." Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society, who originated the search for the king,  said in a television documentary aired in the UK, "It doesn't look like the face of a tyrant. I'm sorry but it doesn't.” She added, "He's very handsome. It's like you could just talk to him, have a conversation with him right now."

Experts did a scan of the skull found at the ruined Greyfriars monastery in Leicester under a car park. It had been known that the Yorkist king, felled in battle with rival Tudors, was buried in a chapel. To reveal the king’s features, layers of muscle and skin were added by computer to the skull scan. Afterwards, a 3-D plastic model was made. The skin and hair color were based on portraits of the king that were, however, not contemporaneous. There are no surviving contemporary portraits of Richard III.

Dr. Ashdown-Hill said of the reconstruction,  "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."

Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, said "It was a great privilege to be able to analyse a skull thought to be Richard III.  The facial reconstruction was produced on the assumption that the remains were unknown and portraits of Richard III were not used as reference.”

Wilkinson said that a 3D digital bust was made first and then replicated using a rapid prototyping system. To this were added prosthetic eyes, a wig, hat and clothing.

The skeletal remains found at the Greyfriars site were of a youngish male about 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a marked curvature of the spine. He appears to have had part of his skull sliced off, possibly by a sword. There were other wounds as well, testimony to the violence associated with royal succession in the 15th century. 

Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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