Leicestershire YAC and Richard III

With the discovery of King Richard III in Leicester, Leicestershire YAC members have had a unique opportunity to learn about the life and death of England’s last medieval King. In 2012, and again in 2013, we were given exclusive tours of the excavations that found the King and the lost friary in which he was buried. Leicestershire YAC leader Stephen Bell explains what the club have been up to…

Archaeological detective work

In 2013, Mathew Morris (the archaeologist who found Richard III and one of our club leaders) led a meeting exploring what was discovered during the 2012 excavation and how this helped to identify the bones found in the car park as those of the last Plantagenet King of England. We did fun activities such as discovering the identity of Skeleton 1 – was it Brother William Giles, Ellen Lavener or even King Richard III? Clues from the excavation and a bit of detective work allowed us to confirm the skeleton’s identity. We also had a go at identifying fragments of medieval floor tiles and designing our own, and all this was topped off with an opportunity to meet a medieval knight!

DNA discoveries

In 2014, Dr Turi King (the geneticist who identified the king) and Dr Cas Kramer from the University of Leicester led a meeting about DNA and Richard III. The YAC members enjoyed wearing lab coats, bashing bananas to extract their DNA and observing the strands that magically appeared in the test tubes! We also had a go at piecing together fragments of Richard III’s DNA sequence and made colourful bracelets based on our discoveries. It was a brilliant meeting and we all left knowing a bit more about what makes us who we are and how we can use DNA to learn about people from the past.

This year (2015) we returned to the site of the original Leicester Grey Friars excavations to visit the fantastic new Richard III Visitor Centre built close by, just before the re-interment of the King’s remains at Leicester Cathedral. We learnt all about Richard III’s life during the Wars of the Roses, what type of King he was, what he would have looked like, the events of the Battle of Bosworth and much more about the discovery of his bones.

Recent events in Leicestershire have allowed us to explore the past in a rich, imaginative and fun way. In 2013, Leicestershire YAC leader Stephen was also able to join the second Grey Friars excavation. Follow this link to read his Dig Diary.

If you would like to learn more about Richard III, why not visit the University of Leicester’s project page at www.le.ac.uk/richardiii or take a trip to the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and the Richard III Visitor Centre.

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