Revealed after 500 years: the face of King Richard III

Feb 5, 2013

Reconstruction based on skull found under car park suggests vilified monarch was 'very handsome'

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SCIENTISTS who proved "beyond reasonable doubt" that a skeleton found beneath a council car park in Leicester last September was Richard III have unveiled a reconstruction of his face.

The model, based on a CT scan of the monarch's skull, was revealed in a Channel 4 documentary last night. At a press conference in London this morning, the Richard III society showed off the face of the last Plantagenet king, who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 aged 32.

The public perception of Richard III, shaped by Shakespeare, is of a bloodthirsty usurper who left a trail of bodies on the way to the throne but Philippa Langley of the Richard III society said the "very handsome" face was not one of a cold-blooded killer.

"It doesn't look like the face of a tyrant. I'm sorry but it doesn't," she told Channel 4's King in a Car Park. "It's like you could just talk to him, have a conversation with him right now."

The Edinburgh based screenwriter revealed how she found Richard's body based on a hunch after visiting a car park in 2009, saying: "I know how mad this sounds, but I snuck under the barrier and, on a very particular spot, I had the strongest sensation that I was walking on Richard's grave."

The face has an arched nose and prominent chin, similar to portraits painted of the monarch after his death. Historian Dr John Ashdown-Hill told the BBC it was "almost like being face to face with a real person". For Ashdown-Hill, the reconstruction is particularly important as no images made during his life survive.

Not everyone, however, was impressed with the reconstruction. Music critic and journalist Simon Price tweeted that the monarch looked like "Quentin Tarantino playing Percy from Blackadder". For Conservative backbencher Ben Gummer the new model is "almost as exciting" as today's gay marriage vote in the Commons.

A parody Twitter account in Richard's name, HMRichardIII, said burying people in multi-storey car parks was "wrong on so many levels".

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What does a tyrant or a cold-blooded killer look like then? Osama Bin Laden was also very handsome.