LEICESTER, England — He was king of England, but for centuries he lay without shroud or coffin in an unknown grave, and his name became a byword for villainy.
On Monday, scientists announced they had rescued the remains of Richard III from anonymity — and the monarch’s fans hope a revival of his reputation will soon follow.
In a dramatically orchestrated news conference, a team of archaeologists, geneticists, genealogists and other scientists from the University of Leicester announced that tests had proven what they scarcely dared to hope — a scarred and broken skeleton unearthed under a drab municipal parking lot was that of the 15th-century king, the last English monarch to die in battle.
Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley said that a battery of tests proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that the remains were the king’s.
Lin Foxhall, head of the university’s school of archaeology, said the discovery “could end up rewriting a little bit of history in a big way.”
Few monarchs have seen their reputations decline as much after death as Richard III. He ruled England between 1483 and 1485, during the decades-long battle over the throne known as the Wars of the Roses, which pitted two wings of the ruling Plantagenet dynasty — York and Lancaster — against one another.
His brief reign saw liberal reforms, including the introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.
But his rule was challenged, and he was defeated and killed by the army of Henry Tudor, who took the throne as King Henry VII and ended the Plantagenet line. Britain’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, is distantly related to Richard, but is not a descendant.
After his death, historians writing under the victorious Tudors comprehensively trashed Richard’s reputation, accusing him of myriad crimes — most famously, the murder of his two nephews, the “Princes in the Tower.”