LONDON – The original burial place of England’s King Richard III, discovered more than four years ago during an archaeological excavation at a car park in the central city of Leicester, has been granted special protection as an archeological site of national importance, officials said on Thursday.
The government’s British Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, acting under the advice of national heritage watchdog Historic England, declared that the once drab, paved-over, Leicester City Council car park was of historical importance.
“The discovery of Richard III’s skeleton was an extraordinary archaeological find and an incredible moment in British history,” said Arts, Heritage and Tourism Minister John Glen.
Richard III was the legendary king killed in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth whose skeleton was found in 2013 during an archaeological dig.
DNA forensic analysis experts from the University of Leicester later confirmed the remains found under the pavement were of the king.
The site dates back to around 1220 when Franciscan friars first settled in Leicester.
It was at a church they built in Greyfriars where Richard’s body was laid to rest in 1485.
In 2015, 530 years after his demise, the remains of the last monarch of the House of York were re-buried in a state funeral at Leicester Cathedral.
Richard III was defeated by the House of Lancaster during the final battle of the War of the Roses (1445-1485) at Bosworth Field in Leicestershire.
The minister added that by protecting this site the United Kingdom government was “ensuring that the remains of this once lost (13th century) medieval friary (Greyfriars) buried under Leicester are preserved for future generations.”
The Greyfriars priory was demolished during King Henry VIII’s Church of England Reformation period and remained buried and in a reasonable state of conservation to this day.
After the discovery of his remains, the site ceased being a car park but not until 2016 was it ready for guided tours when a transparent glass slab was placed on top of where his skeleton was discovered.
The historical figure of Richard III has been surrounded by controversy.
William Shakespeare described him as an ambitious and cruel hunchback without any scruples.
The study of his remains did apparently confirm he suffered from scoliosis, a lateral curving of the spine.
The discovery of his remains led to another final battle, this time between the city halls of Leicester and York, both bidding to host his final resting place which Leicester finally won.
“We’re very proud of Leicester’s rich history, which spans over 2,000 years,” said Leicester’s Mayor, Peter Soulsby.
“The discovery and identification of King Richard III’s remains was a remarkable achievement,” he added, saying the site should become a world-class tourist attraction.