Last Friday, Dynasty, Death and Discovery, a Richard III visitor centre, opened in Leicester. An interactive guide to the controversial life, brutal death and enduring legacy of one of Britain’s most contentiously debated and notorious historical figures, the centre is housed near the site at which Richard’s remains were discovered in September 2012, having been lost for over four centuries.
The most talked about attraction at Dynasty, Death, Discovery is a 3D printed model of those remains, which clearly shows both Richard’s famously curved spine and the devastating wounds that fatally shattered his skull at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. The last king to die in combat, his defeat lead to the beginning of the Tudor dynasty, and his own demonization in British literature, theatre and film for centuries to come.
After the battle, Richard III’s body was briefly exhibited to the public before being buried (with zero pomp or circumstance) at Greyfriars Church, Leicester. Due to rapid architectural changes in the city, the site was lost and forgotten over the following 500 years, until a research crew from the University of Leicester, in partnership with Leicester City Council, began excavating in search of the late king two years ago.
After confirming their discovery’s identity with radiocarbon dating, DNA analysis and skeletal examination, the bones and skull were then 3D scanned. It was with this data that a team from the University of Dundee created the model that currently sits in the visitor centre, using stereolithography techniques.
One thing history and theatre buffs will quickly notice is that the bones show no evidence of the withered arm that William Shakespeare gave his incarnation in his account of the King’s short reign. Similarly, the huge hunch and exaggerated limp hundreds of actors have affected while portraying the monarch are also shown to be inaccurate by the replica. Though, certainly, Richard’s spine was badly deformed, it would not have been profound enough to have been noticeable through clothing, nor would it have badly affected his movement.
In fact, Richard III was known to be a dexterous fighter and fierce in battle. All accounts of his death describe the King fighting with immense courage and effect in the thickest areas of Bosworth field, with some even claiming he came within inches of slaying the rebel leader Henry Tudor, before being outnumbered, felled and killed by the Welshman William Stanley and his men.
It wasn’t a pretty end. Trauma to the skeleton indicates Stanley’s soldiers issued a number of ‘humiliation blows’ to the King (including one that appears to have been dealt by a sword inserted through the backside), before their leader finished him off with a blow to the head so powerful, it drove Richard’s helmet through his own skull.
Yikes. And we thought Game of Thrones was nasty.