LEICESTER, England (Reuters) - Richard III, the last English king to die in battle whose remains were found under a car park three years ago, was reburied on Thursday in a ceremony the current queen said was of “great international significance”.
Depicted by Shakespeare as a sadistic, crafty hunchback, Richard was re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in central England some 530 years after he was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field on Aug. 22, 1485.
Following the battle, his naked body was thrown on the back of a horse, taken to nearby Leicester and buried in a humble grave.
At a sombre ceremony on Thursday, he was reburied with the honour his modern-day supporters say his conqueror in battle Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, denied him.
“The reinterment of King Richard III is an event of great national and international significance,” Queen Elizabeth said in a message.
“The discovery of his remains in Leicester has been described as one of the most significant archaeological finds in this country’s history.”
Despite reigning just 777 days, he still fascinates not just historians but ordinary people across the world, some of whom made the trip to Britain to witness the ceremony.
“He seems a hero to some and a villain to others,” wrote David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester, in a foreword to Thursday’s order of service.
Among the guests were the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and minor royals including the queen’s cousin, the Duke of Gloucester, who laid Richard’s personal prayer book by his coffin.
Actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who himself has been identified as a second cousin, 16 times removed of the dead king, read a poem by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy entitled “Richard”.
The death of Richard, the last Plantagenet king, marked the end of the Wars of the Roses between the rival Houses of York and Lancaster.
Richard, the self-styled King of England and France and Lord of Ireland, was just 32.
His conqueror in battle Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, paid just 10 pounds for a memorial to his slain foe.
Local legend even had it that his body was dug up and thrown in a nearby river, with his casket used as a horse trough.
But after years of research by screenwriter Philippa Langley, his remains were finally found in 2012 beneath a municipal car park.
On Sunday, some 35,000 people lined the streets of Leicester when his coffin, made by a descendant whose DNA helped identify the body, was brought on a horse-drawn hearse to the cathedral.
Among the guests at Thursday’s service, where many arrived wearing badges of the Yorkist emblem of a white rose, were 200 members of the public selected from thousands by ballot.
Richard’s villainous reputation stems partly from Shakespeare’s depiction of him as a deformed tyrant responsible for one of the most notorious crimes in English history — the murder of his young nephews, “the Princes in the Tower”.
Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III society which campaigns to rebut what it believes are Tudor propaganda lies, said the king would now get the dignified send-off he deserved.
“It’s the culmination of what we have been working for,” he told Reuters.
Editing by Stephen Addison