History

Richard III had blonde hair and blue eyes? That is what scientists say.



For years, it was believed that King Richard III had dark hair and black eyes. That is how he is portrayed in his portraits, and the image certainly is consistent with that of a notorious King, rumoured to have murdered his nephews. But now, scientists say that the last of the Plantagenet rulers may, in fact, have had blonde hair and blue eyes.

The results of DNA tests carried out by Dr Turi King of the University of Leicester showed that it was likely that King Richard’s hair was blonde in childhood, and that he would have had blue eyes. As a result of these findings, a reconstruction of Richard’s head on display at the King Richard III Visitor Centre had to be updated, to accurately depict how Richard would have looked in life.

The reconstruction was updated by Professor Caroline Wilkinson of Liverpool John Moores University. “It was a delicate task to remove the eyes and replace with lighter ones, as they are made of glass,” she said. “The hair colour has also been updated, including eyebrows and eyelashes.”

The Director of the Visitor Centre, Iain Gordan, said: “It was fascinating to watch Caroline at work and we are really pleased that we’ve been able to complete the work and put the head back on display in time for the reinterment.”

The transformation took Professor Wilkinson over four hours to complete. The model is currently on display at the King Richard III Visitor Centre.

King Richard III was the last King of the Plantagenet dynasty. He was the younger brother of the Yorkist King Edward IV, and after his brother’s death in 1483, Richard was appointed Lord Protector for his nephew, the 12 year-old King Edward V. However, before the boy could be crowned, Richard declared their parents’ marriage invalid, thereby making King Edward and all his siblings illegitimate.

At this point, Richard seized the throne for himself and locked Edward and his younger brother, Richard – the two heirs of King Edward IV – in the Tower of London. Their eventual disappearance would give rise to the infamous mystery of the Princes in the Tower.

Richard III was killed in 1485, defeated in the Battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor, a Lancastrian claimant who went on to rule as King Henry VII. Richard’s defeat and death effectively brought and end to the Wars of the Roses. After the battle, his lifeless body was buried at Greyfriars Church. The priory dissolved in 1538, and the location of the late King’s body went unknown.

Until, in 2012, King Richard’s skeleton was discovered buried underneath a car park in Leicester. After nearly years of scientific study, it was concluded that the bones did, in fact, belong to the late King, and now, at long last, Richard III is finally going to get the burial he deserves.

The remains of King Richard III will be reburied at Leicester Cathedral on March 26. The service will be attended by the present Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and The Countess of Wessex, along with 200 members of the public. The re-interment will be preceded by a number of events in Leicester, which begin next Sunday.

Photo credit: lisby1 via photopin cc