First Person - with Fiona Purnell

Fiona Purnell
Fiona Purnell

Well, who would have thought eh?

Finding a King buried beneath a car park in Leicester 600 years after he died?

What are the chances, and for them to start finding bones on the first day of the archaeological dig?

All seems a bit, I don’t know, far fetched or something you’d expect to see in a Hollywood film.

However, it seems that’s exactly what has happened.

This week it was confirmed that the skeleton of a man found by experts from the University of Leicester in September is “beyond reasonable doubt” that of King Richard III.

DNA from a descendant of the monarch was used to verify the bones were that of the king.

I’ll not deny it, when I first heard they had discovered the human remains and believed they may be that of the 15th century king it sounded like they were clutching at straws and a case of wishful thinking.

It seemed to me unlikely that it was him.

And had the skeleton been discovered 10 or more years ago, my scepticism would have been even greater then.


After watching the documentary on Monday night showing the high level of research which had been done by those from the university even before they began their dig and then seeing the dig unfold and trusting the latest technology we have, I’m happy to accept that maybe I was wrong.

The discovery to all extents and purposes does seem to be legit and we have, after all this time unearthed the body of the last king to be killed in battle.

Which when you actually sit back and look at it is an incredible discovery.

I’m no expert, but judging from the images, the bones that have been discovered are still in pretty good nick despite being buried for centuries.

In all of this though, the thing that impresses me the most - and the reason I’m now willing to accept it really is Richard III - is because of the incredible developments in technology and scientific research we have these days.

Experts took the DNA from a 17th generation nephew and used it to prove the remains belonged to the king, given the match in the DNA.

To be able to do something like that is astonishing.

Then to be able to put together a facial reconstruction of the person who the skull belonged and to show what he could have looked like after all this time.

It’s strange to think that had the skeleton been uncovered years ago, before the Leicester City Council car park had been built on top of them, we may never have known who they belonged to.


The skill and techniques used to identify the person to whom it belonged may not have been as advanced as they are now and the whereabouts of the king, who was killed in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, may still have been unknown.

I’ve read in the last few days about calls being made for the find to trigger a rewriting of history books.

The king has been portrayed as a hunchbacked child killer and tyrant, presumed guilty for the death of the princes in the towner, but historians say he did a lot for our country, including giving us the system of bail and the principle of innocent until proven guity.

But the thing that puzzles me about this is, just because his skeleton has been found, surely it doesn’t mean we know any more about his personality than we did before.

Unless there are some scientific personality tests that can be carried out on bones?