On August 22, 1485, Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field, ending the War of the Roses, the Plantagenet Dynasty, and arguably the Middle Ages in England. So, uh, we should probably know where his body is.
The bloody changeover from Richard III to Henry Tudor is arguably one of the most pivotal moments in English history, and the event takes on even greater significance when you consider the huge effect Henry's son and granddaughter — Henry VIII and Elizabeth I — had on Europe and the world at large. Plus, Richard III remains one of the most infamous monarchs of all-time, thanks to William Shakespeare's history play and/or Tudor propaganda hatchet job, in which he was the wicked, princes-murdering, hunchbacked usurper. And yeah, one or two of those might be sort of true, but it would still be nice to know where the dude is buried.
Unfortunately, when your royal dynasty ends with your brutal death on the battlefield, a dignified burial doesn't tend to be high on your successor's priority list. Historical records indicate that his body was taken from Bosworth Field to a Franciscan Friary in the nearby town of Leicester. Local archaeologists are now on the hunt for the king's remains. As University of Leicester archaeologist Richard Buckley explained to the BBC, they hope to use ground-penetrating radar to locate the original site of the church, and then they can hope to pinpoint any bodies inside the ruins. If they find anything — and Buckley readily acknowledges the whole thing is a longshot — then they can submit the body to DNA testing and, if Richard III is indeed found, reinter his body in Leicester Cathedral.
The article also quotes Richard III Society member Philippa Langley, who details some of the more remarkable myths that have sprung up around the king's lost body:
"Richard III is a charismatic figure who attracts tremendous interest. Partly because he has been so much maligned in past centuries and partly because he occupies a pivotal place in English history. The continuing interest in Richard means that many fables have grown up around his grave. Although local people like Alderman Herrick in 1612 knew precisely where he was buried - and Herrick was able to show visitors a handsome stone pillar marking the king's grave in his garden - nevertheless at the same time unlikely stories were spread of Richard's bones being dug up and thrown into the river Soar. Other fables, equally discredited, claimed that his coffin was used as a horse trough."
As far as I can work out from my admittedly not exhaustive research, Richard III is one of only two English or British monarchs for whom we don't know the location of his body. Of course, the other monarch is his nephew, Edward V, who famously disappeared along with his brother while locked away in the Tower of London, and whom Richard III might well have had killed. So, you know, what goes around comes around, I guess.
Via BBC News. Image of Richard III from National Portrait Gallery.