By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
LEICESTER, UK (AA) - Forgotten in a grave under a car park for more than 500 years after his death in a medieval battlefield, King Richard III of England has been a center of attraction in the historical city of Leicester.
The remains of Richard III, who was the last English king killed in battle, was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral in 2015, following a magnificent funeral ceremony, one only fit for a king.
Since his reburial, his tomb has been a major tourist attraction, contributing to the local economy significantly.
According to a survey, more than 220,000 people visited the cathedral in 2015 -- with an increase of 414 percent over 2014. Only 42,000 people visited the cathedral before the king's reinterment.
A recent report, based on visitor surveys, predicts the annual benefit from the cathedral, which was around £8.7 million ($11.2 million) in 2017 -- could rise to £15 million by 2023.
Interred by a group of friars in a probably secretly and quietly held funeral in the courtyard of a church, following his death in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, King Richard III’s remains had to wait for centuries for a proper king’s funeral.
When the unlikely mission of finding the body of Britain’s one of the most controversial kings proved itself extremely worthy in 2012, many historians had no choice but giving a big applause to Philippa Langley, who was the architect of the painstaking project to find the lost king.
Langley, a member of the Richard III Society, started her search for the missing king in 2004, visiting numerous sites after carefully collecting evidence and dismissing the common legend that the king’s body was laid in a local river.
Langley and her team excavated the car park, where they thought the king had been initially buried as once the church of the friary stood.
Among other bones, they found a skeleton, which had a curvature in its vertebra and the skull showed signs of trauma.
As the king had been described to had had a hunchback, not only in William Shakespeare’s play but also by various historians and in a few records, the remains suddenly became a very plausible candidate for being of King Richard III's.
Despite the fact that Richard’s portrayal as a hunchback had been seen as a malicious attempt to tarnish his reputation for political reasons by some historians, there was a high possibility that the skeleton could be the lost king.
The ecstatic work to identify the skeleton with some carbon dating and DNA testing finally proved the identity: It was King Richard III and he was finally discovered after a mere 530 years.
- Richard’s ascension to throne
When King Edward IV died in 1483 after a reign of 20 years, Richard was first declared as the Lord protector of the Realm, until the young Prince Edward V reached maturity.
Richard secured Edward V and his younger brother Richard of York in the Tower of London. However, the two princes in a short while disappeared completely, still acknowledged as a plot by Richard himself.
The young princes had never been found and various historians believe that they were killed on the orders of Richard who was after the throne.
Richard later was crowned as the King Richard III of England on July 6, 1483.
Richard’s motivation for claiming the throne and ousting his nephew Edward V is still hotly debated today, with some citing shameless self-interest and others insisting that he was compelled by circumstances beyond his control, according to King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester.
- Battle of Bosworth
The Battle of Bosworth was fought on August 22, 1485, between Richard III and Henry Tudor.
Richard, as vividly described in the final scene of Shakespeare’s play Richard III, was slain on the battlefield.
His body was displayed in a central location in Leicester for a few days before buried by local friars.
It was a defining battle to end the War of Roses and also the rule of the house of Plantagenet with the death of Richard III.
The victory by Henry Tudor introduced the reign of the Tudors. He married Elizabeth of York, unifying both houses of Lancaster and York.
On Sunday, March 22, 2015, the mortal remains of King Richard III began the final journey from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral in a lead-lined oak coffin.
For the next three days, more than 20,000 people visited the king’s remains guarded by military veterans to pay their respects.
King Richard III was finally reinterred in the cathedral, receiving the dignity and honor he was denied five centuries ago.
Queen Elizabeth II wrote a tribute on the reinterment to recognize the day: "Today we recognize a King who lived through turbulent times and whose Christian faith sustained him in life and death… King Richard III, who died at the aged 32 in 1485, during the Battle of Bosworth, will now lie in peace in the city of Leicester in the heart of England."