Holloway cabinet maker’s DNA identifies car park skeleton of King Richard III
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
A softly-spoken cabinet maker has become the vital missing link that finally proved a skeleton exhumed from under a car park in Leicester is the remains of medieval monarch Richard III.
Michael Ibsen, who owns a workshop in Holloway, provided researchers with a swab of DNA from his mouth and this week it conclusively proved that the bones buried in a hastily-dug grave in the remains of a church are those of the missing king.
Mr Ibsen, 55, is a distant relative of the royal, killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.
Mr Ibsen said it was still “difficult to articulate” how he feels about the discovery that he has blue blood as a direct descendent of Richard III’s elder sister, Anne of York.
“I haven’t started strolling around wearing a crown and ordering people around,” he said.
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“It will be interesting to talk to my siblings about it as well because I don’t think any of us thought there would be a DNA match.”
Richard’s violent death marked the end of both the War of the Roses and the 331-year rule of the Plantagenet dynasty.
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It was long rumoured that his remains had been removed from Leicester’s Greyfriars Church after the dissolution of the monasteries and thrown into the River Soar.
But on Monday the identity of the skeleton, found with eight injuries to the skull, was declared to be Richard III “beyond reasonable doubt” by a specialist team at the University of Leicester.
Mr Ibsen, of Highgate, was invited to the dig in August and has kept in touch with researchers ever since.
“It was a huge shock,” he said of their discovery. “In the nicest possible way, it was startling and shocking in equal measure.”
Coincidentally, Mr Ibsen was already fascinated with the king.
“I knew the usual stuff you learn in school,” he said. “But rather bizarrely I had read a novel about a detective trying to solve the mystery of the Princes in the Tower [the king’s young nephews who were reputedly murdered by him] and I got so fascinated by it I went to look at the portrait of Richard III that’s hanging in the National Portrait Gallery.”
He got into the habit of visiting the gallery every few months to view the portraits.
Mr Ibsen, the king’s 17th generation nephew, said it will take a while to digest the family connection, adding: “You think, it is not a blood type that we share, it’s part of your physical make-up.”
Mr Ibsen was a classical musician playing the French horn when he arrived in London in 1986, but decided to retrain as a cabinet maker and has a workshop in Hornsey Road.
Reflecting on how his profession links him directly to Richard III’s time, when the same skills would have been highly prized, he said: “It’s a profound thought. There are some tools that we use today that would be almost exactly the same as they would have used then, such as the chisel.”