Belfast Telegraph

Queen curious about Richard III dig

The Queen today expressed her shock that the remains of one of her forebears, Richard III, were found buried under a car park.

The remark about the last Plantagenet King was made at an event honouring higher and further education institutions at Buckingham Palace.

There were 17 universities honoured at the Queen's Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education, including the University of Leicester's archaeological team that helped dig up the remains of King Richard III in 2012. Professor Sir Bob Burgess, vice chancellor of the University of Leicester said the Queen asked if it was true that Richard III was really found buried under a car park. "The Queen wanted to know if the remains were really found under a car park, but generally she seemed well-informed about the dig," said Sir Bob.

Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 - ending the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet dynasty - and his body was taken to Leicester by supporters of the victorious Henry VII and buried in Greyfriars church.

His remains were found under the car park owned by Leicester City Council on the former site of the church. "The project illustrates the power of research and how it can fire the imagination of the public. The discovery of Richard III has helped to develop the heritage of Leicester and put the city on the map," added the vice chancellor.

The University of Leicester and the Ministry of Justice will visit the High Court on March 13, to argue the legality of an exhumation licence, which gives the university control of Richard III's remains.

The University of Dundee was also recognised by the Queen for its work on the areas of human anatomy, forensic human identification and facial reconstruction. Academics at Dundee were responsible for carrying out a facial reconstruction of Richard III based on the skull found in Leicester.

Caroline Wilkinson, p rofessor of craniofacial identification at the University of Dundee, led the work which used CT scan data from the remains to reconstruct a 3D bust version of what Richard III would have looked like.

"Leicester approached us with the CT data and we used imaging software to build his face. The likeness was so strong that I had to do it three times just to make sure," said Prof Wilkinson. Other universities and further education colleges were also honoured for work in areas judged to be of outstanding excellence. The awards are presented every two years by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.

The University of Stirling in Scotland was recognised for its work on the effects of the marketing of tobacco, alcohol and energy-dense food on children's health.

Jim Naughtie, chancellor of the University of Stirling and BBC Radio 4 presenter, said: "Part of the role of universities is to bring intellectual energy to public debate. The great thing about this work is that it's had an impact on our approaches to junk food. Policy changes in these areas have come about through the application of meticulous academic research." Professor Gerard Hastings, director of the Institute of Social Marketing who led the research said: "The Duke of Edinburgh was very supportive of our work. He asked me 'are you telling me you've never bought anything you shouldn't have?', implying that we're all susceptible to eating bad food, or alcohol."

The University of Oxford's Stroke Prevention Research unit was recognised for its breakthrough work on stroke treatment and its insights into the prevention of hypertension and cancer.

"We've been able to show that you can reduce the risk of major strokes by 80% by providing early treatment to people who have suffered minor stroke episodes," said Professor Peter Rothwell of Oxford University.

Bristol University was recognised for its revolutionary work in obstetrics research that has led to a dramatic drop in the global incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, and the University of Edinburgh's pioneering e-learning platform in postgraduate surgical education was also in receipt of an honour.

The Student Law Office at Northumbria University was honoured for its a distinctive contribution to legal education providing access to justice in the local community, and Newcastle University's Centre for Rural Economy, which carries out applied research on the relationship between rural and urban societies and economies was also recognised by the Queen. University College London, the University of Manchester, the University of Loughborough, the University of Glasgow, the University of Kent, University of the Arts London and Cardiff University were also honoured.

Vocational colleges were also at the palace to receive awards. Coleg Cambria's vocational and engineering training in aircraft production for Airbus and UK aerospace was recognised along with Cornwall College, which provides training for land-based industries empowering and developing the local rural economy.

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