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Historian who helped find King Richard III skeleton under car park dies

Dr John Ashdown-Hill was described as playing an ‘absolutely pivotal role’ in the discovery.

A historian who helped pinpoint the skeletal remains of King Richard III beneath a car park in Leicester has died.

Dr John Ashdown-Hill, who had motor neurone disease, died on May 18, aged 69.

His research into the fate of the body of the king, who died at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, helped identify its burial place in 2012.

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Richard III burial

Dr Ashdown-Hill completed his MA in linguistics and PhD in medieval history at the University of Essex.

He was awarded an MBE in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honours for “services to historical research and the exhumation and identification of Richard III”.

Professor Alison Rowlands, from the Department of History at the University of Essex, had known him since 2004.

“John was a prolific author, a leading historian of the Yorkist dynasty, and a real gentleman, who combined a genuine gentleness of manner with an immense enthusiasm for the solving of historical mysteries,” she said.

“This enthusiasm was best exemplified in the absolutely pivotal role that John played in pinpointing the location – and confirming the identity – of the remains of King Richard III in 2012.

“Without John’s research into the fate of the king’s body after the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 and into the mitochondrial DNA of Richard’s descendants, it is unlikely that this major discovery could have been made.”

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Richard III reburial

The skeleton of Richard III was found during an archaeological excavation in Leicester City Council’s car park and was confirmed as his remains following DNA analysis of the bones which matched that of living descendants.

He was reburied in Leicester Cathedral in 2015.

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