“The team are also hoping they may find the headless remains of three Franciscan friars hanged and then beheaded for treason in 1402 on the orders of Henry IV.”
The Leicester municipal car park that, amid much fanfare, yielded the remains of King Richard III has, it seems, yet to give up all its long-buried secrets. Barely a year after archaeologists from the University of Leicester uncovered a skeleton confirmed in February as that of England’s last Plantagenet monarch, they have exhumed a second body.
But whereas Richard’s remains, hastily buried by members of the Greyfriars monastic community after the king’s humiliation on Bosworth Field in 1485, lay in a humble hole in the ground, these are in a sealed lead casket within a limestone coffin. The Leicester team in fact uncovered the coffin last summer but left it where it was, preferring instead to focus their efforts on the excavation of Richard III’s remains, which captured the world’s imagination.
They have now returned to it, and speculation as to the possible identity of the mystery body inside has predictably been fevered, not least on Guardian comment threads: Lord Lucan? Jimmy Hoffa? Richard’s long-lost horse, his horse, his kingdom for a horse? But while laboratory analysis, to be carried out later this year, may not necessarily positively identify the body (and positive identification isn’t necessarily the point anyway), the archaeologists think they have a good idea of who it may be.
Records exist of a medieval Leicestershire knight called Sir William Moton who was buried in the Greyfriars church in 1362 – well over a century before Richard’s demise. Sir William, believed to have been born in nearby Peckleton, where he also lived, is recorded as having married twice, to Joan, with whom he had a son, Robert, and to Elisabeth. There are other candidates, but few likely to have been interred in such grandeur. Peter Swynsfeld, who died in 1272, and William of Nottingham, who died in 1330, both leaders of the English Franciscans, are known to be buried here.
The team are also hoping they may find the headless remains of three Franciscan friars hanged and then beheaded for treason in 1402 on the orders of Henry IV. Roger Frisby, Walter Walton and John Moody were accused of spreading rumours that the deposed King Richard II was still alive and planning to retake the throne. The men’s decapitated bodies, after being displayed in Oxford and London Bridge, were subsequently lost, but it is thought possible they were claimed and eventually buried by sympathisers at Greyfriars.
• This article was amended on 30 July 2013. An earlier version referred to Lord Lambton when Lord Lucan was meant.
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