Now we can see his face: the next step of the Richard III discovery story

Facial reconstruction is based on the skull found under a car park in Leicester

The “face” of King Richard III has finally emerged more than 500 years after his death at the hands of Henry Tudor’s army thanks to advanced computer scanning, fancy wax modelling and a little bit of artistic licence.

The facial reconstruction is based on the skull found under a car park in Leicester and was put together by Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at Dundee University, an expert in building up three-dimensional fleshy models based on bone structure.

All known portraits of Richard III were painted after his death and do not show him in a particularly flattering light, which suited the Tudor’s dynasty’s portrayal of him as one of the great villains of history.

Professor Wilkinson made the model by first digitising a three-dimensional image of the complete skull and using the bone structure to estimate the thickness of the various layers of soft tissues which make up the face.

“This depiction may allow us to see the King in a different light. His facial structure was produced using a scientific approach, based on anatomical assessment and interpretation, and a 3-D replication process known as stereolithography,” Professor Wilkinson said.

“The final head was painted and textured with glass eyes and a wig, using the portraits as reference, to create a realistic and regal appearance,” she added.

While the colour of eyes and hair may not be precise, the overall structure of the face should be fairly accurate and recognisable to anyone who knew him. Many of Richard’s rear molar teeth for instance were missing at the time of his death, giving him slightly hollow cheeks.

Artist Janice Aitken, a lecturer at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee, said: “My part in the process was to paint the 3-D replica of the head and was purely interpretive rather than scientific. …I drew on my experience in portrait painting, using a combination of historical and contemporary references to create a finished surface texture.”
Many of the later portraits of Richard showed him with narrowed eyes and a rather mean face, with one shoulder higher than another, a physical deformity that at the time was linked with malevolence.

“All the surviving portraits of him – even the very later ones with humped backs and things which were obviously later additions – facially are quite similar [to each other] so it has always been assumed that they were based on a contemporary portrait painted in his lifetime or possibly several portraits painted in his lifetime,” said historian and author John Ashdown-Hill.

The facial reconstruction shows him more as he was, say his admirers. “It’s an interesting face, younger and fuller than we have been used to seeing, less careworn, and with the hint of a smile,” said Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, which commissioned the reconstruction and is trying to rehabilitate the “perfidious” king’s reputation.

An investigation of his skeleton found that he was 5ft 8ins tall, slightly above average height for the time, and had a slender, almost feminine build. Although he suffered from scoliosis, a severe curvature of the spine, he was active in military affairs and was in fact the last English king to die in battle.

The skeleton in the car park has been subjected to a series of rigorous tests which, together with the location of the grave in the choir of Grey Friars’ church in Leicester, lend powerful support to the belief that it really is the last remains of the dead king.

The plan is to reinter the last Plantagenet king in Leicester Cathedral, which is a short distance away from his last grave site. The Cathedral is currently considering the request but is expected to approve it later this year.

Click here to listen to how Richard III might have sounded

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
News
i100
News
Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late singer Whitney Houston, poses at the premiere of
people
News
people
News
The frequency with which we lie and our ability to get away with it both increase to young adulthood then decline with age, possibly because of changes that occur in the brain
scienceRoger Dobson knows the true story, from Pinocchio to Pollard
Voices
The male menopause: those affected can suffer hot flushes, night sweats, joint pain, low libido, depression and an increase in body fat, among other symptoms
voicesSo the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Life and Style
health
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen