The man who will unmask Richard III

Emily Dugan meets the man whose DNA should confirm the identity of a body found in Leicester

It took one saliva swab to turn Michael Ibsen from an unknown carpenter into the man at the centre of the century's biggest British archaeological discovery. Tomorrow he and the world will be told if his DNA confirms that the body of Richard III has indeed been found under a municipal car park in Leicester.

Sources close to the University of Leicester say they are expecting it to be confirmed that the body is the 15th-century monarch's, news that will be not altogether welcome to 55-year-old Mr Ibsen, who is unimpressed by his new-found celebrity.

For a man whose family tree goes back to one of history's most notoriously bloodthirsty kings, Mr Ibsen seems about as far from the tyrannical Plantagenet as it is possible to be.

"I definitely wouldn't make a good king," he says softly, perched on a workbench in his poky woodwork studio in north London. "I'm not a good decision-maker and I don't think I'd want to be in the public eye. It must be a difficult life."

It was Richard who was portrayed by Shakespeare shouting, "A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!" when battling for his crown at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. But his descendant is a little less keen on the four-legged beasts. "They're just so big," says Mr Ibsen, recalling his wariness of the animals as a child.

The Canadian-born cabinet-maker believes Richard would be unimpressed by his 17th-generation nephew. "I would have thought someone like Richard looking down the centuries would expect someone similar: someone who was good in battle and a good leader. None of that applies to me. The closest I get to using a sword is a chisel."

The skeleton excavated in Leicester last September shows all the signs of being the king, including a curved spine, a skull that appears to have suffered a severe blow and an arrowhead embedded between vertebrae. Scientists are now pulling together the final results of radiocarbon dating, DNA tests and bone analysis ahead of tomorrow's announcement.

The Ibsen family first discovered their link to the king when genealogist John Ashdown Hill contacted Mr Ibsen's mother, Joy, in 2004.

She had moved from England to Canada in 1948 and her family tree was the only one that could be traced down the female line to the king, meaning their mitochondrial DNA could help identify Richard's body. She died in 2005, so when archaeologists came across a body in Leicester last summer they contacted her son for help.

According to genealogical records, Mr Ibsen is descended from Richard's sister, Anne of York, which means he should share the king's "haplotype" or genetic sub-group. If Mr Ibsen's haplotype is rare – and matches the skeleton's – it may confirm that the body is that of the king.

Before coming to the UK 25 years ago, Mr Ibsen was a classical musician in the Netherlands and Germany, playing the French horn with some of the world's greatest conductors, including Leonard Bernstein.

But no performing prepared him for this kind of attention. His hands shake with nerves as he discusses his new-found fame: "I prefer to be kept out of it," he says. "When they found the remains there was an avalanche of interest. It was overwhelming."

If the result is positive, will the descendant of the nation's most maligned king be called on to make a speech? "I certainly hope not," he says, looking horrified.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot