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Peterborough surgeon helped identify Richard III

Dr Piers Mitchell at the City Hospital, who helped to identify the bones of Richard III. Photo: David Lowndes

Dr Piers Mitchell at the City Hospital, who helped to identify the bones of Richard III. Photo: David Lowndes


Wednesday, 4pm: Interview - Archaeologists who dug up the body of Richard III in Leicester called on a Peterborough-based spinal surgeon to help identify the infamous King.

Piers Mitchell, consultant paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, studied the spinal deformity (scoliosis) of the skeleton, recovered at Greyfriars Priory.

He was part of the discovery team that confirmed the bones were those of the former king who was killed in battle in 1485.

Mr Mitchell is the president of the British Association for Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology (BABAO) and was invited by the Leicester archaeology team to interpret the spinal changes in the skeleton.

He was asked to work out how the deformity had impacted upon his life.

Mr Mitchell said: “As a children’s orthopaedic surgeon at Peterborough City Hospital three days a week, I look after many children with spinal deformity, so understand the clinical symptoms and effect upon an individual.

“When the team found the skeleton one of the first things they noticed was that it had a curved spine and I spent one morning examining this.

“Richard had a type of scoliosis that starts in childhood and he would have had curved back and one shoulder higher than the other, resulting in a stooped posture.

“At this point, the DNA results linking the skeleton to a descendant of Richard’s had not come through but I was confident all along that this was him.

“Not only did the spinal condition match descriptions of Richard but we also found skull injuries which could have been caused in battle.”

Mr Mitchell, who appeared in a TV documentary about the find aired on Channel 4, added that he was proud of his role.

“We should be pleased people have found this astonishing link to the past and that medical and scientific advances allow us to bring history to life.

“If the discovery helps to inspire young people take an interest in history, medicine and science that is positive.”

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See a gallery of photos from the site of Fotheringhay Castle, web link on the right

Should Richard III be laid to rest at his birthplace at Fotheringhay?

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Infamous monarch continues to divide opinions

Richard III was born on October 2 1452 at Fotheringhay Castle, 10 miles west of Peterborough, in Northamptonshire and was the last Yorkist king of England.

In 1461 his brother Edward, became Edward IV and created him Duke of Gloucester.

He got involved in a power struggle with Edward’s queen, Elizabeth Woodville, about the young king who was the rightful heir but too young to rule.

Richard managed to imprison Edward V and his younger brother, Richard, in the Tower of London, and the two boys were never seen again - leading to speculation that Richard had had them murdered.

In August 1485, Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who was a Lancastrian claimant to the throne engaged Richard in battle on Bosworth Field where Richard died.

Richard III was cast as a deformed tyrant who murdered the princes by playwright William Shakespeare.

But Richard’s supporters say Shakespeare’s play is misleading Tudor propaganda, written over a century later, and there is no hard evidence he murdered the princes.

 

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