Sunday April 7, 2013 AT 10:00 PM ET/PT on CBC News Network
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Eccentric fans of the long lost King and a Canadian relative are the key to solving the mystery behind the final burial place of England's infamous hunchback King. What started as a wild goose chase stunned the world when Richard III's skeleton was found under a car park in Leicester, England.
Richard III: King in the Car Park reveals the full inside story of the unbelievable quest for Richard III and the remarkable CSI investigation used to confirm the skeleton's identity, including a DNA test with one of Richard's only surviving relatives - a Canadian.
The discovery of the body and the battery of scientific tests to establish its identity were carried out in complete secrecy. The film - made by the only team allowed to follow the scientists - tells every step, twist and turn of the story, unveiling a brand new facial reconstruction made from the skull and reveals the results of the final DNA tests that confirms the body's identity. A femur and teeth extracted from the skeleton were compared to the DNA of Michael Ibsen, a 17th generation nephew of Richard III. Ibsen lives in London but was born in Canada and is a direct descendent of the king's eldest sister, Anne of York.
Richard III's claims to infamy are many: he was the last king to die in battle (Battle of Bosworth) where he was said to be dragged from his horse and struck on the head with a poleaxe - effectively ending the Wars of the Roses. Richard has long been connected to the disappearance of his young nephews - the 'Princes in the Tower' - and his repulsive depiction as a hunchback villain in William Shakespeare's play 'Richard III' is probably his most recognisable representation.
This film, presented by actor and writer Simon Farnaby, charts the remarkable detective story that led to the now historic dig. It's spearheaded by a member of the Richard III Society (of which there are 3500 members world-wide), Philippa Langley. She spent three years on a personal quest to uncover the remains of the friary where she believed the King was hastily buried. Philippa and her fellow members of the Richard III society are driven by a burning sense of injustice on behalf the much maligned King and they dispute the widely-accepted belief that Richard III was one of the most evil and reviled Kings of England. They want to restore his reputation and believe that finding his body could disprove he was a hunchback and expose Shakespeare's play as Tudor spin and propaganda.
When Philippa and her team identified a possible location of the monastery as a car park in Leicester, most everyone thought the odds of actually finding Richard about a million to one. The dig commenced and incredibly, on the very first day, a male skeleton was discovered.
Using technology developed to identify human remains in crime investigations, scientists have been busily re-creating the face to which these bones belong. Finally, Richard III: King in the Car Park reveals how scientists uncovered the critical DNA proof that the skeleton was indeed a missing king. The documentary offers up a great yarn about passion and obsession coupled with remarkable good fortune, but it also chronicles one of the most astonishing archaeological discoveries in recent history.Richard III: King in the Car Park was produced and directed by Louise Osmond. A Darlow Smithson Production for Channel Four.