Scientists Reconstruct Face of England’s King Richard III

Researchers from the Richard III Society have unveiled the world’s only facial reconstruction of the human remains found at the Greyfriars in Leicester, the United Kingdom, previously confirmed as belonging to Richard III, the King of England from 1483 to 1485.

Reconstruction of the face of England’s King Richard III (© Richard III Society)

“It was a great privilege for us all in the Dundee team (University of Dundee) to work on this important investigation,” said Prof Caroline Wilkinson, who led the reconstruction project. “It has been enormously exciting to rebuild and visualize the face that could be Richard III, and this depiction may allow us to see the King in a different light.”

Examination of the Richard III’s remains have shown that he had no kyphosis or withered arm, despite this being a feature commonly attributed to him and his face is shown to be warm, young, earnest and rather serious.

“His facial structure was produced using a scientific approach, based on anatomical assessment and interpretation, and a 3D replication process known as stereolithography. 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,” Prof Wilkinson said.

Her colleague Dr Janice Aitken of the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design painted the 3D replica of the head that Prof Wilkinson created.

“My part in the process was purely interpretive rather than scientific,” she said. “Guided by Prof Wilkinson’s expertise, I drew on my experience in portrait painting, using a combination of historical and contemporary references to create a finished surface texture. The reaction of the team when the model was unveiled made all the hard work worthwhile.”

“It’s an interesting face, younger and fuller than we have been used to seeing, less careworn, and with the hint of a smile. When I first saw it, I thought there is enough of the portraits about it for it to be King Richard but not enough to suggest they have been copied,” said Dr Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society. “I think people will like it. He’s a man who lived. Indeed, when I looked him in the eye, ‘Good King Richard’ seemed alive and about to speak. At last, it seems, we have the true image of Richard III – is this the face that launched a thousand myths?”

The facial reconstruction will eventually be loaned to Leicester City Council to be displayed in their planned visitors center adjacent to the Greyfriars site. The centre will be dedicated to telling the story of King Richard III.