The face of a thin-lipped, bright-eyed man, with a truculent jaw ready to confront whatever bad news comes next, has been recreated from the male skull discovered under a Leicester car park, newly confirmed as the last Plantagenet king, Richard III.Seriously, they had me with "a truculent jaw" imagery.
The monarch was only 32 when he died on the Bosworth battlefield on 22 August 1485, but the reconstructed face appears much younger. He may not live up to the crook-backed psychopath of Shakespeare's Tudor propaganda, but he does look a tough character not to be trifled with.
The face was reconstructed from detailed scans of the skull by Caroline Wilkinson, professor of craniofacial identification at Dundee University, who has worked on many modern forensic cases. She did the initial work blind, without consulting contemporary descriptions or images. The skin colour and texture, eyes and hair were then added by Janice Aitken, of the university's art college.
The head was commissioned by the Richard III Society, and was unveiled at the Society of Antiquaries of London, which owns one of the oldest portraits of Richard, painted like the one in the National Portrait Gallery in Tudor times, but assumed to draw on a Plantagenet original. Since the bones can give no clue to hair and eye colouring, Aitken used the portraits for the final details, but based the stubbled ruddy cheeks on observation of 21st century men who spend a lot of time outdoors.
The head was unveiled by Phil Stone, chair of the society, as "His Grace Richard Plantagenet, king of England, France and lord of Ireland". Sarah Levitt, head of Leicester's museums, called it "a stunning object", which will be one of the star exhibits in the new visitor centre due to open next year, in an old school building overlooking the find site.
A bit of the Bard (also in question):
KING RICHARD III:
A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse!
Withdraw, my lord; I'll help you to a horse.
And so it (inevitably) goes.