Mystery Coffin Found Near Richard III Is Opened

Remains discovered appear to belong to a prominent woman
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2015 9:37 AM CST
Mystery Coffin Found Near Richard III Is Opened
A portrait of Britain's King Richard III.   (AP Photo/Society Of Antiquities Of London via University of Leicester, FILE)

Richard III's final resting place just keeps giving up secrets, from possible infidelity to his bad case of roundworms, and now the unexplained presence of a woman's remains. The woman's posh coffin was found a year after the 2012 discovery of the king's remains, the Leicester Mercury reports. She was elderly and appears to have been of high status, notes LiveScience; her bones show that she ate well through her life, and she was found in a lead coffin emblazoned with a crucifix. She appears to have been buried shortly after a church was completed on the site in Leicester, England, in 1250. She was laid at "an important part of the church," says the dig's head, Matthew Morris. "It's fairly central; it's probably quite close to the high altar."

That could mean she was "an important benefactor of the friary," or "even the founder." Going even further, some experts have wondered whether the remains could have belonged to one Emma Holt, a woman of the time who was praised by a bishop in documents, the Telegraph reports. The BBC describes the discovery as a "coffin-within-a-coffin." The outer section was made of limestone, with the well-preserved lead coffin inside, Morris says, per the Mercury. Her body was in good company, being in one of 10 known graves at the site known as Grey Friars. Five graves were left alone—but all of those examined, except Richard's, contained female remains. (As for the king, his remains point to a terrible death.)

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