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Stone Coffin found on Grey Friars

Archaeologists Set to Remove Lid from Stone Coffin found on Grey Friars

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Archaeologists are preparing to remove the lid from a stone coffin that has remained intact over centuries in the ruins of Greyfriars, the monastery where King Richard III was buried.  The occupant of the coffin is unknown but historians suspect it will be the medieval knight, Sir William de Moton of Peckleton, or one of two high-status friars – Peter Swynsfeld or William of Nottingham.

The Greyfriars Friary in Leicester was built in the 12th century and was home to the Friars Minor, also known as Grey Friars after the colour of their habits.  The friary was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 during the Protestant Reformation, soon after which it was demolished and became virtually lost to history.

The discovery of the coffin is significant as it is the only intact stone coffin found so far in Leicester. It was uncovered during a dig beneath a parking lot in Leicester last year which revealed the the body of Richard III, the last king of the House of York who ruled England from 1483 to 1485 and who was hastily buried at Greyfriars after his defeater, Henry Tudor, ascended to the throne.

"Stone coffins are unusual in Leicester — and this is the first time we have found a fully intact stone coffin during all our excavations of medieval sites in the city," site director Mathew Morris, of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), said.

Archaeologists believe the coffin was placed in the ground about 100 years before Richard III was buried there.  It will be privately opened in the days ahead, away from the view of an enthusiastic media who are anticipating a significant find.

By April Holloway

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