Richard III Reburial Celebration Starts Sunday

King Richard in Leicester
This map shows the route King Richard III's reburial procession will take through Leicester on Sunday (March 22). (Image credit: King Richard in Leicester)

More than 500 years after he was buried in a hastily dug grave in Leicester, England, Richard III is getting a proper funeral.

On Sunday (March 22), Richard's fans will kick off a week of events complete with fireworks, choirs and solemn processions to celebrate the reburial of the medieval king.

Richard's lead-lined oak coffin coffin will make its first public appearance at 10:50 a.m. local time (6:50 a.m. EST) Sunday as it leaves a building at the University of Leicester, the institute where scientists had been studying Richard's remains for the past two years. [Gallery: The Search for Richard III in Photos

From there, the procession will make its way to the Bosworth battlefield where Richard was killed at age 32 on Aug. 22, 1485. Then, Richard's coffin will be brought to Leicester Cathedral, the king's final resting place.

The reinterment service is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. local time (7:30 a.m. EST) Thursday (March 26). The next day, the sealed tomb will be revealed to the public, and that night, there will be a fireworks display from the Cathedral roof. The full schedule of events is on the King Richard in Leicester website, and the United Kingdom's Channel 4 will broadcast the ceremony.

The battle-scarred skeleton of Richard III were discovered in 2012 under a parking lot in Leicester, England. (Image credit: University of Leicester)

It was thought that the grave of Richard III had been lost to history. In 2012, when archaeologists opened up trenches in a parking lot in Leicester, they found a battle-scarred skeleton that seemed to be a promising candidate for Richard in the ruins of Grey Friars monastery. By early 2013, the researchers discovered that DNA from the skeleton matched the DNA of one of Richard's living relatives.

William Shakespeare immortalized the king as a power-hungry, murderous hunchback in his play "Richard III." Today, Richard is sort of like the Nikola Tesla of medieval monarchs in that he's attracted a throng of enthusiastic fans who seek to restore his reputation.

The Leicester Mercury interviewed several Richard fans from around the world who are traveling to England for the reburial ceremony. Elizabeth Howatt-Jackman, an Australia-based film producer, told the paper: "After 500 years of lies, this good man's tarnished reputation deserves to be replaced by the truth. Aspects of the discovery and the so-called reinterment event are contentious among many of us who come to honor King Richard III, but we accept that it will be what it will be."

Indeed, nearly every step of Richard's rediscovery has been marked with controversy among his fans. The Plantagenet Alliance, a group of indirect descendants and supporters of Richard III, had unsuccessfully challenged the University of Leicester's right to reinter the king's remains at Leicester Cathedral in England. (They wanted Richard to be buried in York, where the king spent much of his life.) Some members of the Richard III Society also objected to the stark design of the king's tomb when it was unveiled last year.

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Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.