King Richard III's Coffin Arrives at Leicester Cathedral

Richard III's austere oak coffin was carried to Leicester Cathedral this past weekend in preparation for the king's reburial.

When the medieval monarch was first laid to rest, in 1485, his naked body was placed in a hastily dug grave under the floor of Grey Friars monastery in Leicester, England. Richard III had just lost the Battle of Bosworth Field, and in his place, Henry Tudor took the British crown.

Grey Friars was demolished and then covered up by centuries of development, until archaeologists from the University of Leicester relocated it in 2012, and astoundingly uncovered Richard's grave beneath a parking lot. This week, Richard, the last king of the House of York, is being reburied with all the pomp and circumstance of a royal funeral.  [Gallery: The Search for Richard III in Photos

His coffin was created by one of his distant living relatives: Michael Ibsen, a Canadian-born cabinetmaker whose DNA was used to confirm that the bones found at Grey Friars belonged to Richard.

"There's a wonderful serendipity in a sense that someone involved in the identification of the remains should happen to be [a] furniture maker who can do this," Ibsen told CNN.

"When you're working away you just focus on joining two bits of wood, but at the end of the day when you stand back and think, 'I'm building Richard III's coffin,' it's incredible,'" said Ibsen, who is 19 generations removed from Richard.

Since the rediscovery of Richard's remains in 2012, they have been subjected to a battery of scientific tests. Researchers determined that Richard suffered from scoliosis and a roundworm infection, and that he was likely killed by a fatal blow to the skull, which matched historical accounts of Richard's death. The king also ate well during his reign, according to an analysis of the isotopes lingering in his teeth and bones.

Now, Richard must be reburied according to guidelines for excavating human remains adopted by English Heritage, an organization that advises the British government on historic issues.

The Franciscan friars who initially buried Richard 530 years ago likely gave him a minimal Catholic funeral service. The reinterment technically will not be considered another funeral, but rather a celebration of Richard's life, according to the University of Leicester. Richard's coffin was carried from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral on Sunday (March 22). On Thursday, the coffin will be reintered in a tomb in the church.

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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+.