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Thousands turn out to honor England's King Richard III

England's King Richard III was honored in the city of Leicester more than five centuries after his death. His remains, discovered under a parking lot in 2012, will be re-interred in the city cathedral.

For nearly 70 years the body of England's Richard III lay buried beneath a parking lot in the city of Leicester. By coincidence, the only marker for his grave was a painted 'R' for “reserved parking.”

But on Sunday some 35,000 people turned out to salute the 15th century monarch with the pomp and circumstance of a royal. The ceremony was in stark contrast to Richard III’s death 530 years ago when an ignoble burial in a small, unmarked grave outside the former Grayfriars monastery, marked his end.

"It's indescribable, indescribable to know he's been in the dirt for 500 years and here he is being almost worshiped by millions of people around the world," said 69-year-old tourist Sarah Badders who had traveled from the US state of Arkansas to attend Sunday's ceremony.

House of York

The city of Leicester saw tens of thousands turn out waving home-made flags and white roses – the symbol of Richard III's House of York dynasty – in the main public event in a five-day ceremony to have the king re-interred.

The 32-year-old was killed in battle at Bosworth Field in 1485. The king, made famous in Shakespeare's eponymous play Richard III, portrayed the man as a hunchbacked Machiavellian figure that had his own siblings murdered in order to guarantee his royal ascension.

His rule ended swiftly in the battle with his arch enemies from the House of Lancaster. His death ended a brutal civil war and ushered in a brighter age for England as it embraced the Renaissance period that was underway in continental Europe .

"It was a change of dynasty, an end of a period of violent civil war, the beginning of the period in which Shakespeare was to write his great tragedies, including Richard III, and a different way of governing the country," said Tim Stevens, the Church of England’s Bishop of Leicester.

Richard III. von England

Made infamous in Shakespeare's play Richard III, the hunchback king was remembered for backstabbing his relatives in a relentless drive for power. He was slain on a battlefield in 1485, ending his family's dynasty in England.

Those who helped lead the efforts to find Richard III's body say they hope more can be learned about this historical figure and that there's more to the man than the villainous character from the Shakespeare play.

"Our work will continue, in perhaps convincing the doubters Richard wasn't as black as he was once thought to be," said Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society.

The skeletal remains exhumed in 2012 are of a man with evidence of trauma to the head consistent with a violent death on a medieval battlefield.

Radiocarbon dating showed the remains consistent with that period. DNA testing from a distant descendant living in Canada also confirmed the match.

Final journey

As thousands of people lined the streets, police horses drew the coffin to the battlefield site where he received a 21-gun salute.

In a final touch, a crown – made of base metal similar to the one Richard III was reputed to be wearing when struck down in battle – was placed inside the coffin.

The procession returned to the city on a route strewn with white roses until it reached Leicester Cathedral.

Public viewing opened Monday inside the city cathedral until he is reburied on Thursday.

Private donors provided 1.54 million British pounds (2.12 million euros) for upgrades to the cathedral and ceremonies.

jar/lw (dpa, Reuters, AFP)