King Richard III lies at rest in Leicester Cathedral

The Magical Tale Of Richard III & Leicester City

Masked behind the story of Leicester City's incredible Premier League title win in 2016 is an exciting tale of two almost impossible modern-day fables colliding...

King Richard, the last of the Plantagenet Kings of England, died in battle in Leicestershire on 22 August, 1485. Half a millennium later, his body was found under a council car park in Leicester city centre.

Despite being buried at Leicester Cathedral in 2015, you’d be forgiven for thinking his ties to the city don’t quite stretch to the Football Club.

After all, his death - at the Battle of Bosworth - occurred around 400 years before the foundation of Leicester Fosse in 1884.

The sport, at least in its current form, wasn’t even a pastime back in the 15th century. 

Look deeper, though, and you’ll find a strange connection between the medieval monarch and Leicester City.

The story starts to take shape on 25 August, 2012. Archaeologists from the University of Leicester had begun excavating a council car park in the town centre the day before.

After years of research, they had hoped to locate the final resting place of a medieval king. By their own admission, it seemed like an unlikely ambition. Expectations were naturally low.

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University of Leicester confirms Richard III findings
University of Leicester confirms Richard III findings

A press conference from the University of Leicester confirms the remains are indeed those of Richard III.

But that Saturday, on only the second day of the dig, they unearthed two leg bones beneath a parking space marked with the letter 'R'.

The team swap glances, note down the find and move on to the next trench. The coincidence was simply too remarkable to give any credence.

Around 130 miles north, at Blackburn Rovers, a previously unknown striker, still fresh from non-league football, scores his first league goal for the Club - Jamie Vardy.

Fast forward a week, and Ben Marshall secured three points for Leicester City against Blackpool, firing home a penalty at King Power Stadium.

City dig out the win, but across town, the archaeologists at the Grey Friars car park are digging deeper into the council building's foundations, a little more than a mile away.

Returning to the bones they had discovered earlier on, they are only days away from exhuming a full skeleton. Expectations are now beginning to grow.

By the end of January 2013, Leicester are climbing the Championship table, notching up five successive league wins for the second time, including a 6-1 defeat of Huddersfield Town.

Meanwhile, the archaeological team from the University of Leicester are about to break the news that would focus the gaze of the world on the city. Impossibly, they had found Richard III.

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King Richard III arrives at Leicester Cathedral
King Richard III arrives at Leicester Cathedral

Richard III enters Leicester Cathedral before being reinterred in the city.

State-of-the-art technology, including micro CT scans and DNA testing, has confirmed the skeleton they exhumed is 'beyond reasonable doubt' that of the last Plantagenet King.

Eyebrows raise, jaws drop and thunderous applause rings out at the press conference, and the gasps spread around the globe.

A few days later, the Foxes suffer something of a shock themselves, albeit of a more low-key nature.

A trip to bottom-of-the-table Peterborough ends in an unexpected defeat, as the Foxes surrender an early lead to lose 2-1. It kick-starts a sudden loss of form that sees City tumble down the table.

Nigel Pearson’s men do, though, secure a play-offs berth on the final day of the season with a thrilling victory over Nottingham Forest at the City Ground.

Defeat at Watford in dramatic circumstances, though, curtailed City's ambitions of returning to the Premier League for the first time in nine years.

In hindsight, it was a trauma which eventually led to a stunning comeback from the Foxes, who in 2013/14 broke countless Club records and won the Sky Bet Championship with 102 points.

After a 10-year hiatus from the Premier League, the wait was finally over for the Foxes on April 5, 2014 as they earned promotion to the top flight with six games to spare.

The Blue Army painted the town blue with an open-top bus parade, while celebrations down the road also take place. They were crowned as champions of the Championship, but more glory was to come.

After a tug-of-war between the cities of Leicester and York, which went all the way to the High Court, the fate of Richard III’s remains were decided. He was to be laid to rest in Leicester.

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Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy

Vardy's last-ditch winner at West Brom kept up the momentum on Leicester's 'Great Escape'.

As preparations for the Premier League begin, arrangements for the reinterment also start to take shape at Leicester Cathedral.

At Christmas, though, the first major milestone in the story of any football season, City are bottom of the table. Few sides ever recover from being bottom at Christmas.

On the back of a run of five losses and two draws, they then suffer a cruel 4-3 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on 21 March, 2015.

They are cast adrift, written off by journalists and pundits alike, with just 19 points to their name and nine games left to play. To survive, they’ll need a miracle.

King Richard III, meanwhile, is preparing to take his final journey. The funeral procession will travel from the University of Leicester to Bosworth Field, and on Leicester Cathedral, his eternal resting place.

It’s estimated that around 35,000 people gathered along the streets of Leicester as the king took his final bow, many of these spectators coming from all over the world to witness the occasion.

The procession tour brings renewed energy and a lease of life - the city is buzzing like never before. And it’s not long before that buzz has spread to King Power Stadium.

On 26 March, 2015, the medieval king is laid to rest at a service of reburial. Nine days later, Leicester are at home to West Ham United.

Something remarkable happens. Argentina legend Esteban Cambiasso opens the scoring before, in the 86th minute, our very own King (Andy, that is) scrambles in a late winner.

Cue pandemonium as the Club secure three points for the first time since mid-January. It's just a glimmer of hope, but it nonetheless galvanises the people of Leicester into believing survival is possible. 

Despite the elation, the table remains the same. The impossible dream is still seemingly just that. Euphoric wins follow at West Bromwich Albion and at home against Swansea City.

Perhaps the real test comes in a bleak, wet, relegation clash at Burnley towards the end of April, which is decided by 60 seconds of helter-skelter Premier League drama.

Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot after he adjudged Paul Konchesky to have brought down Matty Taylor.

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Leicester City crowned Premier League champions
Leicester City crowned Premier League champions

The Club's crowning moment came just over a year later.

The Burnley man, though, rattles the post and Vardy scores almost immediately at the other end of the pitch following the rebound.

It’s 1-0 to the Foxes, and the three points lift Leicester out of the relegation zone for the first time since Christmas. They couldn’t, could they?

On 16 May, 2015, a little over a month-and-a-half after King Richard III’s lap of honour around Leicestershire, the Foxes are hoping to complete their very own miracle at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light.

They say the Battle of Bosworth only lasted around 90 minutes before the last Plantagenet king met his destiny. Now a tense 90-minute battle awaited Leicester in the North East.

It finishes 0-0 and a point is enough to secure survival. A miracle had been achieved. Everyone knows what happened next. Once again, Leicester was on the lips of newsreaders around the globe.

On a day that saw the heavens open, Leicester City were crowned as Premier League champions on 7 May, 2016, just over 400 days since the last of the Plantagenets' re-burial in Leicester.

In that time, Leicester City Football Club had won 30 games, drawn 13 and lost just four, and written the greatest underdog tale in modern sporting history. 

The peculiar, most likely random, but nonetheless magical, story of Leicester City and Richard III is complete.

Leicester City Crest

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