In The News

Relative makes coffin for Richard III

Relative makes coffin for Richard III

THE coffin in which the remains of King Richard III have been sealed in preparation for this week’s reinterment was made by one of his distant relatives.

Cabinetmaker Michael Ibsen, who is the 17th. great grand-nephew of the King who was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, was asked to make the coffin. The skeletal remains of the last of the Plantagenets were discovered beneath a carpark in Leicester by archaeologists in 2012. The site had been where the Franciscan friary of Greyfriars had stood and where the King’s body had been taken following the battle.

DNA samples were taken from a number of distant relatives, including Mr. Ibsen, as part of the process to confirm the identity of the remains.

Mr. Ibsen, who is Canadian, has lived for many years in England and has a workshop in north London. He was delighted to be asked by Leicester Cathedral, where Richard will be reinterred: “It’s very special,” he said, “discovering that you are related to Richard III and then being able to use your natural abilities to be part of the whole reinterment.”

Simple Design

After considering a number of ideas for the design, Mr. Ibsen said he decided in the end to keep it simple: “I had all kinds of crazy ideas in terms of panelling, but at the end, I decided to keep it as simple as possible.”

There was never any doubt in the cabinetmaker’s mind which wood should be used to make the coffin. “It really had to be English oak. Traditionally, oak would have been used for a high-status funeral if there was a coffin.”

In the end, the oak came from a forest belonging to Prince Charles’s Duchy of Cornwall estate.

Keeping with the traditional materials, English Yew was used to make the internal framework of the coffin.

Lead Lined

A lead ossuary had to be made to fit inside the wooden coffin.

Weight was a major factor. The first design for the lead lining would have resulted in the ossuary weighing in at around 100 kilos, much too heavy for pall bearers to handle.

The final version, using thinner lead, ended up at 60 kg.


The lid of the coffin has the King’s name carved on it, along with the dates of his birth and death.

The carving was carried out by Anna Louise Parker and took a week to complete.

Natural Materials

Natural materials were also used when it came to providing the padding for the coffin.

Thick natural woollen fleece and unbleached linen were used inside the coffin where Richard III’s were laid out anatomically. After the lead ossuary was sealed with solder, Mr. Ibsen then screwed down the lid.

Final Resting Place

Thousands of people have been filing past the coffin in Leicester Cathedral.

Covered in an ornately embroidered pall, with a crown placed on top, the coffin will remain on display until Thursday when it will be sealed in specially constructed tomb in the Cathedral.

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