Fragments of wood, leather and fabric from the coffin of the medieval English king, who died in 1400, were found in a cigarette box, along with sketches of the king’s skull and bones.
The relics were discovered by an archivist cataloguing the papers of the gallery’s first director, Sir George Scharf, who died in 1895.
They were found among the hundreds of diaries and notebooks left behind by Sir George in unopened boxes, and were identified by cross-referencing the date on the cigarette box with diary entries and sketches made on the same day – August 31, 1871.
Records show that Sir George was present when the Richard II’s grave was exhumed at Westminster Abbey.
He frequently attended exhumations and also witnessed the opening of the graves of Richard II, Edward VI, Henry VII, James I and Elizabeth of York.
His sketches of the king’s skull and bones are so faithfully drawn that archivists believe they could be used to reconstruct the king’s appearance.
A piece of leather found in the box corresponds closely with a sketch by Sir George of a glove contained in the coffin.