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Wars of the Roses Part 2

So, let’s talk about the controversy surrounding Richard III.  No, I don’t mean the usual blah blah about did he kill the princes… that has been covered at length elsewhere – suffice to say he had no reason to ditch the boys but don’t get me started!

I mean the controversy surrounding the search for the body of Richard III.

Central to this story are two well known figures. Philippa Langley (screenwriter and Ricardian) and John Ashdown-Hill (historian and Ricardian).

Firstly, John Ashdown-Hill has two historical areas he has been investigating for many years:

  • The site of Greyfriars and thus the most likely site for Richard’s tomb
  • The DNA of Richard’s descendants, essential for final identification should any remains be found.

John’s extensive research had tracked down a point when he believed the trail for the Greyfriars site had gone “cold” – one historian made a crucial mistake and mixed up Greyfriars with Blackfriars.  (After all grey is just a shade of black!)  John was convinced he had found the correct site and had approached “Time Team” some years before to try to finance the search for the Greyfriars site but Time Team’s three-day turnaround restraints precluded such a big project.  In addition John tracked down the only living direct descendants of Richard III.

Dr John Ashdown-Hill with the funeral crown for Richard III at Leicester Abbey.

Dr John Ashdown-Hill with the funeral crown for Richard III at Leicester Abbey.

Enter Philippa Langley. Enthusiastic, attractive and persistent – ticking all the boxes. Her background in film includes a project in which she is trying to cast Richard Armitage as Richard III in a screen adaptation of “The Sunne In Splendour” – and let’s face it, any full blooded female would want to see that – you don’t need to be a Ricardian!

Philippa was able to source enough funding for this archeological project (not without many hiccups), primarily from the Richard III Society.  She thus becomes the “client” who engages (and pays for) the University of Leicester to undertake the dig

Armed with John Ashdown-Hill’s research, Philippa engaged the Archeological Services of Leicester University (ULAS). We all know the outcome – Richard III was found and Richard Buckley from the University of Leicester was awarded an OBE.

Philippa Langley, Originator of the ‘Looking for Richard’ project, with a facial reconstruction of King Richard III

Philippa Langley, Originator of the ‘Looking for Richard’ project, with a facial reconstruction of King Richard III

But the controversy continues…….

Firstly, the terms of the exhumation licence states that should any human remains be found those remains must be reinterred in the nearest consecrated ground i.e. Leicester Cathedral. But a High Court challenge begins from the Plantagenet Alliance who want to bury Richard in York as it is surmised that this would have been his preferred place for burial.  This Court case delayed the reinternment of Richard III by about one year.  I have overheard arguments in the street about this issue this week!

Secondly, the research of John Ashdown-Hill in narrowing down the site and tracing the descendents initially barely rated a mention on the University of Leicester website until recently – they appear to have succumbed to some pressure to acknowledge him.

Thirdly, the University of Leicester is billing itself as the University that discovered Richard III with no reference to the funding and research arranged by Philippa and her team that made that discovery possible.

Fourthly, the team that engaged the ULAS submitted a tomb design as part of the original proposal.  The tomb was designed by members of the Richard III Society.  At the point at which Leicester Cathedral was granted the right to reinter Richard III, they started a whole new tomb design process with no reference to the aforementioned submission.

Finally, to the future of the Richard III Society:  currently 80 per cent of the membership of the Richard III Society are over 70 years of age.  A considerable portion of those members are computer illiterate.  In light of events of the last two years, never before has such a marketing opportunity existed for the Richard III Society.   And any such marketing opportunities are being blocked by the more stolid members.

Armoured knights formed part of the funeral cortege for Richard III

Armoured knights formed part of the funeral cortege for Richard III

Quotes of the week:

John Ashdown-Hill: “I think the archeological team should be taking their Ground Penetrating Radar into Westminster Abbey and having a look for any movement in the tomb of Henry VII – probably “turning over in his grave!”

Philippa Langley: “I am just looking forward to getting my life back!”

Phil Stone (chairman of the Richard III Society) at the Society Cathedral Service: “I surmise Richard III would have said the following prayer on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth:  “Oh Lord!  Let me give that welsh bastard a decent thrashing!”

John Ashdown-Hill: “I am just looking forward to April!”  I say “what happens in April?” and he replies “March is over!!”

David Starkey (Anti-Ricardian historian) on the panel discussion (Philippa Gregory, Philippa Langley, David Starkey) on BBC 4 Sunday night:  “Philippa Gregory is nothing but a 2 bit novelist” and Philippa Langley is just a “Ricardian Loon.”

The debate continues…..

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