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Philippa Langley and John Ashdown-Hill each receive their MBE from Her Majaesty The Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Sunday 11th October 2015:
© The Press Association.The Richard III Society congratulates Philippa Langley and Dr John Ashdown-Hill on each receiving the MBE from HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace on Friday, 9th October. Philippa and John have been awarded the MBE in recognition of their services to 'the Exhumation and Identification of Richard III' (London Gazette). The MBE is given by Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of a significant achievement of outstanding service to the community, and for local 'hands-on' service which stands out as an example to other people.
A quote from Philippa states 'After discovering a King in a car park, it is almost as surreal to be at the Palace today to receive this award. It marks the end of a gruelling ten-year journey and I would like to thank all those who put me forward for this recognition and honour. I am delighted the discovery of King Richard has ignited world-wide interest in his story. For the very first time, this historical figure is being read about widely to understand the facts surrounding his life and times and to question the received wisdom and ages-old mythology that has enveloped him for centuries.'
Dr John Ashdown-Hill has said: 'It seems that various people — including members of the Richard III Society — started campaigning in 2013, and it's thanks to their efforts that, early in May of this year, I received the most amazing letter from the Cabinet Office! How wonderful that all the work which Philippa and I did has now been officially and publicly recognised.'
The Richard III Society believes this Honour to also be a recognition to all Ricardians who have supported the project over the years, reflecting their confidence in this long, arduous but exceedingly gratifying conclusion.
Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of The Richard III Society comments: 'The Richard III Society congratulates Philippa Langley and John Ashdown-Hill on their momentous day.
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Philippa Langley and John Ashdown-Hill recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List
Saturday 13th June 2015:
The Richard III Society congratulates Philippa Langley and Dr John Ashdown-Hill on being awarded the MBE in the 2015 Queen's Birthday Honours. These awards are a recognition of their key roles in the Looking for Richard project and recognition also for all Ricardians who helped make its success possible.
Philippa and John have been awarded the MBE in recognition of their services to 'the Exhumation and Identification of Richard III' (London Gazette). The MBE is given in recognition of a significant achievement or outstanding service to the community, and for local 'hands-on' service which stands out as an example to other people
Philippa Langley commented 'I'm very honoured to receive this award which is totally unexpected. I'm delighted the discovery of the King's grave has increased employment and boosted the local economy in Leicester but what has really excited me is the impact it's had on young people; their knowledge and education. For the first time, King Richard III is being read with the true facts surrounding his life and times. In my talks to schools and colleges I am meeting the next generation of historians who are eager to question and make their own discoveries. My prediction is the study of late medieval England will never be the same again.'
Dr John Ashdown-Hill said 'It seems that various people - including members of the Richard III Society - started campaigning in 2013, and that it's thanks to their efforts that, early in May of this year, I received the most amazing letter from the Cabinet Office! How wonderful that all the work which Philippa and I did has now been officially and publicly recognised.'
Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of The Richard III Society added 'The Richard III Society welcomes the recognition given to the Looking For Richard Project in the Queen's 2015 Birthday Honours List and congratulates the recipients. It is particularly pleasing to see Philippa Langley's crucial role in the search for King Richard's grave acknowledged and rewarded in this way. The finding and honourable reburial of the King has raised public awareness and provided new opportunities to promote a more balanced view of his life and character. For this we are grateful.'
Ms Langley finished by saying 'The abiding ethos of the Looking For Richard Project was to retrieve the remains of King Richard III and to give them the dignity and honour which had been denied when King Richard III was killed on the field of battle. We achieved this and in so doing made peace with the past. I would like to dedicate this award to my late beloved father who taught me that you don't give in, and you don't give up. I didn't, and because of this we found Richard.'
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Thursday 26th March 2015:
One of the most important outcomes from the Greyfriars dig and the identification of the remains of King Richard III was the confirmation that the King had scoliosis. Scoliosis is a condition in which the spinal column bends to the side and the vertebrae rotate, pulling the rib cage round to produce a protrusion on the back. It can result in one shoulder being slightly higher than the other, in the case of Richard III's skeleton; the right shoulder.
The evidence clearly shows the king did not have kyphosis, which can result in a hunchback, contrary to the historical myths about his physical appearance. The legend of Richard's hunchback began in the early days of the new Tudor dynasty when it was expedient to denigrate the reputation of the dead king. However, it is now a known medical fact that scoliosis in most cases does not cause a 'hunchback' or 'crookback' and today it is unacceptable and insensitive to refer to people affected with scoliosis in these terms.
Although many people have not heard of scoliosis it is surprisingly common; in the UK between three and four in every 1,000 children need treatment for the condition. Nowadays it can be corrected by surgery, although those with the condition still face challenges in their lives. The Scoliosis Society notes that many are inspired by older siblings to overcome such challenges so King Richard III may well have been similarly inspired by his charismatic elder brother, King Edward IV. As the Duke of Gloucester and as King, Richard led an active life as an effective administrator and military commander. He rode horses in full body armour and wielded a sword in battle, demonstrating that scoliosis doesn't necessarily limit physical capability.
Dominic Smee has a form of scoliosis similar to King Richard's and for last year's Channel 4 documentary, Richard III: The New Evidence, Dominic was subject to various riding and training tests to determine if the condition could have had any negative effects on the King's ability to fight in battle. Dominic commented, 'All things considered, my experience in the programme has only bolstered my respect for an incredibly courageous and brave man.'
There is no contemporary evidence that Richard III suffered from any visible physical problems. The only surviving description of the king is provided by a Silesian visitor, Nicholas van Poppelau, who spent time at Richard's court in 1484 and described the King as lean, with delicate arms and legs and that he was 'three fingers taller' than Poppelau himself.
In this week of Richard III's reburial it is time to end the lazy acquiescence with the Tudor and Shakespearean myths, King Richard III was no hunchback, he did not have a withered arm and, if he suffered from scoliosis that is no reason to denigrate him. We rightly celebrate the achievements of all who overcome disabilities; we should do no less for King Richard III.
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Wednesday 25th March 2015:
'A good lawmaker for the ease and solace of the common people'. This was the assessment of the 17th century statesman and Lord Chancellor of England Sir Francis Bacon on Richard III and Bacon was a man who knew his Acts of Parliament. The high percentage of acts passed by Richard III's Parliament focussing on improving conditions for ordinary people reveals the reason for Bacon's good opinion.
Richard III's only Parliament first met on the 23rd January 1484, having been postponed from 6th November 1483 as a result of the Duke of Buckingham's rebellion. It was opened by a speech from the Lord Chancellor, Bishop John Russell, and the theme was peace. The fundamental matters before the assembly in 1484 were the ratification of the new King's title, which was accomplished by the Act which is known as the 'Titulus Regis', and also included legislation for the attainder of the recent rebels with the formal forfeiture and seizure of their lands into the King's hands.
This delay before Richard III could hold his first Parliament may have given both him and his council time to formulate several Acts which would benefit the country. Probably the most important were those concerned with legal reforms.
By the 1480s the common law had become complicated and open to fraud particularly with land disputes; Richard's Parliament simplified conveyancing and made it more transparent. There were also initiatives to help protect the lower orders from corrupt officials and this was the subject of three Acts directed at the activities of Justices of the Peace (JPs), the courts of sheriffs and piepowder courts. Bail was to be allowed for persons imprisoned on suspicion of felony and their possessions were to be protected until they had been formally tried and found guilty. This act generally encouraged JPs to inquire more carefully into all persons arrested on just mere suspicion. The standard of juries chosen for sheriffs' tourns (or circuits) was raised by ensuring that jurymen should be worth 20 shillings or more a year—it was generally believed that wealthier jurors were less open to bribery. New penalties were introduced, and an earlier Act reinforced, to correct dishonest officials at piepowder courts, which had jurisdiction over cases that arose during markets and fairs and required swift and reliable justice for the traders.
King Richard III also developed an early form of Legal Aid, asking the clerk of his council to favour petitions from the poor, thus allowing those unable to afford lawyers to make direct petitions to the Royal Council. Under Henry VII this became The Court of Requests. Richard's own experience of cases brought before him as Duke of Gloucester made him well aware of the damage that corrupt officials could inflict on the poorest of his subjects; it was also to be a constant theme of his pronouncements as King throughout his reign.
The fledging book printing industry was encouraged by the removal of trade restrictions, a policy reflecting the King's own personal interest in books. In fact the King's policy went much further it actively encouraged the expansion of the book trade market and the skills-base needed to produce them, an enlightened attitude that contrasts so favourably with that of his successors.
Although some of the acts and policies of the 1484 Parliament may have been promoted by members of Richard's council, there is little doubt they also reflected the King's own priorities. His record both as King and Duke of Gloucester provides evidence of a genuine interest in the law and a commitment to the fair administration of justice for all.
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Tuesday 24th March 2015:
When King Richard III's mortal remains entered Leicester Cathedral on Monday they were reunited with his personal prayer book, known as The Hours of Richard III. The manuscript, which is normally kept at Lambeth Palace Library, and known as Lambeth Ms. 474, has been loaned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Dean and Chapter of Leicester Cathedral. It will be used for the services during the reburial week and thereafter, will remain in Leicester for a further three months before being returned to Lambeth Palace.
This Book of Hours was not originally made for King Richard III but was produced in London around 1420 for an unknown owner, possibly a cleric. It is a text of unusual length and has some distinctive features. Sometime after his coronation King Richard chose to use the manuscript as his personal book of hours; presumably both its liturgical contents and its decoration appealed to him. During his reign King Richard added at least ten pages of personal devotional text, including the prayer which has become known as 'King Richard's prayer' but which was also used by others in the fifteenth century. This is the last Hours he owned – it was probably found in his tent after Bosworth. The additions King Richard made to the Book suggest he only obtained it after the death of his son, Edward and his wife, Anne (Neville). The unique word in his copy of the Prayer which he added to the book is dolor (grief).
The editor of the Richard III Society's scholarly journal, The Ricardian, the historian Anne Sutton, together with fellow historian and Society member, Livia Visser-Fuchs, studied the manuscript and their research was published by the Richard III & Yorkist History Trust, the Society's charitable arm, in 1990, under the title The Hours of Richard III. By studying the text the king would have read every day of his brief reign, Sutton and Visser-Fuchs' provided, for the first time, a sound basis for considering and evaluating Richard's piety. It can be argued that an individual's religious convictions are fundamental to an understanding of their character and behaviour. King Richard's piety has provoked speculation in that it was a result more of his 'crimes' and the need to atone. Parts of the Hours have been taken out of context, especially his 'prayer', and used as evidence for this without any full analysis or understanding of the manuscript.
In contrast, Sutton and Visser Fuchs' book provides a comprehensive assessment of Richard III's piety, considering both his private devotion and public piety, wisely noting that his faith was between himself and God 'which is ultimately unknowable and unmeasurable'. By close study of the King's 'personal prayer' they argue that after analysing and comparing the text 'there is nothing ominously unique in his choice' or that he had any 'sense of guilt'. They concluded that in his public piety King Richard 'seems to have passed with flying colours' and his religious foundations 'responded to the demands placed on a prince to provide prayers for the living and the dead'. Sadly, we do not have any extant documents written by King Richard himself which might throw light on his personal piety, so the Hours is a vital source for any assessment. That it was 'simple and unostentatious' in content and is known 'specifically for its many prayers' perhaps indicates its appeal to the King. They concluded that 'Richard's religion was that of the later middle ages, humanised, fervent and personal within the strong and controlling framework of the church'.
When the original manuscript of King Richard's Hours is returned to Lambeth Palace its place in Leicester Cathedral will be permanently filled with a facsimile, allowing future visitors to appreciate this modest and beautiful work of art. The Richard III Society is proud to have contributed to the cost of its production.
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Monday 23rd March 2015:
The discovery of King Richard III's remains in Leicester has provided significant new evidence relating to the controversies surrounding this monarch. We now know Richard had scoliosis but the level of his condition was of a type which did not deter from his prowess as a soldier, confirmed by the contemporary accounts of his capability and success on the battlefield at Tewkesbury, Barnet and various other combats on behalf of the House of York. The discovery of the King's remains has inspired new interest in the controversies surrounding his life and character but, despite the new evidence, there remain gaps in our knowledge and understanding of his life and times which only further research into surviving records can bridge.
The Richard III Society, chaired by Dr Phil Stone, continues to promote research into this enigmatic King and his times. With an impressive track record since its founding in 1924, the Society has researched, through a network of members who are both eminently qualified historians and enthusiastic amateurs, primary source material which it has presented in published form. The first of such was the British Library Harleian 433, a record of Richard III's grants and letters which is an essential source for his reign. In 1985 the Society established The Richard III and Yorkist History Trust, a charitable body which provides support for the preparation and publication of source material.
The Richard III Society make bursaries available to post-graduate students undertaking relevant studies and hold their own conferences and study weekends to bring together members and the wider 15th Century academic community. The Society is currently helping to fund a project, managed by the University of Winchester, to transcribe and publish the Inquisitions Post-Mortem of Richard's reign to throw more light on individuals, their connections and much more. The Society is also providing support to a well-known historian to undertake research in French archives focussing on the period when Henry Tudor was in exile there. A third project currently being supported is the transcription and translation of the original Latin version of Polydore Vergil's History of Richard III found in the Vatican archive.
The Richard III Society remains committed to encouraging evidence-based research and, in this week of the King's re-burial, it is timely to focus on the continuing need to secure a meaningful reassessment of his life and reputation. A reputation buried for centuries under layers of propaganda and misplaced tradition.
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Sunday 22nd March 2015:
To be successful, a medieval king needed to be a warrior and, in the House of York, this was never more true than with Edward IV and Richard III.
Writing to his master, Angelo Cato, Archbishop of Vienne, in 1483, shortly before the death of Edward IV, the Italian, Dominic Mancini, wrote of Richard of Gloucester, soon to be King Richard III, 'Such was his renown in warfare that, whenever a difficult or dangerous policy had to be undertaken, it would be entrusted to his discretion and his generalship.'
Richard's early military training followed the usual pattern for someone of his status and, at the age of nine, he joined the household of his cousin, Richard, earl of Warwick. We know that in later life, he owned a copy of 'De re militari' by Vegetius, the military textbook of the day. At the age of seventeen, Richard was given his first independent command, and such was his expertise that, a year later, he was entrusted with commanding a wing of Edward's armies at the battles of Barnet and Tewkesbury.
Edward IV gave his young brother great responsibility in the north of England and, in 1482, when relations with the Scots broke down, Richard led an invasion, recapturing Berwick-upon-Tweed, which has remained English ever since.
Richard was a successful general, winning all his major military engagements except one, the last, fought a few miles from where we are now. King Richard believed in chivalric values and had great concern for those who died fighting with and for him. He endowed Queens' College, Cambridge, with priests to pray for their souls. That we have a College of Arms today can be traced back in part to him. He gave the heralds a charter of incorporation and provided them with a home. All was revoked by his successor, but the heralds have never forgotten their early benefactor. The achievements of his short reign have been overshadowed by historical myths and Shakespeare's monster, but these achievements were real and had lasting impact. His legal reforms continued long after his death, with some still embedded in our laws today. He developed an early form of Legal Aid, which provided support for those unable to afford lawyers.
As king of England, Richard III was the first to use English to swear his coronation oath and to record acts of parliament. He stressed that his laws were to be administered without delay or favour. His only parliament was notable for legislation which helped the lower classes as much as the gentry and merchants. He did much to promote the embryonic book trade.
But, of course, it all ended on that fatal day in August 1485. There are several contemporary accounts of the battle we now call Bosworth and all agree that King Richard fought courageously. Far from calling for a horse, he fought on to the very end and fell fighting on the field. He was the last king of England to die in battle, his defeat due mainly to bad luck and a misplaced trust in some of his more treacherous allies.
We are here today to honour Richard III but, as we do, let us remember all who fell on that August morning. For many, their names are lost but they would have been fathers, husbands, brothers and, certainly, they were all somebody's son.
As we begin a week of commemoration during which his mortal remains will be reinterred with honour in Leicester Cathedral, let us remember Richard III, king of England and France and lord of Ireland, as a man of integrity, a man who cared for his subjects and those who had his trust.
Let us remember Richard III, the good king, the warrior king.
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Thursday 19 March 2015:
During the Autumn of 2014 the statue of King Richard III was relocated to its new site near to Leicester Cathedral and the new Richard III Visitor Centre. The relocation was part of a £2M scheme to develop the Cathedral Quarter following the discovery of King Richard's remains in the nearby Greyfriars two years earlier, August 2012. The suggestion of a statue in the City where the King had been buried after his defeat at the Battle of Bosworth in August 1485 arose in 1977 and this became a reality when the statue was given to the City of Leicester in 1980 by the Richard III Society and was unveiled in that year on July 31st by the late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester.
The Richard III Society took responsibility for managing this fascinating project and raised the funds required to commission James Butler R.A. to sculpt a bronze statue of the King. The appeal was launched under the patronage of the Duke of Rutland, a collateral descendant of King Richard III through the King's sister, Anne, Duchess of Exeter. The appeal needed to raise over £20,000 (nearly £100,000 in today's money). Much of the money came from small-scale fund-raising events initiated by the Richard III Society and its branches throughout the world. Two years later, in 1979, the target had been exceeded and the work began to create a lasting impression of the king.
Many have questioned why a statue of such pride and strength should represent such a controversial monarch and why a society represented throughout the world should be so dedicated to a reassessment of his life and character. Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society believes the answer is encapsulated within the speech given by the late Princess Alice, when unveiling the statue in 1980. Princess Alice said, "The purpose- and indeed the strength of the Richard III Society derives from the belief that the truth is more powerful than lies; a faith that even after all these centuries, the truth is important. It is proof of our sense of civilised values that something as esoteric and as fragile as reputation is worth campaigning for". As we approach the re-burial of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral we are delighted that the son of Princess Alice, Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, the Society's Royal Patron will be attending during the reburial week.
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Thursday 19 March 2015:
When the Richard III Society was founded 90 years ago, no-one could have imagined that the remains of the King would ever be found, let alone reburied in Leicester Cathedral. At that time, the story that the bones had been tipped into the River Soar during the Dissolution of the Monasteries was still prevalent.
Following the work of members of the 'Looking for Richard Project' (LfRP), and principally John Ashdown-Hill, the story of the River Soar was shown not to be true and thanks to members of the LfRP and others, the remains of Richard III have actually been found, under a car park, on the site where the medieval Grey Friars once stood. Back in the 1970's a member of the Richard III Society predicted where the remains were likely to be and, as a result of the research that was later put into finding the site, the actual remains were found on the very first day of the dig, more or less exactly where it had been predicted.
The Richard III Society is very grateful to the LfRP team who are all members of the Society, for their work and, with the archaeologists at Leicester University, for finding King Richard III's remains. The Richard III Society is also very proud of the part it played in assisting the team. The Society contributed to the funding at all the early stages, specifically the desk-based research and the ground-penetrating radar survey. Only weeks before the dig was scheduled to begin, one of the financial contributors had to pull out and it was to the Richard III Society and its chairman, Dr Phil Stone, who Philippa Langley turned to for the needed financial support. An appeal document was prepared by Annette Carson and sent around the world to Society members whose response was overwhelming. Within two weeks, enough money had been pledged to enable the dig to go ahead and even to open a third trench. It is important that all who are interested in or celebrate the finding of King Richard III are made aware of the names of these donors, who are enshrined in Philippa Langley's own 'Roll of Honour'.
Together with the LfRP team, the Richard III Society greatly and gratefully acknowledges the work undertaken by Leicester University, especially Richard Buckley and Mathew Morris, the archaeologists, Jo Appleby, the osteologist, Turi King, the DNA specialist, Kevin Schürer, for the genealogical search, and many others, too numerous to mention for fear of leaving someone out.
When the remains had been recovered, they were scanned in the Imaging Department at Leicester Royal Infirmary and the resulting CT scan was used to make a facial reconstruction of King Richard III. Commissioned and paid for by the Richard III Society, the facial reconstruction was made by the leading expert in cranio-facial analysis, Professor Caroline Wilkinson, then at Dundee University and now at Liverpool John Moores. After visiting six museums, around the country, including the British Museum, the facial reconstruction is now on permanent loan from the Richard III Society to the King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester, just a few yards from where the king was found and across the road from where the remains will be reburied.
The story, however, does not end there. Following the publication of Dr Turi King's genome sequencing analysis it appears that there would be a 96% probability that Richard had blue eyes and a 77% probability of Richard having blond hair. As a consequence Professor Caroline Wilkinson has made some changes to the facial reconstruction but has commented that further analysis may prompt more changes.
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Monday 16 March 2015:
When the bones of King Richard III were 'coffined' in preparation for their interment in Leicester Cathedral on March 26th 2015, they were laid on a length of unbleached linen. The reason for the use of unbleached linen is that it is a natural material that will prevent any reaction with the delicate structure of the remains enclosed.
Once laid out and fixed in anatomical order, the bones of King Richard III were covered with another length of unbleached linen, this one embroidered with boars, roses and consecration crosses - white boars for the 'blanc sanglier', the badge of Richard III, white roses for his House of York and the crosses because he was an anointed Christian king. The purpose of the embroidered cloth is for the remains to be covered in a dignified and honourable way. The embroidery was sewn with white unbleached thread by Miss Elizabeth Nokes of the Richard III Society.
Elizabeth Nokes embroidering the unbleached linen.Thirty years ago, Elizabeth embroidered the altar linen for the chapel of the Royal House of York in the church in Fotheringhay, the village where Richard III was born and where by tradition, he was baptised. King Richard III's parents and brother, Edmund, are buried in the church. During the 1980s and 1990s many members of the Society helped to make a complete suite of hassocks (kneelers) for the church so although it is a historical and research-based Society it also has a history of contributing to the beautiful art of Ricardian needlework. Indeed the Society is delighted and proud that it was asked to contribute in this way and especially pleased that Elizabeth was able to make these very important cloths.
Fotheringhay is one of five churches associated with the life of King Richard and which has benefitted from the Ricardian Churches Restoration Fund, which raises money independently of the Society but is administered by Miss Nokes and Society chairman, Dr Phil Stone. Two further churches which have received finance from the RCRF have also featured in the reburial week activities, namely Sutton Cheney where the cortege halted on Sunday, and Middleham where soil was taken and placed in the specially made chest along with soil from Fotheringhay and Fenn Lane Farm and entombed with King Richard.
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Friday 22 August 2014:
At the Evensong service to be held today, the 529th anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, the Richard III Society will formally present two flags to Leicester Cathedral. The flags are based on the Arms of England and Richard III's own White Boar banner. The College of Arms, whose charter was granted by Richard III in 1484, were commissioned to produce the drawings and the flags were made up by Turtle & Pearce.
The presentation with be made by Richard Smith and Sally Henshaw, respectively Chairman and Secretary of the Leicestershire Branch of the Richard III Society whilst Society joint-secretaries, David and Susan Wells, will respectively read a short statement of remembrance and lay white roses on the alter.
The genesis of the gift to the Cathedral was a bequest by a local Leicester teacher and long-term member of the Society, Margaret York, who died in August 2011, and who left bequests to both the Leicestershire Branch and the Society itself. Philippa Langley, founder of the Looking for Richard Project, whose campaign led to the discovery of the remains of King Richard in 2012, suggested the idea of a gift of the flags for the cathedral shortly after Margaret's death and it was felt her bequests would be the most appropriate means to fund the gift. Mrs Henshaw said 'I felt that this was a suitable way of honouring King Richard III and also Margaret, one of his most loyal supporters'.
Society Chairman, Phil Stone, has commented 'With the gift of these flags, the Society adds honour to the future burial site of Richard III. Such a display would have been just part of the heraldry seen at the burial of any medieval monarch.'
King Richard will be reburied at Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.
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Thursday 7 August 2014:
Today Leicester Cathedral announced their plans for the reburial of King Richard III; the Richard III Society is pleased that we now have these details confirmed. For all of us the focus must now be on ensuring that the ceremonies to be held during March next year fully befit an anointed king of England.
Since the discovery of King Richard's remains almost two years ago there have been barriers to overcome before reaching this point: the identification of the king's remains, the emotive debate over the location of the reburial and the nature of the reburial itself. We must now move on from these controversies and let King Richard finally be laid to rest in peace and honour.
Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society said, 'The finding of King Richard's remains has been one of the most significant developments in over five hundred years of Ricardian history. Today's announcement means we can now focus on the events of next March and work together to ensure that the king's reburial is carried out with dignity, solemnity and, above all, honour. At last, we have the opportunity to give Richard III what he was denied in 1485.'
Leicester Cathedral has agreed to hold a special service for members of the Society on Monday 23 March.
The Richard III Society again pays tribute to Philippa Langley and the Looking for Richard team who led the determined and successful campaign to locate King Richard's grave.
Friday 23 May 2014:
The Richard III Society acknowledges the judgement handed down on the 23 May at the Royal Courts of Justice by Lady Justice Hallett in respect of the Judicial Review brought by the Plantagenet Alliance. The judgement upholds the original license granted to the University of Leicester by the Ministry of Justice on the 3 September 2012. It is now in the hands of the university to follow through the requirements of that licence, and they have confirmed that the reburial of King Richard III will go ahead as planned in Leicester Cathedral. We will work constructively with the cathedral to help bring this about.
This judgement will be a disappointment to some; particularly the Plantagenet Alliance and their supporters, and we acknowledge the sincerity of their case. However we hope that now a clear ruling has been given we can all focus on ensuring that King Richard III receives an honourable and dignified reburial. Consideration should also now be given to the need for his remains to be removed to an appropriate place of sanctity before their final reburial.
Further arguments over the location of the king's final resting place can only be counter-productive to the solemnity of the reburial and will not help efforts to secure a reassessment of his life and character.
Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society said, 'I am very pleased that there has been a clear cut decision. It means that we can now move forward and re-inter King Richard with the dignity and sanctity that is due to an anointed king of England. Understandably, the judgement will be a disappointment to the Plantagenet Alliance and its supporters, but I hope that we can now all put the disagreements behind us and join together to honour King Richard when he is laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral.'
Friday 11 April 2014:
On Saturday 12 April 2014, a commemorative plaque will be unveiled by Philippa Langley, who conceived and spearheaded the successful Looking For Richard Project that discovered the remains of King Richard III in September 2012. The plaque will mark the spot where the search was set in motion at the Cramond Inn, Edinburgh in 2009.
This event will be the first official commemoration of the Looking For Richard Project which carried out the research, commissioned the archaeology and raised funding for the search for Richard III at a car park in Leicester. The three week project was principally financed by the Richard III Society and its members.
The wall plaque will be accompanied by a portrait of the last Plantagenet monarch by artist, Cynthia Waterman.
Professor Caroline Wilkinson from the University of Dundee, who recreated the face of Richard III using 3D facial reconstruction techniques commissioned by the Richard III Society, will see the plaque unveiled.
The Richard III Society has among its aims the promotion of research into the life and times of Richard III. It was founded in 1924 in the belief that many features of the 'traditional accounts' of this king are 'neither supported by sufficient evidence nor reasonably tenable'.
The TV documentary Richard III: The King in the Car Park, based on the Looking For Richard Project, recently won the prestigious Royal Television Society Award. The film followed Philippa Langley's long search for the grave of Richard III. Airing on 4 February 2013, it became Channel 4's highest rated specialist factual show ever.
Philippa, the secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Society, is working on a motion picture script aimed at telling Richard's real story on film and is currently in talks with Hollywood and the UK film industry.
Dr Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society said, 'The plaque to mark the start of Philippa's journey with the hugely successful Looking For Richard Project recognises her determination and vision which has resulted in the momentous find.'
He added, 'The project has been a landmark event in the Society's history, and perhaps its full impact is yet to be realised'.
On unveiling the plaque, Philippa thanked the Chairman, and the Scottish Branch, and said, 'The plaque marks where the Looking For Richard Project first started in the Cramond Inn on 21 February 2009. Three and a half years later we uncovered the remains of the last warrior King of England right where we said he would be.'
She added: 'It is a great honour to unveil this plaque on behalf of the Scottish Branch of the Society and all those involved in the Looking For Richard Project, specifically Dr John Ashdown-Hill, Annette Carson, Dr David and Wendy Johnson, and Dr Phil Stone.'
Thursday 18 July 2013:
The Richard III Society welcomes today's decision by Leicester Cathedral to mark the final resting place of King Richard III with a raised tomb.
'I am thrilled that the last warrior King of England is to be honoured with a tomb and that Yorkshire stone is being investigated as the material for it. We had always hoped that any design would convey what was important to Richard in his life but also his move into the light of a new future for his much-maligned reputation. The white rose, I believe, conveys this aspect beautifully and the designers, Cathedral and staff are to be congratulated on all their hard work. My personal hope is that after all deliberations have taken place, we may see a heraldic cross on the tomb for Richard who founded the College of Arms.
'We found Richard in the exact place I said he would be. The ethos of the Looking For Richard project was clear from its inception in February 2009. It was to honour Richard III by finding the real man behind the many myths that surround him. This is what propelled – and underpinned – my search which was backed at every step by the Richard III Society.
Overhead view of one of Leicester Cathedral's proposed designs.
© van Heyningen and HawardThe proposal of a tomb for this anointed monarch is exactly what the King, the project and the Country deserves.' said Philippa Langley, Originator of the Looking for Richard project.
Dr. Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society added: 'We welcome the Cathedral's decision and look forward to being a part of the project moving forward. The entire country owes a great debt of gratitude to Philippa Langley and the members of the Society, without whom the Looking for Richard project would not have been possible. We submitted draft designs for a tomb to the Cathedral in February and although they have not been adopted, I think this design is absolutely fantastic and we are looking forward to working with Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England (CFCE) and Fabrics Advisory Committee (FAC) to offer as much assistance as necessary.'
The press release from the Leicester Cathedral can be found here.
Saturday 4 May 2013:
This statement is a response to the declared preference of Leicester Cathedral to commemorate King Richard III with a ledger stone. In the Architects' Brief, the authorities state that it is unlikely that a large table tomb would be acceptable either to the Chapter or to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England.
It is the opinion of the Richard III Society and many others, including the citizens of Leicester itself, that King Richard should be given a table tomb. He was an anointed king of England and has been unfairly treated by history.
Following his defeat at the battle of Bosworth, Richard III was hastily buried in Leicester's Grey Friars church and in a grave so hastily cut, it was too small to contain his body. In time, that grave was lost with the dissolution of the monasteries and for nearly half a millennium the remains of Richard III lay in obscurity. It is time to see the king honoured with a proper memorial, reversing the treatment meted out by his successors.
The Society's reasons for wanting the king to have a tomb are clear:
The Society's proposed design is modest in scale, being 7' x 3'6" and, at only 2'3" high, will neither constitute a physical obstruction nor block sight lines within the Cathedral.
We are not asking for an effigy and whilst it is understood that the design suggested by the Richard III Society does not fully satisfy the Cathedral Chapter, we strongly feel it has many merits, not least its use of symbolism that would have been known to King Richard - the white boar, the white rose and the cross of St Cuthbert.
Richard III must now be brought out of the darkness and obscurity of an unmarked grave, and brought into the light of honour in a tomb that befits both him as a man and his status as a medieval king. Whatever the final decision of the Cathedral and the architects, it will always remain the conviction of the Richard III Society that a table tomb is the only fitting monument for King Richard.
The finding of the lost remains of a fifteenth-century king is a unique occurrence that provides an equally unique opportunity for their interment in a manner that reflects their royal status and historical importance. The public today and the generations to come will expect nothing less.
'Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet line which ruled England for over three hundred years. It is only fitting that he be honoured with a table tomb' said Dr. Phil Stone, Chairman of the Richard III Society.
'The search for Richard III was always about honouring the last warrior King of England with a tomb. This was at the heart of the project, and, indeed, was the reason the search to find him began. It is my fervent hope that we will not allow history to be repeated, and that King Richard will be honoured with a tomb' maintains Philippa Langley, the Originator of the quest to find the King.
'We have been asked to work with the Cathedral authorities and hope that Richard III will be honoured with a fitting and dignified tomb, as per the expectations of Ricardians around the world' said Dr. David and Wendy Johnson, designers of the Richard III Society proposed tomb.
'I am working with the Fabrics Advisory Group at the Cathedral and am hopeful that the authorities will honour Richard with a tomb fit for a medieval king' added Sally Henshaw, Secretary of the East Midlands Branch of the Society.
e-mail Dr Phil Stone,
e-mail Sally Henshaw.
Wednesday 13 February 2013:
Richard III's tomb—proposed designFollowing confirmation that the human remains of King Richard III are to be reinterred in Leicester, the Richard III Society today reveals plans for how it would like his tomb to look.
The tomb design was commissioned by Philippa Langley in September 2010 at the very beginning of the Looking For Richard III project. It is based on Richard's life, and what was important and meaningful to him, and the design was undertaken by a team of specialists with over 40 years of research into Richard III.
The Richard III Society is working in partnership with Philippa Langley, the Originator of the search for King Richard III, together with Sally Henshaw (secretary) and Richard Smith (chairman) of the East Midlands Branch, under the leadership of the Society's chairman Dr Phil Stone.
The objective of the proposed tomb is to honour the king's mortal remains with a memorial in keeping with the cathedral's interior space and ambience, while reflecting mediaeval royal tomb designs.
The proposal includes the following:
Proposed Tomb for King Richard III
The tomb is Magnesian Limestone. Its smooth, bright, honey-coloured appearance enshrines the light and optimism of a new future for Richard, but also because it is the stone in which York Minster is built, and is still used to this very day for repairs, maintenance, and rebuilding. Thus Magnesian Limestone represents Richard's journey from darkness to light and also his important connections with Yorkshire and the City of York.
The design incorporates the medieval past and the present day, acknowledging Richard's life as a fifteenth century nobleman and king, but without being inappropriate in a twenty first century cathedral. The design incorporates features representing Richard's family (White Rose of the House of York), Richard's devotion to the Christian faith (Cross of St. Cuthbert), and Richard's personal emblem (White Boar). These personally significant motifs are depicted in medieval style, decorating the sides and end of the monument, and creating the impression of a fifteenth century tomb in both feel and appearance.
A more modern aspect has been attempted with the upper surface of the monument. The design presents a smooth open plane of bright honey-coloured stone, punctuated by a royal coat of arms inlaid in gold metal at the head, and a gold metal plaque and carved motto at the foot. In addition the gold metal plaque serves to bridge the gap between the king and the man by including Richard's full name as well as his title as duke of Gloucester.
The cost of the proposed design is £28-30k and will take four months to construct. The CGI images of the tomb design are produced by Joseph Fox of 'Lost in Castles'.
The full details of the team behind the design will be made available at the Society's Conference in Leicester on Saturday 2nd March when photographs of the tomb design will be displayed.
Leicester Cathedral have issued a press release.
Tuesday 5 February 2013:
©GettyThe Richard III Society today unveiled the world's only facial reconstruction of the human remains found at the Greyfriars in Leicester, yesterday confirmed as belonging to Richard III. The reconstruction project, led by Professor Caroline Wilkinson, Professor of Craniofacial Identification at the University of Dundee, was commissioned and funded by the Richard III Society.
To those who have seen so many portrayals of Richard III with contorted body and facial features, this calm and apparently thoughtful face could be a shock. After his death, many portraits deliberately added narrowed eyes and mean lines. We have already discovered he had no kyphosis or withered arm - now we know he had a warm face, young, earnest and rather serious. How many scales will drop from how many eyes! This likeness is so real, it is a remarkable tribute to Professor Wilkinson and her reconstruction team. Congratulations and thanks are in order, but these words somehow don't seem adequate to recognise such art, skill and loving craftsmanship.
Dr. Phil Stone, Richard III Society Chairman, said: "It's an interesting face, younger and fuller than we have been used to seeing, less careworn, and with the hint of a smile. When I first saw it, I thought there is enough of the portraits about it for it to be King Richard but not enough to suggest they have been copied. I think people will like it. He's a man who lived. Indeed, when I looked him in the eye, 'Good King Richard' seemed alive and about to speak. At last, it seems, we have the true image of Richard III - is this the face that launched a thousand myths?"
Monday 4 February 2013:
Today's news confirmed what until this morning members of the Richard III Society had hardly dared believe, that The Greyfriars human remains are indeed those of Richard Plantagenet, the fifteenth-century English king, known to most as Richard III: the last warrior king of England.
9 January 2013: THE SEARCH FOR KING RICHARD III: Announcement of date for media conference
The University of Leicester has today announced that it plans to reveal the results of a series of scientific investigations into human remains—which are suspected of being those of King Richard III—in the first week of February.
The University of Leicester is leading the search for King Richard III, in association with Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society. At a press conference in September, the University announced that it had found human remains with evidence of what was believed to be scoliosis and battle trauma. The University said that these remains would need to be subjected to rigorous scientific analysis in order to confirm their identity.
The University is expecting results of the series of tests in the next few weeks during which period the results will be analysed. The University aims to announce the conclusions of its investigations at a press conference provisionally scheduled for the first week of February.
Details of the date/time/venue for the conference and other logistical arrangements will be announced in due course.
8th January 2013: With the announcement of the results of the tests on the Greyfriars skeleton only weeks away it is a timely opportunity to focus on Richard III's achievements during his short reign of twenty-six months.
27th December 2012: A facial reconstruction is currently in progress aimed at revealing what may be the features of King Richard III. In August 2012, the search for King Richard's grave, led by the University of Leicester in association with Leicester City Council and the Richard III Society, excited world attention.
In September, a male skeleton was unearthed at the Greyfriars site in Leicester. Although the identity of the skeleton is not confirmed, the Richard III Society has commissioned a facial reconstruction , based on a CT scan taken by the University of Leicester, to be carried out by a leading expert in craniofacial identification, Prof Caroline Wilkinson, at the University of Dundee.
The resulting reconstruction is expected to feature in a Channel 4 programme early in 2013, which will document the life of King Richard and the search for his grave. Following transmission the Society will make the reconstruction available to the media.
30th October 2012: It is time to end the lazy acquiescence with the Tudor and Shakespearean myths about Richard III. If the body found at the Greyfriars dig is Richard III, it proves he was no hunchback and if he suffered from scoliosis that is no reason to denigrate him.
8 October 2012: The Richard III Society has placed on record its unbounded admiration and appreciation for those involved in the phenomenally successful search for King Richard III's last resting place.
The Society at its recent AGM honoured the project's prime mover and motivator, Philippa Langley, with its Robert Hamblin Award , which was established in 2002 to recognise work of outstanding service by a member. Ms Langley was also awarded honorary life membership in recognition of the particular merit of the Greyfriars Dig.
The Society was invited to meet members of the Foreign Press Association of London to bring them up to date with what was happening with the remains of King Richard. Society Chairman, Phil Stone, met with them two days before the judicial review was to resume in the High Court.
There were a dozen or more reporters present, including representatives from the Czech Republic, Japan, Switzerland, Austria and Israel. The briefing began with a short statement on Richard III, the Society and the legal position and, after that, it became a question and answer session. Some of the questions were the expected ones, such as 'Where do you want him reburied?', 'Why not Westminster Abbey', 'Why York', etc., and reasons for and against the various places were given.
After the briefing, there was a one-to-one interview with a Slovenian network, and with two competing Norwegian news outlets.
Following the recent archaeological dig at Leicester , the finding of Richard's remains and the ensuing worldwide media interest, one could be excused for thinking that this was the first time that the character of Richard III had been subject to public scrutiny.
This however is not the case; in fact Richard has been in the public eye since Elizabethan times when Shakespeare wrote his play Richard III in which he painted the king as a dastardly character. The play was based on contemporary chronicles which drew on the writings of Thomas More and Polydore Vergil, and reflected the Tudor 'spin' on Richard's reputation. This was followed up over the decades with pamphlets and tracts, the media of their time, continuing to decry Richard's character and then of course by newspapers and magazines beginning in the nineteenth century.
With the start of the twentieth century, the media was achieving a wider circulation and more interest was being shown in the character of Richard. Unfortunately not all in a favourable light since most reports covered performances of Shakespeare's play, which was the most performed, and regrettably actors, in general, love to play villains. It was also unfortunate that the only knowledge that the majority of the public had of Richard was via the play which many took to be actual history. An example of this mistaken reliance on Shakespeare was that it was alleged that the Duke of Marlborough 'took his history from Shakespeare'. It was later in the twentieth century that another medium came into being, movies, although this still did nothing good for Richard's reputation since movie makers stuck rigidly to Shakespeare's version of events. While on the subject of movies interestingly the first ever full length one made in 1912 was based on Shakespeare's Richard III. A major movie that reinforced the view of Richard as an evil monarch was released in 1955 and starred Sir Laurence Olivier; unfortunately this is the one that many members of the public, of a certain age, still remember well.
However in the early twenties a group of like minded people, begging to differ from the views expressed by Shakespeare, got together to found a fellowship to study academically the true historical facts about Richard and then to try to bring them to the public's attention. In 1956 this fellowship was revived and in 1959 became the Richard III Society.
In 1973 an exhibition was held at the National Portrait Gallery in London when several portraits of Richard and artefacts from his time were displayed; the exhibition proved very popular and helped to generate new interest in the historical Richard III.
In 1984 the Richard III Society managed to bring the matter of Richard's character to much wider public attention via a major television production – 'The Trial of Richard III' which was possibly the first television reality show. This was one of the highlights of the 1983-85 Quincentenary celebrations, and most importantly gave a not guilty verdict.
Following on from this, exposure in the media continued to grow via the Society's publicity efforts, albeit at a slow rate with most media comments still being reviews of performances of the play. It should be remembered that the media, be it electronic or printed, only want stories that they consider to be of real interest, they are in business after all and are, not as many people think, a public service.
We then came to what is termed the 'noughties' in other words the current century. Media interest in Richard started to pick up with the discovery of the true location of the battle of Bosworth, a little distance from the previously identified site. In looking at Bosworth many in the media realised they needed more background information on Richard and his times and enquiries directed to the Society started to pick up. This was then followed a couple of years later by the project originated by Philippa Langley a Society member, who not only believed in the possibility of Richard being buried under a car park in Leicester, but also took real action to initiate an archaeological search for his remains. Philippa worked with the historian John Ashdown-Hill, and then in conjunction with the archaeological department of Leicester University and the City of Leicester, to successfully locate the remains in the autumn of 2012.
This opened the media flood gates and requests came in not only from all over the UK but also from all parts of the world. In the UK the dig was covered not only by major television stations, both national and local, but also local radio stations and of course the national press. There were many requests for interviews with nominated Society spokespersons; suddenly everybody wanted to know about Richard.
Modern copy of SAL portraitAt the same time interest was being generated internationally with many requests for interviews; telephone interviews were conducted with television and radio stations from Australia, South Africa, the USA and of course from across Europe. Two particularly interesting requests came in, the first from the French National Radio network who actually conducted a face to face interview with the Society's Chairman in London which lasted for over three hours! The other request was from Ukraine State Television who wanted to send a film crew to the dig site as well as conduct an interview. The Society also received requests from major US newspapers, the New York Times, Washington Post and the LA Times who all sent reporters to the site and requested interviews.
Now that the remains have been DNA analysed and deemed to be those of Richard III the worldwide media interest has not died, indeed if anything it has increased.
In addition to handling all the media requests the Society itself has been very proactive in not only putting out press releases in order to keep the media abreast of developments but has also placed a number of double page advertorials in some of the most widely-read history magazines. It has also commissioned a facial reconstruction of King Richard's skull by one of the UK's leading experts in this field; seeing the real face of Richard III will no doubt generate even more interest.
The Society has been fortunate to have a team of knowledgeable spokespersons available for interviews, often for live broadcasts at very short notice due to world time zones. This has greatly helped our interaction with the media in all its forms.
In dealing with the media the Society's website has played an important role through providing direct access to reliable sources of information. To meet the challenge of this greatly increased influx of requests the website has been redesigned and re-launched to make it even easier for users to navigate quickly and efficiently.
Lucy Worsley’s news series, British History’s Biggest Fibs, kicked off with an episode delving into the Wars of the Roses, a programme I was eagerly awaiting. There are so many misconceptions about the whole period and their reassessment is part of the stated purpose of the Richard III Society, so anticipation reached a peak as the trailers were released. I must confess that my initial reaction was disappointment, but there was plenty to redeem the episode too. My impression was that it would be a programme dealing with the events of the Wars of the Roses to debunk some of the myths of the period, so when it swiftly dived into the Tudor years, I was left a little deflated: as if there isn’t enough Tudor history on the BBC already!
Most people, Lucy Worsley begins with her trademark engaging enthusiasm, see history as a list of dates and battles, kings and queens when in fact it is a complex tapestry of stories woven together by those in power. This was to be the story of how the Wars of the Roses was invented by the Tudors and immortalised by Shakespeare. Brother fought brother, kings were deposed, children were killed, the wicked Richard III was defeated and England saved – or so the story goes. This was the list of myths I was looking forward to seeing examined and debunked. The first plunge into the Wars of the Roses took us to the Battle of Stubbins in 1455, with Lucy Worsley hurling Lancashire Black Pudding at the camera and Yorkshire Puddings from the other side of the bridge before announcing that the battle was a myth originating from 1983, demonstrating that received knowledge might only need a little digging to disprove. So far so good.
The story next moved to the Battle of Towton, which was perhaps the first hint that this was not in fact a programme about the Wars of the Roses, but rather about the establishment of the Tudor foundation myth. The catastrophic 28,000 reported deaths at Towton were measured against the 19,000 British deaths on the first day of the Somme to give perspective to the apocalyptic fighting in which around 1% of the population of England were killed. The horror was graphically shown by some of the skulls recovered from the mass graves which showed horrendous injuries. The myth that was dispelled in this portion was that the Wars of the Roses have traditionally been viewed as thirty-two years of constant fighting and struggles when estimates in fact contend that all the campaigning and fighting combined consumed only around thirteen weeks of those decades in about eight battles and some skirmishes. I would count seventeen battles, maybe sixteen if the non-engagement at Ludford Bridge is discounted, but I don’t think it can be narrowed down to just eight. The Wars of the Roses, we are told, was a Tudor story.
We move next to the Battle of Bosworth, where the received story is that Henry Tudor saved a nation from the ‘tyrant’ Richard III, who offered his kingdom for a horse, though even hostile writers conceded that he fought bravely to the end and came within a sword’s length of Henry before the crown was lost from his head and recovered to be placed on Henry’s. Now, here were some valuable myths that might be debunked. So, the question is asked, how much of this really happened? It’s impossible to say, the answer comes. This represents a missed opportunity because several of those snippets can be disproven. Henry VII wanted to portray himself as saving a nation and that story required a villain to save the country from. Richard III is called a tyrant despite meeting none of the traditional measures of tyranny, which requires, for example, ruling in the tyrant’s personal interests at the expense of the people. There is evidence to dispute this version of Richard. He must have come close to Henry because Richard killed Tudor’s standard bearer, Sir William Brandon, who was meant to be next to Tudor at all times. The reference to calling for a horse made famous by Shakespeare is one of the biggest myths because it is traditionally associated with cowardice when the text in fact has Richard calling for a fresh horse to return to the fray and hunt down Henry Tudor. Surely this is a huge fib that could easily have been redressed.
The remainder of the programme deals firmly with the construction of the Tudor foundation myth after Bosworth and in examining this gives the viewer some insight into the need Henry VII had to create the mythology that still clings to the Tudor dynasty, shrouding it in a mystique that hides so much insecurity and keeps the interest in them high. The dating of Henry’s reign to the day before Bosworth is explained by his desire to present himself as the rightful king when he took the field at Bosworth, though no mention is given to his urgent need to attaint Richard’s supporters because of his own lack of power base and the later need to undo this tangled knot because it hampered his own ability to put an army in the field. The darker motives are somewhat glossed over as the story swiftly moves on to the marriage with Elizabeth of York which, we are told, Henry made because he realised that picking the right wife was vitally important. No mention is made of his promise nearly two years before Bosworth to make the match if he became king nor of Parliament’s chivvying along of the king when he appeared reluctant to go through with it.
The de la Pole’s genealogical roll was fascinating to see, stretching so far back to Brutus that the long table it was on would not allow it to be fully unrolled. The red line of kings ends after Richard III and Henry VII is found tacked onto the side, descending from Owen Tudor, a servant of the chamber. The sideswipe is the result of the de la Pole family’s opposition to the Tudors, another piece of propaganda aimed in this instance to devalue the Tudor claim to the throne. Henry’s lack of royal title is stated with little examination, glossing over the Beaufort line, his French royal blood and Welsh ancestry completely. The opportunity to explain the Tudor need to craft the neat period of the Wars of the Roses that they ended by reference to the de la Poles and other Yorkist threats to their throne is missed, which I think is another shame.
Another fabulous piece of evidence appears next in the form of a medieval anthology of poetry and prose that once belonged to Edward IV who, we are incorrectly informed, won the throne in 1471. The purpose of referring to this manuscript is to debunk the story of the red rose of Lancaster. It is explained as a creation of Henry Tudor to contrast to the white rose of Yorkshire and allow him to join the two symbols to create the famous Tudor rose. There is little discussion of Henry’s need to incorporate the white rose because of his continued reliance on Yorkist support attracted by his wife but to impose his own dynastic stamp over that, or of suggestions that the red rose was amongst Henry IV’s badges. The iconography employed by Henry VII is beautifully displayed at King’s College, Cambridge, where Beaufort greyhounds, Cadwallader’s dragons and Tudor roses press the dominance the Tudor dynasty wished to portray to the nation out from the walls.
A key primary source is examined next as John Rous’s The History of the Kings of England is compared to his Rous Roll and the drastic change in his description of Richard, from the monster described in the former under Henry VII as being born after two years in the womb with teeth, a full head of hair and talons, back to the prince blessed by God and beloved by his people who had appeared in the latter whilst Richard was still king. The contrast is incredibly valuable in explaining just how quickly the image of Richard III in particular switched after Bosworth because he had to become a villain in order to present Henry VII as a hero. Such a direct contrast goes a long way to demonstrating the Tudor control of information and the need for writers to please their new masters by propagating their new version of events.
Henry VIII’s embracing of the foundation myth established by his father is demonstrated by the addition of the Tudor rose to the uniform of the Yeoman of the Guard, a standing force of bodyguards established by the first Tudor king and expanded from 300 men to 600 under his son. The subtle adoption of the Tudor rose as the recognised badge of England, a lofty position that it still retains today, is a perfect demonstration of the success of the Tudor story telling machinery that has become woven into the historical identity of a nation.
A visit to the National Portrait Gallery serves to link the development of this story into the reign of Elizabeth I, when the lack of an heir raised the threat of a repeat of the Wars of the Roses the Tudors claimed to have extinguished. It is at this point that Shakespeare takes centre stage. The role of the history plays as political warning and moral lesson is given a brief airing which might have been more valuable if it went a little deeper. The fact that Shakespeare transformed the struggles of the previous century into a straight fight between the red and white roses is voiced but not examined. There is no mention of the raft of feuds that this simplistic version covers up, nor of Shakespeare’s need to imbue drama that outweighed any interest in fact and that his plays, by their very nature, left no room for ambiguity and required him to present uncertainties as established facts. Thus, the most dramatic elements of Tudor chronicles were combined to devastating effect in Shakespeare’s Richard III. Fact mattered less than the moral and political messages.
Possibly the least satisfying part of the programme took Lucy Worsley into the costume archives of the Royal Shakespeare Company to examine the various costumes used to portray Richard III, most notably by Sir Anthony Sher. Prosthetic humps, raised shoes and withered arms are examined without any reference to whether they in fact formed part of Richard’s physical makeup, a comparison that can easily be made now. Sadly, none of these myths were dispelled.
The lack of fib-busting continues with the Princes in the Tower. They were, it is explained, imprisoned in 1483 and murdered by Richard for the crown. There is then a very important examination of some of the different stories of bones discovered in the Tower and believed to be those of the Princes, but then the story disappointingly ends with the 1674 discovery which appears to be held up as genuine without reference to the context of the find during Charles II’s reign at a time when he was at odds with Parliament and had reason to remind his subjects what happens when a king is wrongly deposed by a tyrant and the nation has to be saved. For Edward V, Richard III and Henry VII, see Charles I, Oliver Cromwell and Charles II. There is no discussion offered of the possibility that these bones, like Shakespeare’s play, were a political tool rather than an historical fact. No hint too of the role of pretenders to demonstrate the lack of certainty about the fates of the Princes in the Tower.
The impact of Victorian historians’ desire to provide a moral message and to present history as a struggle between good and evil is a useful extension of the story, though it is not related to any particular facts of the Wars of the Roses. The fifteenth century was a blip, a backward step in the constant progress of history toward the glory of the Victorian age. The Shakespeare play appears once more, on the big screen this time with Olivier’s iconic portrayal and Sir Ian McKellan’s Nazi version given an airing.
The Richard III Society is mentioned before we delve into the discovery of Richard’s remains in 2012 and the revelation of the curvature of his spine that, apparently, Ricardians would not allow to shake their conviction of his positive aspects. Nor should we. The programme concludes at the statue of Richard III now located between Leicester Cathedral and the Richard III Visitor Centre. Lucy Worsley is joined by the founder of the Henry Tudor Society to discuss the rivalry that remains alive between Henry VII’s supporters and those of Richard III. Perhaps the greatest shame of the episode is highlighted here; that the Richard III Society was not approached to offer an opinion at any part of the programme and particularly at this final point. It is beyond doubt that rivalry exists and that it can become heated and occasionally unpleasant, but the opportunity to bridge this divide that is the only hope of a full understanding of the period was passed up. Richard III cannot be understood without reference to Henry VII and the Tudor foundation myth cannot be fully dissected without an understanding of Richard III. The need for a hero and a villain is a Tudor invention, part of their mythology reinforced by Shakespeare and Hollywood. It ignores the subtleties of the fifteenth century that make the period fascinating. Henry VII and Richard III have more in common than divides them and these similarities should be embraced instead of focussing on the battle that divided them.
Perhaps the greatest testament to the Tudor’s myth making propaganda machine is that so much of their story is still accepted as truth and even attempts to dispel their fibs seem somehow to perpetuate most of them. This episode provided several interesting and valuable discussions of the reason that the Wars of the Roses is viewed as it is but remained a little too superficial and busted too few fibs for me. There was lots of discussion of what the Tudors did but little about the truths they covered up and why they needed to be buried. Why do we think the Wars began in 1455 rather than 1447 or 1459? How did they continue into the sixteenth century when we are taught that they ended in 1485, or 1487 at the absolute latest? Why was Richard III instantly demonised when Edward IV was not? Why did Shakespeare give Richard III Robert Cecil’s kyphosis instead of scoliosis? There is a wealth of fascinating questions, but too few of them get a look in and too few fibs are dispelled in my opinion. In the end, negative depictions of Richard III are left propped up by the discovery of his scoliosis as we are left with the thought that the depictions are actually close to reality. The greatest fib of the Wars of the Roses is left intact.
'British History’s Biggest Fibs – Episode 1 – The Wars of the Roses' is available to view on BBC iPlayer
More from Matthew Lewis:
The Ricardian vols 3–20, October 1974–2010, can now be consulted and searched online, FREE at http://www.thericardian.online
The Ricardian is the historical journal of the Richard III Society. Members of the Society receive the current year’s volume as a benefit of membership and have always been able to purchase back numbers, but now earlier issues, from the early years up to and including 2010, are available to everyone in their entirety. In future, groups of volumes will be added to the online series after a minimum of five years.
Contributions include many detailed biographies of men and women whose lives were directly relevant to Richard III, such as relatives, officials and servants, but also of merchants, craftsmen, artists and scholars of the period whose careers add to our general knowledge of fifteenth-century society. There are discussions of aspects of social life, political and economic issues, important events, including battles, crucial texts – both literary and historical – heraldry, works of arts and archaeological finds. Specific Ricardian issues are dealt with, of course, such as the controversial portraits of Richard III, his favourite saints, the mystery of the princes in the Tower and the problem of Edward IV’s marriage pre-contract followed by a secret marriage, which taken together made his sons illegitimate under canon law and cleared Richard’s way to the throne. The volumes which are now online include the original articles that together analysed the interesting book collections of Richard III and his family, as well as the studies of the elaborate funerals of Richard, Duke of York, Edward IV and Queen Elizabeth Woodville. Review articles and reviews cover a wide range of books that dealt with similar material throughout these years and brief summaries guide the reader to shorter publications on these subjects. Maps, family trees and unusual illustrations complete the information provided.
Volume 13 special 'Festschrift'
edition front cover.The Ricardian was originally published quarterly in March, June, September and December but since 2002 it has been published as an annual journal. Volume 13 was a special Festschrift edition in honour of Anne Sutton's twenty-five years as editor of the journal and contained thirty-seven articles.
The Ricardian Bulletin is the Society's lively and informative members' magazine published quarterly in March, June, September, and December. Each issue contains news and features about the work of the Society and other items of interest relevant to Richard III and his times, including media coverage. There are also historical articles focusing on the late fifteenth century; exploring new subjects or re-examining old ones and always based on original research or fresh interpretations. Every issue carries at least one article with a specific focus on Richard III himself. There are also book reviews covering both fiction and non-fiction.
The magazine aims to keep all members fully informed about the services the Society offers and its activities at both a national and local level. There are regular reports about our library services, research projects, visits programme, and membership benefits. The magazine also has reviews of Society and other events, a busy letters page and regular reports from our branches and groups both in the UK and overseas.
Since it was first published in 1974, the Ricardian Bulletin has undergone changes in size and style, responding to changing circumstances and the technology available. A major revamp came with the December 2013 issue when we have moved to an A4 format with a clearer layout and use of colour throughout the magazine. These changes are in keeping with our determination to maintain and enhance the Society's professional image and to build on the heightened world-wide interest in Richard III following the discovery of his remains in 2012 and subsequent reburial in 2015.