The media across the world is full of the story of the discovery of the remains of Richard III, last Plantagenet king of England, beneath a carpark in Leicester. Like many people I have been fascinated by him since I first read the story when I was a child. Richard was missed out altogether and the book concentrated on the little princes who I thought looked rather soppy and girly.
As a child though I still appreciated how dreadful it was that two boys only a little older than me should be actually killed by their uncle of all people, my uncles were kind and loving it just didn’t seem possible that anyone else’s should be cruel and murderous.
My next remembered meeting with Richard was when I read ‘The Daughter of Time’ a terrific book by Josephine Tey, about a modern detective who retrospectively investigates the murders in the tower; his investigation is triggered by a picture of Richard, who he sees as wise and thoughtful but is horrified and disbelieving when he learns ‘the truth’ and sets to prove that Richard was a victim himself of a conspiracy.
I read the Shakespeare history and then saw the famous Lawrence Olivier film, which made the villain sexy and charismatic.
I was intrigued by the news of the proposed archaeological excavation in the Leicester carpark last year, and followed the finds and discoveries in the news. Historical research had pretty much debunked the theory that Richard’s dead body was thrown in a river, and had concluded that he had been buried without much ceremony in the monastic settlement of Greyfriars in Leicester. The site of Greyfriars was suggested and a dig revealed that indeed the monastery was beneath the carpark. Astonishingly within a few hours of the dig starting a skeleton was found, and more astonishingly still it was proved beyond reasonable doubt and with much scientific historical and academic research to be that of Richard.
On February 4th a programme was broadcast revealing the story of the dig and the conclusion, and a reconstruction (from the skull) of Richard’s face. You may be able to catch the programme here:
It was interesting; the coincidences and luck which followed the dig and the subsequent investigation was quite thrilling…. however… the programme was spoilt for me by three things. First of all, the presenter and link person, the man who spoke to camera and followed the story from when the Richard III Society managed to raise enough money and stimulate enough interest to pursue the quest, was Simon Farnaby a comedian (so-called) and actor with annoying clown-like hair, who seemed to bent on making humorous asides, and giving quirky glances to the camera. He intruded irritatingly into the programme and was a distraction.
Secondly, much as I admired the dedication and love of Richard by Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society, the programme grew more and more into something about her and her pursuit of a man she obviously worshipped. I wasn’t interested in her in this instance; maybe her work and dedication was for another programme, this one should have centred on the dig, the archaeology, the history, the science, not a person who was overcome by tears as the truth became revealed (it was moving, but for me had no place in this documentary… Richard should have been centre stage, not one of his admirers)
Thirdly, and almost maddening of all was the wretched and extremely irritating background music. At times it cast a comic pall over the documentary, as if to accompany Simon Farnaby’s jolly ramble through a Horrible History come to life. it was intrusive, irrelevant and inappropriate. Grrrr!