A film is shortly to be released based on actual events, and it interested me greatly because it’s about archaeology, about a really historical mystery which has been solved, and is something I’ve read about in history and in novels. There was a TV program about it in 2013, and I wrote about it here, and made a comment which seems prescient in the light of this film. This is what I wrote:
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!
Now a film, ‘The Lost King’ starring Steve Coogan has been made, and has taken my point (quite unknowingly of course!) that there is a story about Ms Langley. However, now it seems that the archaeologists who conducted the excavation which found the King’s remains, are a little bit more than unhappy at the way they have been portrayed in the film and are considering legal action against the makers of it. Here’s an article from The Guardian, and also teh BBC which is titled ‘The Lost King: Legal action ‘likely’ against Richard III film’
My original blog resulted in what I still consider a very strange comment from someone:
If you were so fascinated in RIII, what did you do to encourage the discovery of RIII? I personally know Phillipa and your comments are distasteful. I have seen the stress and strain she has endured, trying for years to be heard. She spent many years contacting people and a pretty penny running up and down the country trying to get those who think they know it all to listen and take her seriously. She is just a normal person with a passion for RIII and I have a massive amount of respect for someone who has made the world sit up and take notice. The programme was about the journey of how the dig came about and relentless fund raising of Phillipa is the only reason that the university went ahead. It was not the University or archaeologists who instigated the dig , it was the research and determination of Phillipa.
Phillipa was the driving force behind this dig and Channel 4 thought it only fitting to do the documentary with Phillipa as an integral part. I believe. as do so many others that she deserves the recognition she was given, if not more.
It strikes me that jealousy is a bitter pill and perhaps you should just swallow it with dignity, rather than denigrate a situation you evidently know very little about.
I was totally baffled!!! I was fascinated – but an interest in a short episode in history is not a passion! I wonder what was distasteful? And jealous? Good grief!! Here is what I replied:
I’m sorry you thought I was jealous – I assure you I wasn’t… and what would I be jealous of?
I’m sorry too if you thought my comments were hurtful to Philippa, they weren’t intended to be, I just thought the presentation of the programme was muddled, it was advertised as a documentary about Richard III and I know Philippa’s devotion and hard work led to the ultimate discovery of the remains, but I thought there was another programme to be made about her and her quest.
The programme made it perfectly clear how much Philippa had given and how tirelessly she had worked… but to me it took the emphasis away from the dig and the history.
This is only my opinion, after all, and I think I should be free to express it.
What is the most interesting to me, is that over five hundred years after his death, this king is still giving rise to such interest and such passion. I was once in a shop in York buying some postcards and the lady behind the counter was selling someone else a Richard III poster – she remarked, ‘Aye, Richard, he were very good to us here in York,’ as if he’d lived in her life time!
By the way, my featured image is from an archaeological dig here in our little village of Uphill. No kings were found!
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I’m looking forward to the film, he’s a fascinating character.
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Thanks for putting that film on my radar (and your comments weren’t distasteful at all)! I enjoyed your take – and I think we followed similar paths with assuming Richard to be an evil figure and then getting new perspectives like from “Daughter of Time”.
Ys, it’s amazing how long a collective memory we have – the Norman Conquest, Richard III, the Black Death – it’s as if some of these things were more recent!
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He certainly is – remarkable really!
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Thank you Lo you said it all much better than I could.
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I’m sure that’s not quite true, but thanks very much!!