One woman's quest to redeem the king under the car park

Fri Feb 8, 2013 2:05am EST
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - "It was a warm day but I suddenly felt cold," was how Philippa Langley described the powerful sensation she experienced when she walked over the unmarked grave of her hero King Richard III beneath a car park in central England.

One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of recent English history has been driven by one woman's obsession with overturning Shakespeare's portrayal of Richard as a twisted tyrant who murdered two young princes in the Tower of London.

The extraordinary tale of the discovery of the bones of the last English monarch to die in battle combined passion, sleuthing and scholarship with carbon dating, DNA testing and a search for funding worthy of a best-selling detective yarn.

The skeleton allowed Richard's face to be reconstructed -- fleshy with thick, dark eyebrows and rather bland features -- and also revealed the fatal wounds inflicted at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Now Langley, a 50-year-old screenwriter, wants to rehabilitate Richard III as an enlightened monarch who made important strides in the areas of law and printing.

Historians had pursued several trails to track down where the defeated Richard had been ignominiously buried by the victor at Bosworth, the future King Henry VII who paraded Richard's naked corpse before handing it to friars to dispose of.

When Langley began reading a biography of Richard 15 years ago, she had no idea it was to be the start of a quest that would eventually solve the 500-year-old mystery about the last resting place of one of England's most reviled monarchs.

Against all odds, archaeologists announced this week they had found Richard's skeleton buried beneath a car park in the city of Leicester.   Continued...

Philippa Langley, originator of the "Looking for Richard" project, poses with a facial reconstruction of King Richard III at a news conference in central London February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning