This book tells the story of the Greyfriars Dig from the point of view of the scientists involved in the dig: Mathew Morris supervised the field work and Richard Buckley was the lead archaeologist. It is a slim book, only 64 pages, but it is amazing how much well-founded information it contains. The many well-chosen illustrations, both historical ones as well as modern photographs, are a treat.
Before describing the dig and its outcome, the book covers the historical background that led to Richard III being buried in the church of the Greyfriars (ie. Franciscans) in the first place. They acknowledge that “Shakespeare weaves a compelling portrait of the king, yet in real life he was a loyal brother and a fearless leader who inspired great loyalty amongst his followers, and a lawmaker whose legal reforms still affect us today.” [p.8] They follow Richard to the Battle of Bosworth, also summarising the research that established the actual site of the action.
The section explaining Leicester’s history was particularly interesting and helps to visualise the historic sites in the modern city. Part of their research was overlaying and comparing historical maps with modern maps of Leicester.
They explain their objectives in undertaking this dig. They wanted to find the remains of the Franciscan Friary, identify clues and orientation of the buildings, locate the church within the friary, if they managed to locate the church, they wanted to find the choir, and the fifth objective, which seemed highly unlikely to achieve, was locating Richard’s remains. It is well known by now that they managed to realise all five objectives. The dig itself is chronologically explained and illustrated with diagrams.
The last pages cover the post-dig research which established that the remains which were found are indeed those of Richard III. The issue of the DNA match, which can be rather confusing to the lay person, is well explained.
The book acknowledges the roles played by Philippa Langley, John Ashdown-Hill and the Richard III Society in general.
This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in the finding of Richard’s remains.
Note: I would like to thank my friend in Leicester, who attended the launch of this book and bought an extra copy and posted it to me. This is particularly appreciated, as this book does not seem to be available yet to Australians through the usual channels.However, you can order it directly from the University of Leicester shop at http://shop.le.ac.uk/