28
Jul

Book Review: Finding Richard III : The Official Account

   Posted by: Barbara Gaskell Denvil   in Bookworm

We thank Barbara for making her review of this book available to us.

Finding Richard III : The Official Account
of Research by the Retrieval & Reburial Project

Finding Richard IIIThe Looking for Richard Project team, specifically Philippa Langley (the inaugurator) , John Ashdown-Hill BA, MA, PhD, FSA, FRHistS, Annette Carson, David Johnson BA Hons, MA, PhD, and Wendy Johnson, set out to discover the burial place and human remains of Richard III himself, although these were long considered lost forever. This, the official account, is a clear, precise and riveting summary of facts, not of opinions. However, step by inspired step, we are led past the opinions of many as we follow the unique development of one of the most impressive and amazing archaeological discoveries ever achieved in England.

In early 2009, Philippa Langley launched the search for Richard III’s resting place. She and the team then worked together to meticulously discredit the long held rumour of the desecration of his grave and the tossing of his remains into the River Soar, even though this unsubstantiated rumour was frequently upheld by others, even historians. There have also been years of mistaken belief as to the site of the Greyfriars Priory, considered the probable place of original burial in 1485. Many historical errors and later misjudgements were now researched and carefully corrected by the team, all briefly summarised here. With lucid and detailed explanation, this books covers every aspect, matching medieval probabilities to modern specifics until gradually we feel we have travelled the same journey, walked those 15th century streets, peered into those shadowed mysteries and so can share the team’s inspirational optimism.

With enormous expertise and determination, the team persisted until 2012 when at last, with council permission obtained, funds raised (principally from the Richard III Society) and legal agreements made with the relevant authorities, ULAS (University of Leicester Archaeological Services), were contracted and paid in advance accordingly as demanded, to undertake the digging in the area specified by the Project. Indeed, ULAS had so little belief in the probability of discovering Richard III’s actual remains, that they accepted the commission only when the wording of the contract was amended to specify and limit the dig to the excavation of the Franciscan Priory Church. Philippa Langley then insisted that contractual obligations include provision for the possible exhumation of human remains. The Looking For Richard team’s accuracy was so impressive to seem virtually unbelievable, so even after the leg bones of an adult male were discovered in the designated area on the very first day of the dig, ULAS could not believe they had begun to uncover Richard III himself.

Included in the narrative are the surprising disappointments and the failures of some, in particular the areas where original contractual agreements have not been met by other parties. For instance, the shocking failure of the university to invite John Ashdown-Hill to the official announcement of Richard III’s DNA match, which identified his remains beyond reasonable doubt, even though it was Mr. Ashdown-Hill alone who traced the living descendent used to conclude that DNA match, and Ms. Langley was only invited to speak after the TV coverage had ended. It is also evidently of some concern and against the wording of the original contract, for the remains of this anointed monarch and ancestor of the queen to still be retained by the university instead of having been laid to rest in some prayerful and respectful place until the re-interment process can be conducted. Difficulties with the Cathedral administration are also recorded.

But there is no winter of discontent here, no list of complaints or failures. Indeed, the book is a celebration of a rare and glorious success, leading to a greater knowledge and understanding of this long misunderstood and maligned king, and eventually to a fitting reburial.

Written with impressive clarity and extensive footnotes, without unacademic or emotional emphasis, this short book explains exactly what happened from initiation to conclusion. It is the summary of the search itself, and includes a full list of those who donated to the costs and copies of all the contracts involved. The considerable respect and care shown by Ms. Langley for the legal drafting of the original contractual agreements is precise and impressive. Whether her wishes have been fully complied with since, is another matter.

Although such facts can, as would be expected, seem dry at times, there is not one moment when this book becomes heavy, or can be even momentarily discarded. It is both a fascinating and rewarding read from beginning to end. And FINDING RICHARD III: THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNT covers one more necessary task, that of explaining exactly how the search not only originated with the Finding Richard Project, but was successful owing to their incredible expertise and persistence. In the face of repeated claims and assumptions that Leicester University or ULAS discovered Richard III’s burial place and his remains, it was instead the studious research and ultimate success of The Finding Richard Project, who have now produced this official account to set the record straight.

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26
Jul

The Visitor Centre opens today

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in News

Richard III Facial ReconstructionThe King Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester will open today, 26 July 2014.  Some journalists, like Sophie Campbell from the Telegraph,  were lucky enough to get a preview of the Centre.  Her article gives a good indication of what the visitors can expect.  There are quite a few articles around offering a glimpse of the Centre, here is another one by the University of Leicester.  We hope to be able to bring you an eye-witness report after the official opening.

And while we wait for our own chance to see the Visitor Centre, you might like to have a look at a reconstruction of the Grey Friars Priory in Leicester, which was carried out by the Digital Building heritage Group at De Montfort University, Leicester.  The fly-through video is not to be missed!

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26
Jul

26 JULY 1469

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Battle of Edgecote Moor (actually Danes Moor in Northamptonshire), a battle of the Warwick Rebellion.

In the North, one of the captains of Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick (“The Kingmaker”), calling himself Robin of Redesdale (actually a trusted Neville captain, Sir William Conyers) started a rebellion against Edward IV, which was supported by Warwick and George, Duke of Clarence, brother of Edward IV and Richard III.  Edward IV was at Nottingham, where he hoped to meet up with Humphrey Stafford, Earl of Devon, and William Herbert, Earl of Pembroke.

Apparently Devon and Pembroke quarreled on the way, with Pembroke continuing on his own, encountering the rebels near Banbury.  Pembroke, his brother Sir Richard Herbert as well as Richard Woodville, Earl Rivers (Elizabeth Woodville’s father), and his son John were taken prisoner and executed on Warwick’s orders without trial.

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25
Jul

25 JULY 1896

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Birth of novelist and playwrite Elizabeth MacKintosh in Inverness.  One of her pen names was Josephine Tey, and her 1951 novel The Daughter of Time was probably for many the starting point of a fascination with Richard III and the later Middle Ages.

For more information on Elizabeth MacKintosh:

Pamela J Butler, ‘The Mystery of Josephine Tey’, Ricardian Register (Fall 2002).  Online available from the American Branch of the Richard III Society, URL:  http://www.r3.org/fiction/mysteries/tey_butler.html

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25
Jul

25 JULY 1470

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Betrothal of Anne Neville to Edward, prince of Wales, the son of Henry VI, at Angers Cathedral.  They married at Bayeux approx. 13 December.  Some time after Edward’s death at the battle of Tewkesbury on 7 May 1471, Anne married Richard, duke of Gloucester (future Richard III).

Source: ODNB on Anne Neville

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24
Jul

24 JULY 1483

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Richard III visits Oxford University.  He stayed at Magdalen College on the invitation by the college’s founder, William Waynflete, bishop of Winchester. Richard was “honourably received, firstly outside the University by the Chancellor of the University and by the Regents and non-Regents; then he was received honourably and in procession at the College of the Blessed Mary Magdalene by a speech by the lord Founder”.  The day after his reception, we see Richard following his own cultural taste. He listened to two debates, one on moral philosophy and one on theology.  I think Hairsine is right when he remarks:

There was certainly no need for a medieval autocrat to sit through not one but two learned debates if he did not find a genuine interest there.  One is lead to believe that Richard’s visits to Oxford and Cambridge were welcome interludes from the cares of government.

Richard seems to have been impressed with the debates as well as his welcome and rewarded the participants and Magdalen College handsomely with venison and cash.  The whole event was in detail recorded in the Register of Magdalen College, which the anonymous Chronicler ended with the words Vivat rex in eternum, which can be translated as a “may the King live forever!”.

Source: Robert C Hairsine, “Oxford University and the Life and Legend of Richard III”, in:  J Petre (ed.), Richard III:  Crown and People, Richard III Society, 1985, pp. 307-332

The photograph shows Magdalen College, Oxford (© Dorothea Preis)

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22
Jul

22 JULY 1461

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Louis XI becomes King of France.  His coronation is on 15 August 1461.  Due to his scheming and love for intrigue he became known as ‘The Spider King’.

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20
Jul

JULY TO SEPTEMBER 1460

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Margaret, George and Richard, the three youngest children of Richard Plantagenet, 3rd Duke of York, and Cecily Neville, stay for a few weeks at the house, which had belonged to Sir John Fastolf, in Southwark, where they are visited every day by their eldest brother Edward, Earl of March (later Edward IV).

Bibliography:  Christine Weightman, Margaret of York:  The Diabolical Duchess.  Amberley Publishing, Chalford, 2009.  ISBN 978 1 84868 099 9 (paperback)

IllustrationOld London Bridge in 1616 with Southwark Priory, now Cathedral, in the foreground, by Claes van Visscher

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17
Jul

17 JULY 1453

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Battle of Castillon, Aquitaine, the last battle of the 100 Years’ War between the House of Valois and the House of Plantagenet for the French throne.  John Talbot, 1st Earl of Shrewsbury, and father of Eleanor Talbot (Butler), is killed.

Bibliography:  John Ashdown-Hill, Eleanor – The Secret Queen. The History Press, 2009  ISBN 978-0752448664 (hardback)

IllustrationThe Death  of John Talbot at the Battle of Castillon, by Charles-Philippe Larivière (1798-1876)

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16
Jul

16 JULY 1557

   Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Events in History

Death of Anna von Kleve (Anne of Cleves), the fourth wife of Henry VIII, at Chelsea Manor.  She was not even 42 years old.  She was buried at Westminster Abbey.

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