Posted by: Dorothea Preis   in Greyfriars Dig, News

edited on 29 Dec 2012 (thank you, Renate)

The Richard III Society announced that it is funding the facial reconstruction of the skeleton uncovered during the dig in Leicester, which is at present undergoing all sorts of tests to establish with as much certainty as possible whether these are the remains of King Richard III.

Although these tests have not yet been concluded, those in the know at the Society seem to be fairly confident with what is known so far, if they are prepared to fund a facial reconstruction.  It will be based on a CT scan and be carried out by a leading expert in facial anthropology According to National Geographic this is Caroline Wilkinson of the University of Dundee, Scotland.

It is truly amazing what can be done these days, just remember when last year we were able to see the face of Ötzi, the Iceman, as he himself would have seen it if he had had a mirror 5300 years ago (see for example in this article from the BBC).

The reconstruction of Richard’s face will feature in the Channel 4 documentary which will be broadcast early in 2013 and after that it will be made widely available.

What makes this part of the examination of the remains particularly interesting is that there are no surviving portraits of Richard from his lifetime, nor any detailed description.  The only description we have is by Nicholas von Popplau, who met Richard in 1484:

three fingers taller than I [i.e. von Popplau], but a bit slimmer and not as thickset as I am, and much more lightly built; he has quite slender arms and thighs, and also a great heart.

Though von Popplau’s understanding of English genealogy leaves something to be desired –  he has both Edward IV and Henry VI as Richard’s full brothers – he should be able to give a correct description of a man in whose company he spent some time.

The earliest surviving portraits are those from the Royal Collection and the Society of Antiquaries.  They have been dated to the second decade of the 16th century and were probably based on portraits painted during the king’s lifetime.  X-ray has shown that the Royal Collection portrait has been altered at a later stage, to make one shoulder higher and to give him a meaner expression.  The Society of Antiquaries had also been “updated” at a later stage, but cleaning revealed a more genial expression.

The picture on the right is the portrait which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.  It is suspected to be the copy of a copy of a lost original, and therefore of questionable accuracy.  We might be able to replace this picture at some stage.

Richard III Society chairman, Dr Phil Stone, explained that  the Society is “delighted to provide the financial support for the reconstruction; the revealing of the face will potentially be both an historic and poignant occasion for all who have an interest in this much misunderstood king.”

Philippa Langley, the driving force behind the Leicster dig, added, “To be at the point of seeing what could be the face of the last warrior King of England is an incredibly exciting prospect.”

A sentiment that we all share.

You can find the Press Release in the ‘What’s New’ section on the website of the Richard III Society.

The description of Richard III by Nicholas von Popplau’s description is quoted from:
Livia Visser-Fuchs, ‘He hardly touched his food, but talked with me all the time:  What Niclas von Popplau really wrote about Richard III’, The Ricardian, Vol.XI, No.145 (June 1999), pp.525-530

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 28th, 2012 at 18:10 and is filed under Greyfriars Dig, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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  1. Richard III Society of NSW » Blog Archive » RICARDIAN COUNTDOWN: TODAY!    Feb 04 2013 / 12am:

    […] And on Tuesday, 5 Feb 2013, 21h00 in the UK (08h00 on Wednesday morning AEST) the BBC Radio 4 programme ‘Inside Health’ will include a talk on the facial reconstruction ‘of a king’ – which sounds very much like it could be “our” king, as the Richard III Society has funded a facial reconstruction of the human remains found in Leicester (more info on this, see here). […]

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