Co-authored by the founding members of the Looking for Richard Project, Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, Dr David and Wendy Johnson, Annette Carson and Philippa Langley, Finding Richard III: The Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project covers not only the archaeological dig that led to the rediscovery of his remains, but the years of previous work that inspired the search. Rediscovering the actual location of Richard’s grave has been a source of interest for Ricardians for decades, and Finding Richard III examines both the near-contemporary accounts such as John Rous and Polydore Vergil and previous modern studies by Ricardians Audrey Strange and Rhoda Edwards. A study of Richard’s original tomb discusses payments made for the construction of the tomb, some early descriptions of it and how it succumbed to the elements after the Greyfriars church was destroyed during the Dissolution. A look at Leicester residents historian David Baldwin and Ken Wright’s attempts to persuade people that the River Soar theory was a myth is certainly interesting, even more interesting is how the myth actually took hold. Dr. John Ashdown-Hill’s genealogical research and discovery of the mtDNA sequence of King Richard III that was crucial in identifying Richard III’s remains is discussed, and a thorough outline of the work in securing the fund-raising and services for the archaeological dig and the costs of the dig itself. A postscript touches on various important events since Richard III was disinterred. The appendices include the Epitaph on Richard’s original tomb, an Archaeological Dig Cost Breakdown, the original pamphlet for an urgent appeal for pledges to the Greyfriars Project and an honour roll of those who donated to the appeal. And then there are the long-awaited documents pertaining to the original agreements between Looking for Richard Project, Leicester City Council and the University of Leicester Archaeological Services.
We have previously discussed the original agreements between the Looking for Richard Project and ULAS at length on this website. When Richard Buckley was contacted regarding Just Who is the Custodian of King Richard III’s Bones? he responded that it was “woefully inaccurate on many many counts!”. The Written Scheme of Investigation included in the appendices, and signed by Richard Buckley and Leon Hunt, is illuminating. It includes the agreement to transfer the remains of Richard III to the Client/and or representatives for reburial (the Client in this case being Philippa Langley). It promises that ‘best endeavours are to be made to ensure a minimum period for the laboratory identification work’ even though the University then decided to subject Richard’s remains to further scientific testing. Somewhat surprising is the promise to archive the photographic record of the investigation “Only those persons from the recognised scientific community and with reasons of substantiated legitimate scientific research will be allowed…appropriate access to view the photographic record of the remains.” Surprising indeed, considering that nowadays nary an article published in the commercial newspapers about Richard III are not accompanied by a grisly image of his skeleton. So for those who have been voicing doubt that these agreements ever existed, here they are, in black and white. Buy the book and read it for yourself, you may come to the realisation of exactly how much of the agreement was flouted and just how much patience the members of the Looking for Richard Project have had to exercise.
The Looking for Richard Project team has truly re-written history – so read on and find out exactly how they did it.
Dr Christopher Thornton FSA FRHistS
Associate Fellow, Institute of Historical Research
The Looking for Richard Project certainly has changed history. But this is not a history book, not yet. It will be some time before the search for Richard III passes into history. King Richard III has yet to be reinterred. Controversy still simmers at every turn and is not likely to die down until he is finally laid to rest again. Yet Richard III’s memory will outlive the current controversies, and it will outlive many of us. When the dust has finally settled perhaps we can get back to what inspired the search for his grave in the first place. Richard has had supporters as early as the 15th century. Margaret Beaufort’s servant Sir Ralph Bigod refused to hear any insult against his former master. Richard’s first written defence was penned by Sir George Buck in the 17th century. More and more historians would demand a new look at his life and reign. Ninety years ago The Fellowship of the White Boar was formed, and today is still going strong as the Richard III Society. And one of the most positive aspects of the rediscovery of Richard III’s remains is all of the renewed interest in his story. Well, he now has a new story, and a storm of new Ricardians. Perhaps in a hundred years the Richard III Society will still be welcoming new members. And historians will still be writing books about Richard III. And perhaps in another five centuries they’ll wonder how Richard III is still bringing people together in friendship, and they’ll be amazed at the tenacity of a small group of individuals who defied all of the odds and overcame much adversity, and rediscovered their lost King.
You can order your copy of Finding Richard III: The Official Account from:
Finding Richard III: The Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project
A.J. Carson (Ed.), J. Ashdown-Hill, D. Johnson, W. Johnson & P.J. Langley
Published by Imprimis Imprimatur ISBN 978-0-9576840-2-7
96 pages; 22 figs, maps, diagrams; 7 appendices including 22 pages of original documents and papers; bibliography; index; preface by Dr C.C. Thornton, FSA, FRHistS