Sunday, October 16, 2022

The Lost King

Stephen Frears: The Lost King (GB 2022) starring Sally Hawkins (Philippa Langley), Steve Coogan (John Langley) and Harry Lloyd (Richard III / Pete).

The Lost King / The Lost King
    GB © 2022 Pathé Productions Limited and British Broadcasting Corporation. A Baby Cow Production for Pathé, BBC Film and Magaritz Productions.
   Pathé, BBC Film, Ingenious Media and Creative Scotland present – with the participation of Canal+ and Ciné+ – a Baby Cow production. P: Steve Coogan, Christine Langan & Dan Winch.
    D: Stephen Frears. SC: Steve Coogan & Jeff Pope. Based on the book The King's Grave: The Search for Richard III by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones. Based on a true story. Her story. DP: Zac Nicholson. PD: Andy Harris. Cost: Rhona Russell. Makeup: Maxine Dallas. M: Alexandre Desplat. S: Stuart Bruce. ED: Pia Di Ciaula.
    "King's Lynn" (English folksong arr. by Ralph Vaughan Williams from The English Hymnal).
    Supervising locations manager: Lloret Mackenna Dunn. Casting: Leo Davis & Lissy Holm.
    C: Sally Hawkins (Philippa Langley), Steve Coogan (John Langley), Harry Lloyd (Richard III / Pete), Mark Addy (Richard Buckley). Amanda Abbington (Sarah Levitt), James Fleet (John Ashdown-Hill), Lee Ingleby (Richard Taylor).
    Filmed on location in Scotland, Leicester and London, United Kingdom. Around Edinburgh, including Morningside and Newtongrange.
    108 min
    Finnish premiere: 14 Oct 2022, distributed by Cinemanse Oy with Finnish / Swedish subtitles by Samuli Kauppila / Ditte Kronström.
    Viewed at Finnkino Strand, Iso Kristiina, Lappeenranta, 16 Oct 2022

Distributor's synopsis: " Tositapahtumiin perustuvassa The Lost King -elokuvassa amatöörihistorioitsija Philippa Langley (Oscar®-ehdokas Sally Hawkins, Blue Jasmine, The Shape of Water) päättää kaikkia esteitä uhmaten löytää kuningas Richard III:n yli 500 vuotta kadoksissa olleet jäännökset. Hänen työhönsä suhtautuivat skeptisesti asiantuntijoiden ja tutkijoiden lisäksi myös hänen oma lähipiirinsä. Langley haastoi maan merkittävimmät historioitsijat ajattelemaan uudella tapaa yhdestä Englannin historian kiistanalaisimmista kuninkaista. "

" Stephen Frearsin (The Queen, Philomena) ohjaama elokuva on hämmästyttävä tositarina siitä, miten tavallinen nainen vastuksista huolimatta löysi historiallisesti merkittävät kadonneet jäännökset. Langley kieltäytyi muiden ihmisten määrittelystä ja löysi lopulta oman äänensä. The Lost King tutkii myytin taustalla olevia tosiasioita paljastaen hyvin erilaisen kuninkaan kuin mitä Shakespearen tulkinta on antanut ymmärtää. "

" In 2012, having been lost for over 500 years, the remains of King Richard III were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester. The search had been orchestrated by an amateur historian, Philippa Langley, whose unrelenting research had been met with incomprehension by her friends and family and with scepticism by experts and academics. The Lost King is the life-affirming true story of a woman who refused to be ignored and who took on the country's most eminent historians, forcing them to think again about one of the most controversial kings in England's history.

AA: I like The Lost King for several reasons.

It is a humoristic account of a nation passionate about its own history. Richard III died over 530 years ago, yet he still matters much, both in official history-writing and in popular culture. He is well-known thanks to William Shakespeare's historical play in which he is seen as a tragic villain. The point of Philippa Langley's quest is to rehabilitate him.

According to the British media, The Lost King is full of all kinds of inaccuracies. As it may well be, but it does not affect the most appealing feature of the movie: the affirmation that a commitment to history exists. That used to be the case in Finland, as well. I don't know when it ended, but this year I have been amazed at the ignorance of history in dialogues of Finnish security politics. It is revealed on the highest levels of government, not to speak about the media.

We are living in the age of Instagram. We are losing our sense of the past. Perhaps because we prefer to forget about the future. Perhaps we are unconsciously like Tanya (Marlene Dietrich) in Touch of Evil. Her reply to Hank Quinlan about his future: "There isn't any".

The main reason for me to enjoy The Lost King is that is so affectionate about the past. Thinking about the past, also playfully and foolishly, gives a more profound meaning to the present. British critics have disliked the eccentric and ridiculous aspects of the movie. I like them.

The other great reason to like The Lost King is that it is another wonderful Sally Hawkins showcase. Sally Hawkins was instantly unique when she debuted in the films of Mike Leigh. Another great director for her is Woody Allen. Here as Philippa Langley she gives one of her greatest performances. Langley is suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome (M.E. = myalgic encephalomyelitis), and her story is a triumph of the spirit against overwhelming odds.

It is also a story of a woman against the patriarchal establishment, to be compared with Ammonite. Such a condition is all too real, but if a story based on real events distorts circumstances it may have a reverse effect.

I also enjoy Stephen Frears's humoristic approach as the director and Zac Nicholson's epic cinematography with impressive high angle and aerial shots. Alexandre Desplat has composed another rousing score, but I'm puzzled by the Bernard Herrmann influence in the opening (inspired by North by Northwest in my opinion, whereas the credit design seems inspired by Saul Bass for the same movie). While Philippa is pursuing Richard III, the rest of the family goes to watch Skyfall, also a movie obsessed about history.

2022 has been a transition year in the history of British monarchy. The Lost King is an interesting contribution to the mystery of monarchy. I'm thinking about a maxim of Elizabeth II (1926–2022): "I have to be seen to be believed".




In 2012, having been lost for over 500 years, the remains of King Richard III were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester. The search had been orchestrated by an amateur historian, Philippa Langley, whose unrelenting research had been met with incomprehension by her friends and family and with scepticism by experts and academics. THE LOST KING is the life-affirming true story of a woman who refused to be ignored and who took on the country's most eminent historians, forcing them to think again about one of the most controversial kings in England's history.



Edinburgh, Scotland

PHILIPPA LANGLEY (Sally Hawkins) is greeted by two middle-aged friends at work. She acknowledges her nerves about the day ahead – a ‘super team’ is to be selected – but her friends reassure her that her sales record speaks for itself. However, Philippa is overlooked for promotion, her boss referencing her chronic fatigue (M.E.), which infuriates Philippa – she has never missed a target or deadline.

Arriving home disillusioned, Philippa discusses her frustration with her husband, JOHN LANGLEY (Steve Coogan), from whom she is amicably separated, who is preparing the supper for her and their two sons. He’s sympathetic but reminds her they rely on both their incomes to financially support two households so she mustn’t jeopardise her job. John doesn’t stay to eat as he has a date with another woman. Philippa is ignored by her sons when she calls them in for their meal - MAX (Adam Robb) and RAIFE (Benjamin Scanlan) are too busy playing a videogame – and they are furious when she pulls the plug on the TV and reminds Max that he has a school assignment – that night they have to go to the theatre to watch Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Watching the production, Philippa is strongly affected by the performance of the lead actor in his depiction of King Richard as someone rejected by everyone. At the interval, Philippa meets the parents of one of Max’s school friends. An uncomfortable exchange follows when Philippa expresses her sympathy for the maligned King and the parents dismiss him as a villain – Shakespeare as a contemporary would have known the truth.

After the performance, having googled the subject, Philippa accosts the same parents, pointing out that
Shakespeare wrote his play over a century after King Richard’s death. A mortified Max walks home in the rain with his mother, while she explains that she doesn’t like it when people put others down.

The following day, Philippa is distracted at work - looking out of the window she sees an apparition of King Richard looking up at her.

That night unable to sleep, Philippa looks out of her window and again sees the apparition of King Richard, sitting on her garden bench.

The next morning instead of going into the office, Philippa walks through the streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town to locate a bookshop where she purchases all of their reference books on King Richard. She avidly reads them, discovering in one volume a leaflet advertising the Edinburgh Branch of the Richard III Society.

When John takes the boys to the cinema, Philippa goes to the Albert Hotel, where the local branch of the Richard III Society meet. Philippa finds like-minded individuals (so-called ‘Ricardians’) and decides she will become a member, to the delight of the group who stand ‘united against lies and falsehoods’. In their conversation, she discovers that Richard has no grave – his remains are lost to history.

The following day, Philippa feels exhausted and tells the boys she is too unwell to go to work. Once they have left for school, Philippa finds King Richard seated in her sitting room. She shares details of her M.E. and how she feels unfairly judged by people. She wonders aloud whether he is appearing to her because he is lost and wants to be found.

Philippa meets up with her work friends. They express their concern about her absence from the office and point out that by being absent, she’s not been there to defend herself against their boss’ allegation that she can’t cope with her job because of her ME. Philippa is angry and points out that ‘innocent until proven guilty’ was a principle established by King Richard 500 years ago. She tells them she’s not going back to work - she’s going on an adventure.

Reaching out to fellow Ricardian JESSICA TREVENHAM (Annie Griffin), Philippa learns of the theory that King Richard’s remains will be found on the site of the long-demolished Greyfriars Church in Leicester. She advises Philippa to contact amateur historian GRAHAM NAYSMITH (Simon Donaldson). Fuelled by Jessica’s and Graham’s insights, Philippa spends time in the National Library of Scotland scouring the historical documents for clues as to the location of the Church.

Philippa decides to travel to Leicester to attend a lecture on King Richard. She has still not told John that she has left her job, simply saying she is going away on a training day. Sitting on the train, Philippa talks to Richard, commenting on how young he was when he died (32) and the irony of him being a champion of the new-fangled printing press, which went on to print 500 years’ worth of lies about him.

During the lecture, Philippa disputes the lecturer’s assertions about Richard’s illegal ascension to the throne. The historian refers Philippa to the current-day Royal website which refers to Richard III as ‘The Usurper’ and publicly ridicules her ‘feelings’ about King Richard’s innocence, dismissing the Richard III Society as a ‘fan club’.

Leaving the lecture, Philippa recognises DR JOHN ASHDOWN-HILL (James Fleet). She approaches him to sign her copy of his book. He tells Philippa he has used DNA analysis to track down two of Richard III’s direct descendants - one of whom is a carpenter in London – and each of them has a better claim to the throne than any of the Tudors. Philippa tells Ashdown-Hill that she wants to find Greyfriars Church. He suggests she looks in the area where the several buildings comprising the Greyfriars precinct were known to have stood. He explains that the superstitions around ancient religious sites meant that they were often left undeveloped. Philippa spends the remainder of the day walking around the area of Greyfriars in the centre of Leicester, looking for an open space.

King Richard suddenly appears to her by a signpost for the Leicester Social Services car park, concealed behind a modern development block. Entering the car park, Philippa is overwhelmed by a powerful feeling. She looks down and sees a large ‘R’ painted on the tarmac. She asks the parking attendant what it stands for – the spell is broken when he responds ‘Reserved’.

Philippa misses her train back to Edinburgh and arrives home late. John, who has had to be there to look after the kids, is furious: concerned by her being late, he had called her office and now knows she has left her job. He storms out when Philippa explains that she has done so because she has decided to find Richard III.

Philippa starts her campaign to raise funding for an archaeological dig in the car park to find the remains of King Richard and give him a burial with full honours (including a Royal Coat of Arms).

Philippa joins John and the boys on a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Philippa asks John to give up his rented flat and move back into the family home so that he can finance the household whist she focusses on finding King Richard. John is exasperated but doesn’t refuse.

Philippa returns to Leicester to meet RICHARD BUCKLEY (Mark Addy), the Director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS). Buckley is disarmed by Philippa’s passion and taken aback when Philippa says she thinks she knows where to find King Richard (contradicting his own published findings that Richard’s remains had been flung into the River Soar). He says even if she could raise the money to fund an archaeological dig, it couldn’t be for King Richard, it would have to be for something more credible like the remains of Greyfriars Church. Philippa leaves a copy of her research with Buckley and his deputy, MATTHEW MORRIS (Alasdair Hankinson).

Returning to Edinburgh, Philippa again encounters King Richard and quizzes him on his nephews, the two Princes (who disappeared from the Tower of London, rumoured to have been murdered). Philippa talks through her own reasoning as to why she doesn’t believe he killed them. King Richard is clearly offended that the question would even be raised and walks away.

John is now back in residence at the family home, and whilst catching-up on Philippa’s trip to see Buckley, they kiss. But Philippa breaks the moment – they agree it’s not a path they should venture down again.

Back in Leicester, Richard Buckley is disappointed to announce to his colleagues that the department’s funding has been cut. They’ll have to find other sources of revenue, including private commissions to dig. He remembers Philippa and asks Matthew to arrange another meeting.

At the meeting, Buckley displays a 17th century city map which provides some key information. Philippa, Buckley and Matthew work together to combine the historical and contemporary maps to narrow down what part of the Social Services car park might be in the vicinity of the ancient Church. Buckley advises Philippa that Leicester City Council would have to support any excavation and she will have to raise substantial funding - £35,000.

Philippa manages to get the attention of Leicester City Council and at a meeting hosted by SARAH LEVITT (Amanda Abbington), Head of Arts and Museums, Philippa presents her proposal to various parties including RICHARD TAYLOR (Lee Ingleby), Director of Corporate Affairs at the University of Leicester. Philippa explains her strong feelings about a specific part of the car park site being King Richard’s final resting place and by using Ashdown-Hill’s DNA research, any findings could be cross-matched for identification with Richard’s living descendants.

Despite the meeting’s misgivings about Philippa as an amateur historian and about the amount of money required, the Council and University are supportive and Leicestershire Promotions agrees to fully fund the dig. Leaving the Council offices, Philippa is relieved to see King Richard appear – he has forgiven the hurt caused by their last conversation.

The first stage of the physical dig is to conduct a radar survey of the car park to locate any medieval walls. The survey reveals nothing. This prompts Leicester Promotions to withdraw its funding. Philippa is desperate. She asks Buckley if the University can contribute financially but he says there is little funding available. Philippa will have to raise the bulk of the funding some other way.

We find John and the boys in Edinburgh discussing strategy over their negotiation to acquire a new car. They return home excited only to find Philippa meeting with her fellow Ricardians, Annette and Hamish, to launch an online funding appeal to the worldwide membership of the Richard III Society.

The following day, Philippa awakes to find more than 500 messages of support with cash donations already totalling over £25,000. The Society’s Chairman, PHIL STONE, has donated £5000, and another anonymous donor has contributed £2000. It’s enough to fund the excavation.

The diggers start rolling into the Social Services car park on 25th August 2012. As John drops Philippa off at Edinburgh station for her journey down to witness the dig, John is driving his old car not the new one he had planned to buy. She realises that he was the anonymous donor. John smiles and tells her it was the boys’ idea. When she gets to the site of the dig, Buckley confirms the plan is for 3 trenches to be dug. Buckley also confirms that in Philippa’s absence he has signed the exhumation licence should they find any human remains, making him responsible for their fate. Philippa thinks nothing of it and requests that the dig start at one particular part of the site – at the spot marked with the large ‘R’.

Ashdown-Hill arrives, questioning why Taylor is telling journalists that the University is leading the dig. Philippa is perplexed given that she had commissioned (and paid for) ULAS to draw up the study based on her research and to carry out the radar survey and, with the Ricardians, funded the majority of the cost of the dig. However, she is distracted when she is told that leg bones have been discovered in the first trench. Buckley states it is most likely a friar buried outside the walls of the Church. Buckley takes the decision not to waste money or time excavating the remains any further. But Philippa’s intuition tells her otherwise – she quietly stands in the pouring rain, contemplating the remains.

Frustrated, Philippa calls John, who reminds Philippa that she is the client. With strengthened resolve, Philippa insists Buckley exhume the rest of the remains in the first trench. Richard agrees and directs JO APPLEBY (Phoebe Pryce) to exhume the rest of the body.

To ease the tension, Philippa leaves the site to go for a walk. She is messaged by Ashdown-Hill to return to the dig urgently. Accompanied by King Richard on horseback, she runs back to the car park to find Jo in the trench - she confirms that the skeleton is that of a male in his 30s with a wound to the skull and an abnormal curvature to the spine. An emotional Philippa turns to look for King Richard, but he has gone.

The Vice Chancellor of the University arrives on site to engage with the media, flanked by Taylor and Buckley. Philippa senses that events are running away from her...

The discovery grabs worldwide headlines. We find Philippa arriving at Leicester University for a global news conference: the University will announce the result of the DNA test performed on the remains. Philippa realises she will not be appearing on the panel alongside the academic experts answering questions from the world’s press – she will be seated in the audience. Buckley confirms the remains are indeed those of Richard III.

After the press conference, Philippa questions Taylor about the re-burial arrangements, reiterating the
necessity for the inclusion of his Royal Coat of Arms. Taylor informs her that the Burial Committee - which does not include Philippa as she does not hold the exhumation certificate - has determined that honouring him with a Royal Coat of Arms is inappropriate. Philippa says she will fight their decision. As she hurries to leave Philippa is approached by two young girls who tell her that Buckley suggested that they ask her to give a talk at their school about her role in finding Richard.

Some time later we find Philippa deep in thought, sitting on a boulder in the middle of the countryside – it’s the site of the Battle of Bosworth where Richard III died. She hears a horse whinny and looks up – King Richard is there on horseback with his knights in full battle armour. She knows that this is their final meeting - she no longer needs him. King Richard turns and rides away.

We move forward to the re-burial of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. The streets of Leicester are lined with crowds as the funeral procession makes its way to the Cathedral. The coffin is escorted by members of the University whilst Philippa and Ashdown-Hill observe from the congregation. We see that the tomb prepared for King Richard does indeed bear his Coat of Arms.

After the ceremony, Buckley greets Philippa and says he’ll see her at the celebratory banquet. Philippa is non-committal. She is also caught off-guard when she sees King Richard in contemporary garb, before realising it’s the actor from the production of Shakespeare’s play that she saw in Edinburgh at the start of her journey – he’s simply here to pay his respects. As the University team arrive to applause at the banquet hall, Philippa also arrives to applause, but at a school assembly where scores of young girls are gripped by her story of a person unfairly judged in life, who was never given the opportunity to show their true potential....

In 2018, after a long campaign inspired by Philippa, the Royal Family’s website was amended to reinstate Richard as the rightful King of England 1483 – 1485, no longer a usurper

In 2015 the Queen awarded Philippa an MBE in recognition of her services in the exhumation and
identification of Richard III


Her story made history.

Reuniting for the first time, the creative team behind PHILOMENA (2013) have come together to tell this inspirational story about the discovery of Richard III’s remains by Philippa Langley in 2012.

The film is an astonishing true story – how on earth did an ‘ordinary’ person track down the remains of an English king which had remained hidden for over 500 years? Celebrating a woman who refused to be defined by other people, who was overlooked and who found her voice, the film explores the facts behind the myth, – revealing a very different King from Shakespeare’s villainous creation.


Most people around the globe, including the filmmakers and crew on the production, have a vague memory of the discovery of Richard III, however producer Dan Winch suggests, ‘This is one of those stories where a lot of people know a little bit about it, but not the full extent of the unbelievable truth.’

‘Right from the beginning, what inspired us was that headline: ‘Mother of Two from Edinburgh finds Lost King in Car park.’ says Jeff Pope, writer of the film alongside Steve Coogan. ‘First and foremost, it's a true story. It is about women being overlooked, and ignored. About the little person refusing to take no for an answer. And about not always accepting everything we’re told as gospel.’

Steve Coogan, writer, producer and star of the film adds: ‘People don’t like injustice. People do like David and Goliath stories, and this is a David and Goliath story of the amateur vs. the establishment.’

Sally Hawkins, who stars as Philippa, describe how her own interest was piqued: ‘She ends up discovering where Richard was buried, just through, excuse the pun, a hunch. And that's what was remarkable. It's beautiful. It's extraordinary.’

The first challenge was persuading Philippa Langley to allow the filmmakers into her life, as Langley explains: ‘When somebody comes to you and says they’d like to tell your story, you don’t think for a moment it actually will happen. It's not something you approach lightly because you are literally placing your life into the hands of others. But I felt listening to Steve, listening to Jeff, how much they love the story - I thought it was right to go with them.’

Pope continues, ‘We realised as we started to dig into the story that here was a woman who showed incredible perseverance and tenacity. And who won out. She got on side local authorities, the media, archaeological experts, challenged historians who dismissed her, and refused to let go.’

Producer Christine Langan adds: ‘it's an incredibly gutsy story of the intellectual rigour, research, drive, passion and instinct of one ordinary woman.’

Once Philippa had come on board, Coogan and Pope were able to begin crafting the film’s screenplay. Director Stephen Frears describes their writing dynamic: ‘Steve is a witty writer, a delicate writer, and Jeff is a very good dramatist. So, between the two of them, they do everything. They write in this fresh way that nobody else does, they tell a story in a very original, arresting way.’

Also part of the original creative team behind Philomena, Langan knows Pope and Coogan’s writing and working style, as well as what Frears brings to the equation: ‘They have a unique tone, an amazing tone the engender together. They have complementary skills and they're very playful. It’s a great dynamic. And Stephen really pushes them in a good way. He's a firm believer in the value of story, over and above everything.’ Frears adds, ‘The truth is, you go on writing a script all the way through making a film; you finish a script when you finish the film.’

Instilling a similarly gentle comedic tone as they had in Philomena was important to the filmmakers. Coogan explains, ‘We write dramas which are about something, and we use comedy to sugar the pill of what might ostensibly be inaccessible topics. We don’t want to be elitist, we want to reach out to as many people as possible and intelligently present a thought-provoking story with humour, so it’s fun and not boring. It’s a device, it’s not an end in itself. Comedy’s great, because it wins people over...’ Continuing his thoughts on comedy, Coogan elaborates, ‘And, of course there is comedy in life, comedy in the strangest circumstances. Even in bleak situations, people find comedy, they seek out comedy.’

Actor Harry Lloyd, who plays the various versions of King Richard throughout the film, commented: ‘I loved all the ways that Jeff and Steve, like with Philomena, fill it with such ordinary, everyday detail. It feels very grounded and lived-in and you totally believe in the normality of Philippa and her world.’ Agreeing about the importance of normality on screen, Coogan adds: ‘I like characters with positive attributes depicted on-screen. Because it gives the lie to the idea that people who are not duplicitous are boring dramatically. They’re not. Decency can be interesting.’

Returning to the feminist themes within the film, still applicable today, Frears notes, ‘I only know strong women who have spent their life fighting against the system. And quite possibly I embody the system, so I only know about women being fighters. It’s a good story, and it would not be as good if it wasn’t a woman.’

Coogan continues, ‘It’s not just about a person, it’s about a woman in a strongly patriarchal society, who asserts herself and takes control of her life. I thought it would resonate with a lot of women who feel a bit invisible at a certain point in their lives. It’s a conversation about sexual politics, as much as anything.’ Commenting on the inspirational aspect of the film, Harry Lloyd says, ’Philippa’s story should inspire people to do things they don’t think they’re capable of achieving. It’s about her proving to herself that she is extraordinary - she even says it at the beginning ‘I think I’m interesting and no one else does’.’

Frears concludes, ‘It’s a ridiculous idea ‘oh I’m going to find a King buried under a car park’. It’s a completely absurd idea, but she did it!’

Pathé and BBC Film, who had partnered with the filmmakers on Philomena, came on board the project from its inception, financing the development. They were later joined by Ingenious and Creative Scotland in funding the production itself. ‘We couldn’t know when we started developing the film in 2014 that fate would lead to its release on the 10th Anniversary of the discovery of Richard’s remains,’ says Cameron McCracken, Executive Producer and Managing Director of Pathé Productions, ‘What is as relevant now as it was back then are the story’s themes of tolerance and justice and the idea that life is almost never black and white.’


‘I met Philippa Langley about 8 years ago in Edinburgh’ recalls Coogan (I had lunch with her and asked her to tell me her story.’ Langley vividly recalls the actual date she and Steve met for the first time, as it was St George’s Day, 23 April 2014 – a Saint so close to Richard’s heart he fashioned his personal standard with the cross of St. George. It also, entirely coincidentally, happened that production’s first day of principal photography was St. George’s Day 2021.

Coogan remembers, ‘When I was talking to Philippa, the story hadn’t quite finished, in reality, for her. The funeral of Richard III hadn’t taken place, but was about to.’ For Langley, this was ideal timing for her story to be heard. ‘What impressed me was how knowledgeable he was about the whole story, about the search for Richard’, she said. ‘It wasn't long after that he and Jeff Pope came up to Edinburgh. It was intense, we had three days together non-stop going through everything. Jeff is like an investigative journalist, drilling down into every moment. They also looked at my original materials, my documents, emails.’ Coogan rejoins, ‘Philippa wasn’t just a subject of our film, she was a resource and knew a lot about it unsurprisingly. Was Richard the way he was depicted? No. What was he like? No-one can say for sure. But a lot better than the way Shakespeare depicted him, certainly. And within that, of course, is the opportunity to shine a light on people being judged without us knowing the full picture. That also applies to Philippa, so there’s a symbiosis of pursuing both Richard and Philippa that we use in the film.’

The seven and a half years that Philippa spent researching the whereabouts of Richard’s remains had to be condensed for dramatic purposes. Coogan continues, ‘When you’re dealing with true stories, you have to cherry pick aspects of the story you know will help when you’re constructing a narrative. In terms of the big picture and underlying truths, you have to be honourable, but it is a constraint. For example you can’t invent an ending that didn’t happen. So you start with the ending and reverse engineer your story.’

Langley explains that her interest in Richard III began by buying a book in 1998. ‘The book was by Paul Murray Kendall, a biography, and he used contemporary sources from Richard's lifetime to talk about the man. This is what I found utterly fascinating because it's opposite to Shakespeare. We have evidence he was loyal, brave, devout, and just.’

Detailing the various research she undertook, Langley expounds, ‘When I looked to try and find what
information I could, it’s scattered everywhere. There’s 17th and 18th Century documents, there are rough plans and layouts. And there’d been an archaeological dig in 2007. It was all these things which told me the church where Richard was buried, and potentially Richard's grave, was situated opposite St. Martin's Church in Leicester, which is now the Cathedral. And that was where I'd had this intuitive experience - where I felt I was walking on Richard’s grave - and saw the letter ‘R’ - on the tarmac, clearly for reserved parking. What was most important about this was my research didn't challenge that view. There was nothing I could find that made me think, okay, it's not in that location. It was that experience which became the catalyst for a complete 180 degree change in my research focus. I was no longer interested in his life, I was interested in his death and burial.’

As for the sensation she felt standing in that carpark, Philippa comments further, ‘This intuition aspect has received quite a bit of interest, in some cases, quite a bit of ridicule. But when we look at some of our most amazing scientific discoveries, they have begun with an intuition. We’ve got Howard Carter's intuition with Tutankhamun; Edith Pretty’s intuition with Mound One at Sutton Hoo; and only recently, an archaeologist called Paul Gething, who discovered the ancient Bowl Hole Cemetery in Northumberland. Maybe someday scientists might look into intuition.’

Describing her experience to the screenwriters, Pope recalls his heart beating when Langley recounted the sensation, ‘She walks into the car park and gets the strangest feeling. She described it as something coming up through her feet and legs, which got stronger and she almost felt faint. Stopping at the point when it was strongest, she looked down and beneath her feet was the letter R.’ As Harry Lloyd adds, ‘There is a magical element. When Philippa walked into that car park - there were all kinds of coincidences and weirdnesses. When history is shrunk down into a moment and suddenly you can touch it, I find that the nearest thing we have to magic today.’

A self-confessed sceptic, Frears grudgingly admits, ‘It’s mysterious. Somewhere between thorough research and intuition – I don’t know where you draw the line. Or maybe it’s a fluke, as a historian friend of mine said. But, you know, she got it right. You can’t really argue with that.’

When asked about the University of Leicester’s involvement, Langley is clear about the delineation of roles, ‘Did you find Richard III, Philippa? Yes, I did. And after we found him the University confirmed his identity. That's the great story here – you’ve got science, and on the other side you've got intuition and research.’ Christine Langan highlights the University’s scientific role in the identification of Richard’s remains, ‘The science was complex, fascinating and hard work.’

Regarding the announcement of the DNA test results and the press conference hosted by Leicester University, Langley says, ‘I don't know why I wasn't on the platform. It was probably because everyone on that platform was a professor or a doctor or a recognised academic.’

Pope is specific about the film’s depiction of actual events, ‘Philippa wasn't placed front and centre in the aftermath of the discovery of Richard's remains. There's no spin or twist on it, we just tell it how it happened and you work out for yourself as the audience what you think at the end.’

On the evening the Gala celebration took place, Langley was invited to attend however did not feel it was the right place for her to be – visiting a school soon thereafter. ‘What I love as well about the film is they show that, because that's the next generation. This is what I hope - to inspire the young to become historians, or archaeologists or to make their own discoveries. The young don't judge, the young just think it's an amazing story. If I can be an inspiration to them, to not give up on a dream, and to fight for what they believe in, then it's been worth it. Because who knows what they're going to discover in the future, what incredible things they're going to find?’

Acknowledging the challenges encountered on her quest, Langley continues, ‘There were great moments during the journey, really great, memorable moments. But tough times as well. And that's what Steve and Jeff wanted to show on screen, it's not a bed of roses when you do something like this. It is tough, it can be difficult.’ Hawkins describes Langley’s character and her quest in poetic terms, ‘When I think about her – the real Philippa – I think about her as water. She never gave up – she always found another way around, never really accepted ‘no’ – kept going gently, quietly over the years.’

An important aspect for both Langley and the filmmakers was the representation of her ME (chronic fatigue syndrome), and the impact her health had during the period the film depicts. Christine Langan explains, ‘ME is a condition that some people don't always respond positively towards or believe in, and Philippa suffered very badly with it.’ Describing her personal relationship with the condition, Langley reveals, ‘ME is a post-viral, autoimmune condition. I got mine because of having a bad flu. People tell you about long COVID, and how it's affecting them, it's very similar with ME. Total exhaustion is one of its main components together with a lot of muscular pain.’ Langley continues on the subject, ‘The portrayal by Sally of ME in the film is really important, and powerful. I hope by bringing ME to the fore - maybe the scientists who are investigating ME and the scientists who are now investigating long COVID, might talk, as it could be very useful.’ Hawkins observes: ‘Despite her illness, she's never been sorry for herself.’

From a story-structure perspective, Pope acknowledges how Philippa’s ME helped the screenwriters with the on-screen emotional connection between Philippa and Richard. ‘Somehow the combination of a king who was maligned and history tells us had a physical deformity, fused in our heads with Philippa who was struggling at work because this condition robbed her of energy, and was being unfairly judged as a result.’ Langan agrees, picking up the thread: ‘Philippa understood what it was to be misunderstood or misrepresented and she intuited that there might be a man beyond Richard the villain - a leader, a thinker, who was not celebrated or remembered in the right way.’


Richard III sits within the group of Shakespeare’s plays known as the ‘histories’, which deal with events in England’s historical past after the Norman Conquest in 1066. By the very nature of the play being categorised as a ‘history’, Shakespeare’s theatrical version of Richard III is the most commonly known depiction of the man over the past four centuries and consequently cited as fact.

Langley asserts, ‘One of the most powerful aspects of the film is that it's a counterpoint to Shakespeare. So many people think Shakespeare is history that it is real, and everything is true. However it is important to remember Shakespeare's play was written over 100 years after Richard's death. It was based on a narrative from Thomas More, who was five years old when Richard was King.’

Mark Addy, who plays the lead archaeologist on the dig, Richard Buckley, comments; ‘It’s the winners that write, and possibly rewrite, history. What we hear about Richard III, is told by the people that beat him. Maybe he’s not as much of a villain as we’re led to believe. That’s something that is worth bearing in mind today, in all walks of life.’

Pope adds: ‘We went to Leicester, and started to delve deeply into the world of Richard III about whom, like most of the audience, I just knew the headlines – the Princes in the Tower; ‘a kingdom for my horse’ – essentially, an evil king, who murdered his young nephews.’ Having learnt more about the real Richard III, Pope re-evaluated his perspective: ‘One of the things that really appealed to me about this story was that in a little way, we can educate and inform a wide audience about this really quirky piece of history, I cannot think of a more reviled monarch in British history. This film is Philippa’s story. But in telling it, there’s also a little bit of redress for Richard, a little bit of two fingers to history as we've been told it at school, and that does really appeal to me.’

Examining the timeline of the Tudor conquest of the throne, and Shakespeare’s play, Christine Langan expands, ‘It's all about timing, isn't it? The play was written under the Tudor regime. Henry VII, who defeated Richard III at Bosworth, was the founding figure of the Tudor dynasty. Shakespeare who knew which side his bread was buttered on, jumped on that bandwagon, and didn't let the truth stand in the way of a good story. Shakespeare's history plays are not necessarily the place to go for hard facts, they're the place to go for all sorts of other things; drama, passion and the virtues and values of life thrashed out.’

Through her copious research over the years, Langley sheds further insight: ‘What is even more interesting about Shakespeare is he wrote it as a tragedy. It's called ‘The Tragedie of Richard the Third’, and it was the printer of the First Folio, who changed it to the history ‘The Life and Times of Richard the Third’. It went from being clearly a tragedy - the format is a tragedy, you can see that in the play – to then giving it more potency as real history, simply because that's what the printer decided to do. Perhaps he thought he could sell more copies of it that way.’

As Frears states: ‘This film is an absolute attack on Shakespeare who was working for the Tudors, who of course wanted to hear that Richard was a shocker.’

Langley states, ‘When Shakespeare was writing his Richard III, he depicts him in a particular way: he's very small, he wears black clothing. Shakespeare uses the most inappropriate word, “hunchbacked” (kyphosis) and he's got a withered arm, a limp. Kyphosis is a much more severe condition than scoliosis. The remains of Richard III revealed he had scoliosis. When he was dressed, you would not have known he had any kind of physical impairment. We have to ask ourselves, if the Tudors were wrong or lying about that, what else did they lie about?’

By way of contrast, Frears describes the filmmakers’ depiction of Richard: ‘He does appear in this film as a heroic figure, not as a hunchback like Laurence Olivier. Philippa would say he brought stability to England; established the principle that you’re innocent until proven guilty. To her, he was a heroic figure.’

Highlighting the longevity that misinformation or ‘fake news’ can have, particularly when entrenched over several centuries, Langley recalls, ‘We were about to exhume the remains I thought might be him, and the archaeologists said he's probably not here, because he's in the river Soar. That was literally about three days before we exhumed him. So that gives you a sense of the power of stories and mythology.’

Through her own research for the role, Sally Hawkins discovered aspects of Richard III which also differed from the Shakespearian version, ‘It’s Tudor propaganda. He was presented as a monster. But it doesn't add up. He was well-educated, known for his wit. He was a brilliant, incredible mind – proven at Cambridge. Although he was ruthless, he wasn't any more so than his contemporaries, and he had to be at certain times. He was deeply religious with a strong sense of justice.’

Referencing multiple contemporary historical accounts, Langley remarks, ‘When you read through it all, you get a really strong sense of who this man was. What I found most remarkable was that he was a man of the people. He was interested in the ordinary people. For that period in history, and for his place in society at that time, that was quite extraordinary.’

Continuing the theme of questioning the status quo, Pope comments, ‘There are certain things in life that can't be explained. Philippa Langley finding a 500-year-old lost king by getting a weird feeling as she stood in a car park – that's one of the things in life which cannot be explained. What it tells us, though, is we have to keep an open mind. All that we see, are told, is not necessarily the truth. We are all taught at school Richard III was an evil king, Shakespeare's play continues that, as one of history's baddies. This film will throw that all up in the air again, it will say ‘was he?’

Mindful of the enormity of the achievement, Harry Lloyd comments, ‘She managed to make the whole world revaluate something that had been dead and set for 500 years. That takes a huge amount of work, to overturn that many prejudices.’ Pope acknowledges Philippa’s almost single-handed achievement: ‘Richard’s short reign is now recorded as legitimate. And that was a massive victory.’

Hawkins, still loyal to the Bard, says: ‘There’s a lovely quote from Shakespeare about ‘the disease of not listening’ She continues, ‘To stop and to listen and then to enter without prejudice, that’s what Philippa did - and she rewrote history. Richard is rightfully where he always should have been, honoured as the last Plantagenet, the last English king to die in battle! It's beautiful. It's brilliant. Phenomenal! I just want her to be remembered. Forever!’


There are few directors with such a consistent track-record of commercially and critically successful films as Stephen Frears. As Langan comments, ’Stephen's remarkable body of work is underpinned by an unpretentious, humane and very witty view of the world’. Winch adds, ’Stephen is led by an instinct for story and for character and the creation of a real world for them to inhabit.’

For the cast, Harry Lloyd comments, ‘He has this wonderful, casual demeanour, you almost forget you’re making a film.’ Mark Addy agrees, ‘To feel in such safe hands is a rarity. It’s brilliant,’, Hawkins adds, ‘I trust my director. If he's fine, he trusts me, that's more than enough for me because he’s Stephen Frears, he knows what he's doing. He's one of the best filmmakers.’ She continues, ‘he's still got this incredible passion to make stories, to realise them. I love all his work - when you think about, the different films he's done, they're accessible and interesting. He's so clever, and wise and just knows.’

New to the unique workings of a film set, Langley describes one of her set-visits. ’Obviously, I'd seen the script. But I then got to see the creative genius of Stephen Frears. How he takes a script, envisions it and puts it on the screen - remarkable, quite breath-taking at times. I was in St. Mary's Cathedral in Edinburgh, for the reburial of Richard. One of the most beautifully shot scenes - it was the beauty, the majesty and the atmosphere, the calmness he brought. He was calm, but clear in what he wanted to do, and you knew the maestro had arrived.’ Pope adds, ‘The film is quirky, original and unusual. It is an expression of how Stephen Frears wanted to tell this story. There’s a lot of Stephen’s personality in this movie, it's wonderful for it.’


Discussing the challenges for the filmmakers, Pope continues, ‘The most difficult part of the film to crack was to put the audience in Philippa’s head because so much was Philippa’s thoughts. We needed a way to unlock that, and after much discussion around the subject, we decided to have Richard III appear as a vision to Philippa. It's been used before in movies, and we were wary of how to make it original and fresh.’ Initially, Langley was not keen. ‘When they told me they were going to bring Richard in, as a character for the Philippa character, it was difficult because I'd gone through quite a bit of denigration at this point. But we talked it through, and it became clear, that if I'm going in search of something – someone - the audience has to know what it is I'm in search of.’

Once Langley was on board, Pope continues, ‘We set a few ground rules. One was that Richard III was an extension of her subconscious. When she's talking to Richard, she's talking to herself. After we established the ground rules, then we thought this is something we can have fun with, it doesn't have to be po-faced.’

Considering the wider brush strokes of that character, Christine Langan observes: ‘There's a theme and metaphor in the journey Philippa goes on, and what Richard comes to represent for her. That’s why it's rich, makes it universal - we should all have a Richard III, who guides us on an incredible journey.’

As the actor responsible for realising this vision, Hawkins says, ‘It’s a clever device, quite hard to work out. Clever to use the actor she's seen as this apparition, and clever because it's funny as well. She feels a bit mad and she's not quite sure what's going on - whether she's losing her mind, but decides its worth the adventure.’

Casting, as always, was key – particularly when depicting real people, both alive and dead. Pope elaborates on what the film’s cast had to balance, ‘You need to think Philippa could be my mum, my sister, my aunt, my wife.

You want to connect to the character, to make entry points so people could look at her and think... I get obsessed with things...this could be me. Casting Sally Hawkins was really important, because Sally has that wonderful ability to play that every-woman.’ Frears agrees, ‘The challenge was, to find an actress who can do it, and make it believable.’

Considering the role, Coogan has the perspective of wearing three hats – that of producer, co-writer and co-star, ‘Philippa is a complex character, when we first see her, she tries the patience of her husband and, in some ways, the audience. To make a character interesting, you have to risk alienating the audience a bit. Sally brought this eccentricity and authenticity.’ Citing the famous George Bernard Shaw quote, Coogan adds ‘all progress depends on the unreasonable man, or in this case woman. It’s a celebration of that eccentricity.’

Portraying an actual person leads to inevitable comparison, however as Langan explains, ‘We didn't go after physical verisimilitude, it was more the capacity to blend into a crowd, and then to shine out of that crowd with tremendous potency and light. She’s very radiant, Sally, luminous; you underestimate her at your peril. The same is true of Philippa, there's a fragility with her ME which was physically very compromising, but she has tenacity and wouldn't be marginalised.’ Hawkins offers insight into her performance, ‘It’s based on truth, yet a completely different interpretation of it. We're not doing the documentary, that has been done. I'm not doing an impersonation. Had I been trying to ‘do her’ a bit, I would plug into that and be with her, say ‘download your brain to me’. But it's a parallel universe type of interpretation.’

Reacting to Hawkins portraying her on-screen, Langley is approving. ‘Watching her performance, it did encapsulate in a beautiful way, the 10-year journey I had been on, because I was vulnerable at many times. I lacked confidence an awful lot of the time; but I did have that inner steel, and by the end of the journey that came to the fore.’

Interpreting a living person did not just fall on Hawkins’ shoulders, as Coogan points out, ‘Jeff and I went for dinner with Philippa and her family including John, her ex-husband, who she’s on very friendly terms with – as is reflected in the film. If you’re playing someone real, you don’t feel you’re disingenuous but you do want to have room for invention. There’s no hard, fast rule about what you do and don’t do, but there’s definitely an intuitive idea of what’s crossing a line and what is ethical, when you’re being creative. There is a responsibility there, undoubtedly.’ As for acting opposite Coogan, Hawkins smiles, ‘Steve is one of those people who do it all. He’s brilliant in this, and surprising. It's like ‘I don't know how your mind works. You're extraordinary’. Other characters depicted in the film are also based on real people, as Christine Langan observes, ’ Richard Buckley is very clear that none of it would ever have happened without Philippa, and yet there were moments when she was being marginalised. There is no one better than Mark Addy, who's got so much heart, to convey that slightly conflicted ‘this is my job and the role I've been asked to do, but in my heart and my conscience, this woman deserves a lot of credit and respect’. He’s a very conscientious moral character in the end.’

Also based on a real person, albeit dead for several centuries, was the character of Richard III, played in all three representations across the film by Harry Lloyd. Firstly as the traditional Shakespearian version who /20/ Philippa and Max go to watch in the play, he allowed Lloyd to flex his theatrical acting muscles. Says Pope, ‘Harry Lloyd has this ethereal quality. It was very special to watch Harry work with Sally, to see the relationship they built up.’ Langan goes on, ‘The Richard which Philippa encounters, is a wonderful quiet, listening friend, empathetic and trying to tip her off about something, guiding her. Then there's this actor right at the end, just an ordinary guy. We were really lucky with Harry, he thought so much about the different sensibilities, the mind-set, what was required; he really enjoyed working with Stephen and Sally, seeing their different ways of working and thought processes.’

On working together, Hawkins found Lloyd’s minimal dialogue fascinating to bounce off, ‘I thought he was speaking, and I’d come to that scene and say ‘when you spoke’ because we were having a dialogue anyway – so rich in his face. He's brilliant, he's got this old-school Hollywood thing about him – like Laurence Olivier, this presence.’ Lloyd’s personal take on the vision Philippa encounters is an intimate one, ‘He’s reflecting and giving her some quiet confidence, reminding her that she herself is brilliant. Often the job of Richard in this film is not about helping her find him – he’s helping her find herself.’ A sentiment Coogan concurs, ‘In looking for Richard, she finds who she really is.’


The magnificent Edinburgh cityscape is almost an additional character, with locations including Edinburgh Castle, the mediaeval old town, St Mary’s Cathedral and the Forth Rail Bridge as a brief backdrop to the Albert Pub, where the Ricardians hold their meetings in the film. Which happens to be factually correct, as Langley lives in Edinburgh. Christine Langan expands, ‘It starts quite innocently on the streets of Edinburgh, ordinary life, people buzzing around; but what's really going on underneath it all is history and a mystery.’ Shot predominantly in the city, Hawkins agrees, ‘It’s filmic and beautifully shot and you've got that glorious Edinburgh skyline, it's like a very clever bridge in the past to the future.’

Also filmed on the outskirts of Edinburgh was the hero car park location, at the National Mining Museum of Scotland, which all the cast and crew felt were among their favourite scenes, as Christine Langan succinctly puts it, ‘We were pretty hung up on digging holes for a very long time.’ Not an easy task from the outset, as the traditional red bricks of Leicester are not found in that area of Scotland. However as Winch explains, ‘We wanted to find the most authentic representation of it in set form, somewhere close to buildings that reflect the red-brickness of Leicester and where we could dig some holes.’ Having located the Museum, it transpired art was imitating life, and it happened to be a site of archaeological interest. Winch continues, ‘Which meant we had to go through a lot of the stages and processes which Philippa and the dig team had to undertake in /21/ the case of the original dig. There was a period of the production where we were trying to get planning permission to dig, then having an archaeologist be present in case we found something’.

Langley also visited the Mining Museum location, and found the experience uncanny. ‘I literally had a ‘gasp’ moment, looking into the trenches. It was like walking back into the car park, it was the red brick of Leicester.’ Appreciative of Langley’s approval, Production Designer Andy Harris notes the unusual archaeological and engineering work that had to be done, above and beyond normal production design. ‘The mere fact of digging trenches somewhere was remarkably complicated. We kept expecting the trenches to flood, to become a canal - we were lucky they didn’t. Ultimately, before the unit arrived to film the scenes, I thought ‘we’ve spent so much effort in the art department creating an empty space!’.

Another challenge was recreating Richard’s remains, Harris recalls, ‘We hired a propmaker to make the skeleton, so it was wonderful to see that eventually, because that proved to be the most difficult journey. To see the skeleton in position and the actors all around was very rewarding.’

Frears admits he found the dig ‘great fun’, and Mark Addy adds, ‘The dig itself has been the most exciting - it really looks like an archaeological dig. We shot some scenes in the car park pre-dig, where we’re marking out where the trenches are going to be and so forth, then we had a day shooting elsewhere and came back the day after and there were 5-foot deep trenches, dug in the day we were away.’ In reality, the art department had already spent several weeks prepping and digging out the trenches, before refilling them and re-digging during production.

Langley comments, ‘It did take me back. One of the strangest things was it was the same kind of soil, that heavy clay with stones in it. And the letter ‘R’ – they recreated the letter ‘R’. That really helped because at the time there was a lot of stress, it was a difficult situation for me because I was trying to control so many different elements of the dig. To then go to a place where I could relax and enjoy it again in that sense, I really enjoyed that day. It was very special.’

Another significant scene was the recreation of Richard’s reburial, and his tomb in Leicester Cathedral, which Andy Harris had to create and transport into central Edinburgh’s St Mary’s Cathedral. ‘We sent our draughtsperson down to Leicester and he did a wonderful job of surveying the tomb,’ explains Harris. ‘To me it was great because it is how an art department should work. The art department get the information, get the drawings, speak to construction, speak to the painter, give them examples, and then they carry it out. It was, I think, a triumph.’

Langley was able to see the tomb under construction, and the final result – which she felt was remarkable in its realism and detail – being in place on the day she visited set at the Cathedral (as a Supporting Artist in the congregation).

As Richard’s coffin passed the congregation while filming the scene, production had to halt, as one lone beam of strong sunlight filtered through the Cathedral windows and shone like a bright follow spot – onto Philippa! Another moment that Philippa was delighted to see captured in the film was the reaction of her boys to her discovery: ‘I went back home from the dig and Max and Raife were there. They gave me the biggest welcome home. You can imagine, mum had been away for a long time, they hugged me, I'd missed them so much. And they called me ‘King-finder’. I just loved that.’

Overall, however, Langley’s favourite scene in the film is another very personal one: ‘the scene where Philippa is with John in the car at the train station and she's just got back into the car, because she's twigged he's sitting in his crappy old car. And there's no new car. I love that scene. I love that scene for so many reasons because the truth it brings for me and John - because this is who he is. Also my boys, because they put that money into the dig. And, boy, did he have a really, really crappy car. In the film, the car’s actually a lot better than the one we had. It’s a beautiful moment. It’s the way they supported me in this venture, even though it was a very odd venture that I was going on - so that is definitely a favourite, favourite scene.’


The last monarch of the Plantagenet dynasty and House of York, Richard III (2 October 1452 – 22 August 1485) was King of England and Lord of Ireland from 26 June 1483 until his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. He was the last English King to die in battle and his death marked the penultimate battle of the Wars of the Roses, (between the House of York and the House of Lancaster) ending the Middle Ages in England.

Richard was created Duke of Gloucester in 1461 after the accession of his brother King Edward IV. He governed northern England during Edward's reign, and led the invasion of Scotland in 1482. When Edward IV died in April 1483, Richard was named Protector of the realm. The heir to the throne was Edward's eldest son, the 12-year-old Edward V. Arrangements were made for Edward V's coronation on 22 June 1483. However, before the king could be crowned, the marriage of his parents was declared bigamous and therefore invalid. Now officially illegitimate, he was barred from inheriting the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of lords and commoners endorsed a declaration to this effect, and petitioned Richard as the rightful heir. Richard accepted his election as king the following day on 26 June when his reign began. He was crowned on 6 July 1483.

Edward and his younger brother were placed in the Tower of London from where they disappeared, creating an unsolved mystery as to what happened to them.

His reign lasted 2 years.

In August 1485, Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster returned from exile in France and landed in southern Wales with a contingent of French troops, and marched through Pembrokeshire, recruiting soldiers. Henry's forces defeated Richard's army near the Leicestershire town of Market Bosworth. Richard was slain, making him the last English king to die in battle, and Henry Tudor then ascended the throne as Henry VII. Richard's body was taken to the nearby town of Leicester and buried without ceremony. His original tomb monument is believed to have been removed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, and his remains were wrongly thought to have been thrown into the River Soar. After Philippa Langley discovered his remains, he was reinterred in Leicester Cathedral on 26 March 2015.


Richard’s world was one of political turmoil. In 1460, aged 8, his father and brother were killed in battle by forces supporting the Lancastrian king, Henry VI.

The following year, Richard’s eldest brother defeated Henry VI and was crowned Edward IV. The preceding decades of weak rule by Henry (who had a mental illness) had allowed England to be torn apart by its feuding noble families. With a superior claim to the throne, the key members of the newly ascendant House of York were three brothers: Edward (born 1442); George (born 1450); and Richard (born 1452).

Edward sent Richard to Yorkshire to be raised by the country’s most powerful nobleman, the Earl of Warwick, whose youngest daughter Richard would marry 11 years later.

Edward found his younger brother, George, to be volatile, jealous and unreliable (his repeated conspiracies against his older brother would eventually lead to his execution). Richard seemed the exact opposite. At the age of 18, Edward tasked him to lead his vanguard in battle against an insurrection instigated by Warwick and George to restore Henry VI to the throne. It was Richard’s first battle and he proved to be brave and effective. By the end of the campaign Edward had destroyed the House of Lancaster (culminating in the death of Henry VI).

Edward massively rewarded Richard for his loyalty – giving him Warwick’s vast northern estates (Warwick having been killed in battle) which Richard further secured through marrying Warwick’s 16 year old daughter, Anne. They were equally devout and by all accounts the marriage was happy.

Edward became increasingly unpopular for his imposition of swingeing taxes both to fund his luxurious lifestyle and to warmonger with France. When he died at the age of 40, his eldest son and heir apparent, Prince Edward, was only 12 years old.

Although no copy of Edward IV’s will survives, from a number of sources it is known that Richard was tasked with taking charge of the country as Protector, leading the new king’s Council. However, the family of Edward’s widow, Elizabeth Woodville, had persuaded the Council to abandon the idea of a Protectorate and instead have the young Prince hastily crowned so that he could rule on his own. The Woodvilles also attempted to raise an army. When Richard arrived in London from the North, he joined the King’s Council as Protector and plans for the young Prince’s coronation on 22 June got underway. On 17 June, the King’s Council postponed the coronation to November and, a few days later, the bigamy of Edward IV’s marriage was announced, rendering the young Prince illegitimate and disqualifying him from ascending to the throne. Richard was crowned king on 6 July 1483.

Richard threw himself into his rule with energy and rigour, launching legal reforms that gave rights to ordinary people relating to property and access to justice. He also removed forced loans and protected English trade (but excluding books from import restrictions).

In the Autumn, Richard and his government received news of an uprising, originally to restore Edward’s son to the throne but subsequently - because of rumours that the Prince (and his younger brother) were dead - to support the claim of the Lancastrian Pretender, Henry Tudor. The uprising was quickly put down but the Tudor propaganda machine went into overdrive in terms of accusing Richard of murdering his nephews – something that has never been proved.

The following year, Richard and Anne’s 7 year old son died – he was their only child and they were described at the time as being ‘out of their minds’ with grief – his hope for dynastic succession was apparently over. Some months later, Anne also died, probably of tuberculosis. Again, the Tudor propaganda machine claimed that Richard had killed Anne so as to incestuously marry his 18 year old niece, Elizabeth of York (the bride whom Henry Tudor would eventually take to consolidate his regime). In fact, we know that Richard was negotiating his marriage to Joanna of Portugal, the legitimate heir to the House of Lancaster; whilst arranging the marriage of Elizabeth of York to Duke Manuel of Beja, nephew to the king of Portugal, John II.

Richard came to believe that he could only achieve stability for the country if he defeated Henry Tudor in battle. He raised an English army to repel Henry Tudor’s French forces (augmented by Welsh combatants). As the battle turned against him at Bosworth, he was advised to retreat and fight another day, but Richard was unrelentingly focussed on the task in hand, saying: ‘This day I shall die as a king or win’. Even Tudor commentators acknowledged that Richard fought ferociously and when he was brought down and killed, they were shocked at the lack of humanity with which his body was treated.


Chronology - Philippa Langley: Looking For Richard Project

Richard III Society places plaque marking likely location of lost Greyfriars Church on Nat West bank building in Grey Friars street
Location of plaque based on paper by local historian David Baldwin (1986) following research of historian Charles Billson (1920)
Langley joins Richard III Society (researching biographical screenplay about Richard III)
Langley forms Scottish Branch of the Society
Langley visits central car parks in Leicester. Has intuitive experience in northern end of Social Services car park above a letter ‘R’
Langley begins research on Richard III’s burial, including a society paper by Audrey Strange (1975) which states Greyfriars Church and grave of king is located somewhere in (three) central car park areas in Greyfriars precinct. One is Social Services car park. No footnotes to explain assertion. Strange records last known marker to king’s grave in Robert Herrick’s garden (1612)
John Ashdown-Hill discovers Richard III’s mitochondrial DNA (June 2005)
October 2005
At Langley’s request, Ashdown-Hill writes to Channel 4’s Time Team show seeking archaeological investigation of two of the central car parks: New Street and Social Services. Time Team decline as site is too big
Ashdown-Hill believes medieval wall in New Street car park is cloister wall and church stretches across central area of Social Services and New Street car park
Langley returns to Leicester to visit all sites associated with Richard III
Writes to Leicester Mercury suggesting city/council search for the King’s grave in Social Services car park
Summer 2007
Archaeological dig at Grey Friars street, Nat West Bank
University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) contracted to dig beside bank building. Uncovers no trace of Church.
Langley asserts Church is further west, where Social Services car park is located
Langley requests all archive materials on Greyfriars precinct from Society archivist Geoff Wheeler
Receives maps and plans and copy of an account by local historian John Nicols (1795, 1815).
Nichols asserts Greyfriars Church is located opposite St Martin’s Church (now Leicester cathedral). This is the northern end of Social Services car park, where Langley had intuitive experience
Langley visits National Library of Scotland to view Nichols and John Throsby map (1792)
Langley’s research suggests northern end of Social services car park for location of Church and grave
Annette Carson in Richard III: The Maligned King asserts the king’s grave is in the Social Services car park
21 February 2009
Langley begins Looking For Richard Project (LFRP) at Cramond Inn, Edinburgh
At Langley request, LFRP member David Johnson makes second approach to Time Team. No interest
April 2009
Langley asks Ashdown-Hill to contact Leicester for dig project in Social Services car park
Ashdown-Hill writes to ULAS, receives no response
8 May 2009
Ashdown-Hill tells Langley he’s writing new book: Last Days of Richard III
Langley waits for book to be published to support a pitch for TV to film the dig
September 2010
Langley pitches LFRP to Sheila Lock, CEO of Leicester City Council (landowner of Social Services car park).
LCC supports the project
Langley investigates UK archaeological contracting teams
At Langley’s request, David and Wendy Johnson draft a Reburial Document
November 2010
Reburial Document given to LCC, provisions accepted
LCC recommend local archaeologist, Richard Buckley, co-director at ULAS (Greyfriars street dig, 2007)
January 2011
Langley calls Buckley, receives cautious interest
Langley obtains TV rights to Last Days of Richard III by Ashdown-Hill to support TV pitch for 3-part documentary on search for the king
February 2011
Langley provides project documents and Reburial Document to the Ministry of Justice, Royal Coroner, Office of HM The Queen at Buckingham Palace, Office of HRH Richard Duke of Gloucester at Kensington Palace (Patron of Richard III Society)
March 2011
Langley meets Buckley. Gives Buckley her research, and alerts him to Last Days of Richard III
Buckley reveals map of 1741 showing what looks to be Herrick’s garden
Langley requests overlay of ancient and modern map
At Langley’s request, Ashdown-Hill begins research into priory church layouts for northern end of Social Services car park
Buckley agrees commission for dig, Langley is client
Langley secures bursary from the Richard III Society (£1,140) and commissions Desk-Based Assessment from ULAS (Leon Hunt) to begin Looking for Richard Project (LFRP)
Langley meets Sarah Levitt, Head of Arts and Museums, and Lead Partner for dig at LCC
April 2011
Langley receives DBA report from ULAS
Langley begins plans for Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey
1 June 2011
Buckley contacts Turi King at University of Leicester (UoL) for advice about possible ancient DNA analysis.
King refers him to a specialist
June 2011
Buckley and Langley agree Written Scheme of Investigation (WSI) for dig. WSI signed off by LCC
Dig planned for 28 April 2012
Langley receives written permission from LCC for GPR Survey, archaeological investigation of Social Services car park, and filming of TV documentary
Langley is thanked by HM The Queen’s Private Secretary for the Reburial Documents on being respectful and sensitive provisions. Langley confirmed as point of contact for HRH Duke of Gloucester.
Rev Vivian Faull, Dean of Leicester Cathedral agrees reburial of the king (if found) at high altar beneath east window with tomb monument.
15 June 2011
Buckley introduces Langley to Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at UoL.
Langley asks if UoL might be responsible for a contingency budget for the dig (£5k) and for LFRP to be given (free) access to UoL specialists for DNA analysis and a Psychological Analysis of the king
19 July 2011
Langley receives letter from Vice Chancellor Bob Burgess confirming UoL’s support of LFRP
20 July 2011
Book launch for Visions of Ancient Leicester by ULAS. Langley questions Buckley and Matthew Morris re depiction of Greyfrirs Church in south of precinct (beyond the social services car park)
21 July 2011
Langley secures full funding for dig (£35k) from Leicestershire Promotios Ltd (LPL)
August 2011
Langley secures private funding for GPR Survey (£5,043) and commissions Stratascan for the research work
28 August 2011Darlow Smithson (documentary filmmaker) film GPR and interview LFRP team.
Turi King visits car park, now looking to undertake DNA analysis with outside help
September 2011
GPR survey results. No evidence of Church beneath ground
At Langley’s request, Sratascan highlight two potential grave sites; one in Social Services car park, beside letter R
February 2012
After undertaking research into priory layouts in spr 2011, Ashdown-Hill gives Langley a plan of Greyfriars church in northern end of Social Services car park. At Langley’s request letter ‘R’ is placed in the choir (burial location of Richard III)
March 2012
Funding pulled by LPL. April 2012 dig cancelled
April 2012
Sarah Levitt gives Langley new August bank holida dates for dig, if Langley can get funding. If she fails to find funding, LFRP to be cancelled for good
July 2012
Ricardian International Appeal saves Augus dig putting up 53% of the money needed, UoL put up 30%, Leicestershire Promotions 15%. LCC offers £5k contingency fund
25 August 2012
Two-week dig begins
Leg bones discovered beside letter ‘R’ in northern end of Social Services car park
31 August 2012
Langley instructs exhumation of remains found beside letter ‘R’, has £800 left from Ricardian International Appeal to pay for it. Buckley agrees. ULAS applies for licence to exhume up to six sets of remains of persons unknown
3 September 2012
Discovery of Greyfriars Church in northern end of Social Services car park.
Exhumation licence received from Ministry of Justice.
Dig extended into third week by LCC
4 September 2012
Exhumation of remains beside letter ‘R’ begins.
Undertaken by Turi King and Jo Appleby, both believe remains are those of a friar in nave of church
5 September
Full set of remains exhumed (minus feet) – reveals battle wounds and curved spine.
Discovery of choir of church in northern end of Social Services car park
12 September 2012
Announcement of discovery of remains - possibly those of Richard III
6 December 2012
Carbon-14 dating analysis confirms remains are late fifteenth century
3 February 2013
Turi King reveals DNA match between remains and Michael Ibsen (living relative of Richard III)
Ancient DNA work done by York and Toulouse Universities
4 February 2013
UoL press conference confirms remains found on 25 August 2012 are those of Richard III Channel 4 and Darlow Smithson premiere their documentary Richard III: The King in the Car Park
3 October 2013
Langley publishes The King’s Grave: The Search for Richard III
6 July 2014
Langley and LFRP team publish Finding Richard III: The Official Account
26 March 2015
King Richard III of England (1452-1485), the last Plantagenet, reburied in Leicester Cathedral with all respect, dignity and honour

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