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Richard III: The King in the Car Park

February 27, 2013

I have been waiting for this ever since they announce he could be in that car park in Leicester, as I am sure many other historians were. So, I cannot believe it has taken me so long to finally watch the Channel 4 documentary detailing the dig and their discoveries. Now, seeing as my blog is meant to have a medieval twang, here are my views on the documentary, and how they showed us the discoveries they made.

I know many people didn’t like the thought of a comedian/actor narrating and playing a star part in this documentary, but I did think Simon Farnady was a good choice. He bought some colour to what otherwise could have the potential to be a dull documentary for those who are only kind of interested in history. However, as for the lady who pushed for the dig, and discovered the site of the car park, and who is a Ricardian, someone who defends Richard III, Philippa Langley, I can say quite a lot! I do understand that she was the mastermind behind this dig, and she has spent a lot of time researching this topic, and then fundraising to make it happen, and I admire that, but, she drove me insane. She spoke about having a feeling while on top of the car park. Yes, he was found there, but when looking at something like this, it can’t be based on feelings, you need to look at evidence, as was done eventually. The other thing is her denial that Richard III could be anything like a tyrant; she and her fellow Ricardians would not contemplate him being anything but a good king. Finally, we need hard evidence that Richard III was or wasn’t a tyrant, and unfortunately, I think the evidence is fairly stacked up against him, the most damming of which has to be the princes in the tower. Richard III’s two nephews, who were in line to the throne before him, were taken from their mother, after their father died, to the tower; they were never seen again. He may or may not have killed them, but he has a lot to gain from their deaths. I would like to mention that I do have some admiration for this woman, she stuck to her guns about her research and pursued it, and it paid off, she must have been so incredibly pleased when the skeleton was revealed to her as King Richard III.

The face being revealed was quite exciting, I love the thought of constructing faces and actually seeing what historical people looked like, because all we have are the images that others portrayed them to be, and can be quite distorted. We can look at the current portrait of the Duchess of Cambridge and the criticism that came with it to see this. I agree with Langley, the face doesn’t look like that of a tyrant, not that that means he isn’t, he just looks like a nice guy! I did feel he looked similar to the Tudor portrait though.

The documentary looks in detail at the dig itself, how the King came to be buried in that car park, how he died, and of course, how it was determined that it was him, but what it doesn’t address is whether or not he was a tyrant, which seemed to be a hot topic throughout. Of course, this subject would need another documentary, and we will probably never know. Finding his bones won’t bring us any closer to finding out what kind of personality he had.

So, after an entertaining 45 minutes, and the discovery of the face of King Richard III, the question still remains, was he a tyrant who murdered his young nephews, or was he a good king, misunderstood because of Tudor propaganda, we will probably never know.

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