‘It’s like Richard III wanted to be found’

Since Philippa Langley, an Edinburgh-based screenwriter and producer, read a biography of Richard III 15 years ago, the last Plantagenet king has dominated her life.

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “‘It’s like Richard III wanted to be found'” was written by Maev Kennedy, for The Guardian on Tuesday 5th February 2013 16.16 UTC

Since Philippa Langley, an Edinburgh-based screenwriter and producer, read a biography of Richard III 15 years ago, the last Plantagenet king has dominated her life.

She is now a leading member of the Richard III Society, and was the originator of the Looking For Richard project, which after years of research and fundraising led to the exhumation of bones from a Leicester car park – now confirmed by the local university as those of the 15th-century monarch.

To the embarrassment of her teenage children, she was seen weeping at several points in the Channel 4 documentary tracking the project. Here she explains her involvement with the search for Richard.

“I really think it’s a justice thing. It began for me when I read a biography of him, Paul Murray Kendall’s book, in about 1998, and it just blew me away. I thought, this is a man whose real story has never been told on screen, never.

“He was always real to me, he was always a real living breathing man from the get-go, and there was something really quite heroic about him.

“There are two sorts of primary sources: people who knew of him and people who actually knew him. Those who actually knew him describe a very particular kind of man, who was no saint but who was loyal, brave, pious and just. He was 30 when his brother died: you just don’t change character at the age of 30.

“When you’re writing a screenplay, you walk 1,000 miles in their shoes every day. I wasn’t interested in Richard’s death, I was interested in his life, but finally I thought I should go to Leicester – and the first time I stood in that car park, the strangest feeling just washed over me. I thought: ‘I am standing on Richard’s grave.’

“I came back again about a year later, thinking my earlier reaction was just nonsense, and the feeling was stronger than ever – only this time somebody had painted an R on a parking space.

“So when I was there again and they dug in that spot and the leg bones were first revealed, yes, I was overcome with emotion. Everyone else was looking at old bones, I was looking at the real man, and I was seeing the man.

“On the exhumation day, that really got to me, because I was told that he was a hunchback, and that didn’t fit with everything we knew about this man … luckily, once they got him back to the lab, they realised that they were wrong.

“Obviously we know that scoliosis is not a disability, it’s a condition. I mean Usain Bolt has got it, Elizabeth Taylor had it, John F Kennedy had it, and I know two or three people who have it.

“The scientists say you can’t see character in bones – but for me, you kind of can. We have Richard III’s itinerary. He had an incredibly powerful, strong work ethic. This man never stopped. He was on a horse every day, fighting skirmishes, doing everything they had to do.

“I’ve spoken to scoliosis experts and they say acute scoliosis like that was painful. So we know that he was working through the pain barrier every day just to do his job. That tells me about his character.

“When the DNA results came through, I was so moved again. Everything about this project has been so easy. And for me it’s like Richard wanted to be found, it’s like he was ready to be found. I think the time is right, with our science, with our knowledge, with the time of the Paralympics, I think he was saying: ‘You can now understand me. I’m ready. And I’m ready to be reburied.’

“I think it’s time to rebury him, and to rebury him as a king, and it’s time to tell his story, whether on TV or on the screen.

“Am I bonkers? Do you know what – I probably am.”

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