Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The King's Grave

The King's Grave:

The Discovery Of Richard III's Lost Burial Place And The Clues It Holds

By Philippa Langley & Michael Jones

Published by St Martin's Press, 29 October 2013

Earlier this year, I watched the documentary about the finding of the King Richard III's body with fascination. Reading this book takes that amazing story into minute and incredibly satisfying detail. After all, how often does a long-lost dead king turn up in a council owned car park?

This was a once in a lifetime discovery of enormous historical importance and Philippa Langley had to fight tooth and nail to get the Powers That Be to take any notice of her passionate conviction that she KNEW just where his grave was situated; her ideas were initially treated somewhat dismissively by some experts.

She had to liaise extensively with a wide variety of people at Leicester City Council who were very interested and supportive - but financially limited in what monies they could provide - and she had to find a substantial part of the financial backing herself. She managed to  get a television company interested in making a documentary about the proposed archaeological excavation and it was largely through  funding from the world-wide supporters of the Richard III Society that the initial surveys and then excavation became possible. It's a truly compelling story and Philippa Langley was, of course, proved to be 100% correct;  she would have been perfectly entitled to revel in the discomfiture of those who dismissed her theory but she does not do so, which does her enormous credit. I don't think I would have been quite so charitable!

The chapters alternate between the excavation and its back-story, written by Philippa Langley, and the life of Richard written by the historian Michael Jones; this juxtapositioning really does help to bring Richard to life for the modern reader. Although we already knew what the outcome of the Battle of Bosworth was, and we now know that the body in the car park really was Richard III, the story remains a compelling one and a delight to read. It really does go a very long way to debunking the appalling bad press that King Richard was given by his Tudor successors.

 Definitely a keeper!

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