Looking for Richard Project
Philippa Langley is a screenwriter who wanted to write a screenplay about Richard III. While researching his life and death she had a feeling that she had found the site of his grave – under the Social Services car park in Leicester.
In 2005 Philippa contacted Dr John Ashdown-Hill, historian and genealogist, who had already discovered the mtDNA of Richard III’s sister, Margaret of Burgundy, and her descendant Joy Ibsen and which he later published in his book The Last Days of Richard III (2009).
In 2008, writer Annette Carson asserted in her book Richard III, The Maligned King that the king’s grave was probably under the Social Sciences car park in Leicester, the same resting place asserted by Langley, her research indicating the northern end of the car park. The following year, Langley formed the Looking for Richard Project. Founder members included historian Dr David Johnson and his wife, Wendy. The project was joined shortly afterwards by Ashdown-Hill, and in 2011 by Carson. With help from Leicester City Council and, after an international appeal to the membership of the Richard III Society worldwide, University of Leicester Archaeological Services was commissioned by Langley to excavate the car park. Thereafter, Channel 4 and Darlow Smithson Productions began filming the dig for Richard’s grave on 25 August 2012, the anniversary of the king’s hasty burial in 1485 in Greyfriars Church.
King Richard’s remains were discovered on the first day of the search, in what was originally the choir of the church, a suitable burial place. The discovery was in the northern end of the Social Services car park. Osteologist, Dr Jo Appleby confirmed that the skeleton showed no sign of disability, no hunchback, no withered arm. Instead it had scoliosis, a laterally curved spine which is a condition, not a disability, and which does not rule out an active lifestyle, fighting battles while wearing armour. This had been proved by Dominic Smee who has a similar scoliosis and for whom armour has recently been made in order to test what his mobility as a medieval fighter would have been.
King Richard III was reburied on 26 March 2015 in Leicester Cathedral, with dignity and honour during a service presided over by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Leicester. The Royal Family was represented by HRH The Countess of Wessex and TRH The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
The Richard III Society’s work of seeking to restore King Richard’s reputation continues and, in 2015, Philippa Langley launched another initiative,The Missing Princes Project.