Following nearly twenty years of study into the life and times of King Richard III, Philippa launched her new research project at the Middleham Celebrates Richard III Weekend in early July 2016. One of the key aspects of The Missing Princes Project is the search for neglected archival material in the UK and overseas. If you think you can help the project by hunting for new documentary evidence in your area, then please get in touch by completing the 'Confirmation of Interest' form on the project website (please see link below). There will be further updates from this exciting new research initiative as it progresses.
The Missing Princes Project aims to undertake new research into the enduring mystery of the disappearance of the sons of Edward IV, more commonly referred to as the 'Princes in the Tower’. It is currently believed that Edward V (12) and Richard, Duke of York (9) disappeared sometime during 1483-4. The research focus therefore aims to encompass any new historical material that may relate to the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, with particular reference to the reign of King Richard III (1483-5).
You can find out more about this exciting new research project here.
The Lost King (working title) – 2 September 2020
Steve Coogan to star in Richard III film The Lost King
Speaking on The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show on 2 September 2020, British actor Steve Coogan said: "Next year we're shooting a film about the woman who found the body of Richard III in a car park in Leicester." The actor/writer added, "I play her husband." The BBC and online news sites revealed the title of the cinematic feature that tells the dramatic story of Philippa Langley’s search for the king’s grave. The script is written by BAFTA award-winning and Oscar-nominated writers Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope who first teamed up for the highly successful and four-time Oscar-nominated hit, Philomena, in 2013. Jeff Pope is also the Head of Factual Drama for ITV Studios and the acclaimed writer of Pierrepoint (2005), Mrs Biggs (2012), Little Boy Blue (2017) Stan and Ollie (2018) and Confession (2019) amongst others. Oscar-winning director, Stephen Frears (Philomena, 2013, The Queen, 2006, A Very English Scandal, 2018) is rumoured to be attached to the feature.
The film project was first brought to our attention in 2017 following an unannounced visit by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope to the Richard III Visitor Centre in Leicester.
The writers are working closely with Philippa who hopes to be able to give more information about this very exciting project as soon as she is able.
Renowned Destrier Duke – 8 May 2020
It is with great sadness that we announce the loss of the renowned destrier Duke, who passed away peacefully at his home in Northampton on 8 May 2020. Duke was one of the two destriers who led the coffin of King Richard III during the king’s reburial in March 2015. With his friend Coralito, a grey ridden by Dominic Sewell, he formed The Honour Guard for the medieval king who died in battle. Duke was ridden by Tobias Capwell. You can read more about this remarkable animal here.
Our very grateful thanks go to Dilys Hartland, editor of The Court Journal, for her kind permission to publish Duke’s obituary here for you, and to Dominic Sewell and April Bowles for telling us so much about him. For more stunning images of Duke (and Coralito) at the reburial of the king, please see here.
It is with great sadness and deep disappointment that nearly 5 years to the day since the historic blue plaque in the Cramond Inn in Edinburgh was unveiled it has now been taken down. The plaque marked where the successful search for the grave of King Richard III began.
We were informed that the owner of the inn, Mr Humphrey Smith, had taken the decision to return his many hostelries to their ‘heyday’. Anything outwith this period would therefore have to be removed. A spokesperson for the Cramond Inn said that Mr Smith has confirmed that the ‘heyday’ of the inn was in the eighteenth century. All other historic plaques on Mr Smith’s inns are also to be taken down so that they too can return to their ‘heyday’. Mr Smith has also banned all phones, laptops and tablets.
With thanks to all those who have written in to express their shock and deep dismay at the removal of this unique historic plaque.
The Scottish Branch of the Richard III Society
For the full statement please visit: boarandsaltire.wordpress.com/
On the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth, 22nd August 2018, we learnt of a planning application to build an extensive driverless car track on the western location of this unique site of national importance. Many interested parties and organisations are deeply concerned at this development with the planning application about to end and with, apparently, no public announcements made. As a result, Philippa has joined the urgent call for a proper enquiry to now be held and has sent the following letter to Hinckley and Bosworth Planning Department (please see below). In doing this she is joining the many local voices now urgently raised against these new plans in this incredibly sensitive location together with those of the Richard III Society, Battlefields Trust and Tudor Society amongst many others. It is hoped that Historic England will now reconsider their position.
With thanks to Heather Broughton, and the Battlefields Trust:
Dear Sir or Madam
OBJECTION TO PLANNING APPLICATION 18/00425/FUL
I am writing to you as a member of the Battlefields Trust and Richard III Society. The Battle of Bosworth is England's most important battle site where the 330 year Plantagenet dynasty came to an end, and the new Tudor dynasty began. It is also the location of the death of the last English king to die in battle. It is therefore unique. The battlefield is a site of national importance. In addition to its large and undoubted importance as a heritage asset it helps attract many visitors and generate income for the area. As such every square yard of it should be treasured not destroyed for our future generations.
The proposed development involves destroying land on part of the Registered Battlefield and is an area that may well have played an important part in the actual battle. Indeed historian Dr Michael K. Jones (Bosworth 1485: The Psychology of a Battle) believes it is the probable location of the defensive line of Henry Tudor’s Mercenaries. If this application is accepted because it is deemed only to cause minor harm to the battlefield, it can easily be followed by another piece of minor harm, and then another, until the sum of all this is serious damage. Moreover to walk the new battlefield trail would be seriously impacted and detract from its current historical import, beauty and viability – and for all generations to come.
For these reasons I would like to object to the above application and urge you to protect your valuable heritage by rejecting it.
With hope and look forward to hearing from you.
Philippa Langley MBE
Led the Search for Richard III
The following statement was issued by the Richard III Society and Philippa Langley on Sunday 22 July 2018:
Sadly an article published in a national UK newspaper today is inaccurate and misleading in its analysis of the science and history behind the ‘bones in the urn’ but more specifically in its untrue statements about support for a petition regarding the testing of these remains. Neither the Richard III Society nor Philippa Langley support the petition.
We have been informed very clearly that any analysis of these remains will not take place in the ‘foreseeable future’ and we must respect that wish.
A retraction has now been asked from the newspaper concerned. It is hoped that a factually accurate article might be available shortly.
Thank you for your letter of 19 July and for responding to some of the points made in mine of 6 July. However, I would like to respond to some of your points which I find misleading and inaccurate.
To confirm, my letter was dated 6 July and posted the same day with a first class stamp. I’m sorry that the postal service let you down, but you will appreciate this was out of my control. The ‘breach of trust’ that you refer to ‘over the years’ I believe reflects the difficult reburial period when many of the undertakings from my agreements locally were put to one side; specifically, the Catholic Place of Sanctity and Rest for the king prior to reburial. This you agreed to in our meeting of March 3 2013, in the presence of five witnesses, including two others from the Richard III Society. Arrangements with a local monastery were then finalised. However, sadly, you later reneged on this undertaking to the great disappointment of all those who were reliant upon it. You state that you have been working hard to ‘maintain frank and open channels of communication’ with the Richard III Society and Foundation. If this is the case, then we are at a loss to understand why the staging of Shakespeare’s play within the Cathedral came as such a surprise and a shock to both organisations.
The deleted posts to which we refer appeared on the Cathedral’s Facebook page, not twitter account, the majority respectful. A copy of these posts is available. The debate surrounding Shakespeare’s play has a long history, predating the king’s discovery and identification. We have simply requested that these particular performances take place in a suitable secular venue rather than the sacred, holy place where the king now lies at peace. It would seem that due to a lack of communication, I did not know about Michael Morpurgo’s reading in the Cathedral. Perhaps this might further suggest that communications are not working as well as you might wish.
In terms of ‘Dignity and Honour’, you will recall the Looking For Richard Project employed this banner and ‘honour and dignity’ in its various communications and in the Ricardian Bulletin magazine in 2012 and in The King’s Grave (2013). When the Cathedral adopted ‘Dignity and Honour’ in 2014 we hoped it reflected your acceptance and understanding of the ethos of the project that had commissioned and funded the search for the king. This undertaking of ‘Dignity and Honour’ was taken as a sign of trust by the public and the principal funding partners in the search. This funding, as you know, was raised on the basis of ‘search-find-honour’ and formed part of the Bishop’s Eulogy at the re-interment. Therefore, I hope you will understand when we state that there has been, in our opinion, a breach of this trust. Had you stated openly that ‘dignity and honour’ would last a couple of years at most, arrangements for reburial elsewhere would have been made. As you know, St Mary de Castro, where Richard’s father, the Duke of York, was knighted, had been proposed by the City Council, but as I had given my word it would be the Cathedral, I kept that word.
It is our understanding that the Cathedral is consecrated as one place of God, not in part. We do not ask that you cease to engage in cultural activities, just that in future you find an alternative venue for Shakespeare’s play, which we contend most reasonable people would consider does not offer dignity or honour to this named individual at rest within your care. The reburial of King Richard III with ‘dignity and honour’ in March 2015 healed so many wounds, making peace with the past and present, and was acclaimed as such. We only request that as a man of God and a spiritual leader, you deliver on your publicly stated promise, and search your heart and conscience so that these wounds, so recently reopened, can once again be healed.
cc. The Bishop of Leicester, the Mayor of Leicester, the Chairman of the Richard III Society
A Response from the Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester Cathedral – 19.7.17
You can read the Dean’s response to Philippa’s open letter of 6 July here.
A Letter to the Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester Cathedral – 6 July 2017
In reply to your published response to the recent petition opposing the performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ in Leicester Cathedral (Leicester Mercury 2 July 2017), I now wish to make the following points, which, for whatever reason, you are apparently choosing to ignore:
In March 2015, you reburied King Richard III of England with all ‘dignity and honour’, in accordance with the cathedral’s publicly stated position. As part of the reburial’s legal procedures, on Sunday 22 March 2015, before the remains of King Richard were placed in your care, the Ministry of Justice licence was handed to you by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS). As you know, this licence was initially issued to ULAS, who had been commissioned to undertake the digging work, and which specified that the remains shall be kept ‘safely, privately and decently’. This was a public obligation, undertaken by you on behalf of Leicester Cathedral.
Since receiving into your care both the licence and the king’s remains, you have now announced your plans for two performances of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ to take place inside Leicester Cathedral, beside the king’s grave, on the 19th and 20th July. The play, as you are aware, was originally advertised and promoted with the subtitle ‘Something Wicked This Way Limps’. May I now respectfully reiterate that we have never requested the cancellation of the performances of the play, simply that you consider an alternative and more appropriate venue.
As you will recall, the clearly stated ethos of the Looking For Richard Project was to retrieve the remains of the last Plantagenet monarch in order to provide the respect and human dignity so conspicuously denied in 1485 when King Richard was killed on the field of battle. This ethos, which followed that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was at the heart of the project delivered to Leicester. It was enshrined in my local agreements with the authorities in Leicester, and within the project’s Reburial Document. As you will also recall, the Reburial Document received the full backing and support of the land owner, Leicester City Council, who gave permission to undertake the archaeological dig, and the support of my contractor, the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, whom I commissioned to undertake the digging work.
In 2011, the Reburial Document was given to the Ministry of Justice, the Royal Coroner, the office of Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, the office of His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester at Kensington Palace, and the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester Cathedral. The Reburial Document followed the same principles and procedures as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, and duly received the further approval of the Ministry of Justice, the Royal Coroner, the office of HRH The Duke of Gloucester, and the blessing of Her Majesty The Queen. The Very Revd Vivienne Faull requested two minor amendments and with these in place confirmed the Reburial Document as the blueprint for honourable reburial and safe custody, should the king be found. On this basis, we finally cut the tarmac on August 25 2012.
With the above in mind, we now wish you to fully comprehend our unequivocally stated position. The staging of Shakespeare’s defamatory play beside the king’s grave is not an appropriate or Christian act, and directly contravenes not only your own commitment to rebury the king with ‘dignity and honour’, but also your public acceptance to keep the remains ‘safely, privately and decently’.
Richard III was an anointed king of England and a former Head of State who fell in battle, and these performances constitute a breach, not only of the trust placed in the Cathedral and the great city of Leicester and its people, but also of the Ministry of Justice licence accepted by you. It is also important for you to consider whether Westminster Abbey would ever consider staging a performance of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’, for example, beside the grave of the Unknown Warrior.
We also note that in relation to the petition which was handed to one of your representatives, you state ‘some such as you have voiced concern, many others welcome our decision.’ However, it is apparent from social media that the majority of the feedback you received on the Leicester Cathedral website was against the performance, with many commentators asking you to reconsider the venue. It is a shame that you felt the need to remove these comments and indeed then ban further postings on this subject which was seen as a move to prevent further consensus of opinion proving that your decision to hold the play within the Cathedral was ill-considered. There will always be those who will buy tickets to performances just because they are controversial. This is clearly just such a performance and would have been recognised as such long before the event was actually marketed.
Whilst we appreciate that Leicester Cathedral is increasingly concerned with promotional activities which have both cultural and commercial considerations, all we ask is that an alternative venue is urgently arranged. This will allow the cathedral to continue to hold annual Remembrance Day services, honouring those who have fought and fallen in battle, without appearing completely hypocritical.
We therefore request an urgent reconsideration of the venue of these performances so that King Richard may continue to receive the dignity and honour afforded all our fallen in battle. The precious trust placed in your hands and in the great city of Leicester and its people demands nothing less.
Philippa Langley MBE
Led the Search for Richard III
cc. Rt Rev Martyn Snow, Bishop of Leicester
Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester
Dr Phil Stone, Chairman, Richard III Society
A Statement on Behalf of the Looking For Richard Project – 8 May 2017
It is with great shock and deep disappointment that we have learned of Leicester Cathedral’s plans to stage in July two performances of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’ by Antic Disposition Theatre Company (‘Something Wicked This Way Limps’). The performances are to take place in the cathedral itself where King Richard now lies at rest.
It was the unequivocally stated ethos of the Looking For Richard Project to retrieve the remains of the last Plantagenet monarch and to provide them with the respect and human dignity so conspicuously denied in 1485 when King Richard was killed on the field of battle. This ethos, which followed that of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, was at the heart of Philippa Langley’s agreements with partner institutions and organisations involved in the search for Richard III.
It was our sincere hope that by the time of the king’s re-interment in 2015, this ethos would have been firmly embraced by the Dean and Chapter of Leicester Cathedral. Instead we were faced with a difficult and frustrating two year battle, fought largely behind the scenes, to secure for King Richard the manner of reburial which had been planned and agreed from the start. Central to this often acrimonious dispute was Leicester Cathedral’s part in obstructing previously agreed plans to allow King Richard’s remains to lie in a place of Catholic Sanctity and rest prior to reburial. Eventually, however, under the cathedral’s publicly adopted banner of ‘dignity and honour’, these and other disappointments were put to one side and King Richard was finally laid to rest with the respect deserved.
The Looking For Richard Project, and all those who donated to Philippa Langley’s last-ditch appeal to save the search for the king, and who consequently became her principal funding partners on the basis of ‘search-find-honour’, deplore and condemn Leicester Cathedral for this wholly unprincipled commercial and promotional venture. As a result, we now join with the Richard III Society in urgently calling for the performances of ‘Richard III’ in Leicester Cathedral to be relocated to an alternative venue, and request that no future performances of any play or film that might be considered derisive or humiliating to the memory of the king be contemplated, where, it is important to remember, the man himself now lies.
We therefore call upon the Dean and Chapter of Leicester Cathedral to act in accordance with the above and bestow upon King Richard the dignity and honour afforded to all our fallen in battle.
Philippa Langley MBE
Led the Search for Richard III