Richard III facial reconstruction


Have spent the past few weeks in a frenzy of excitement and anticipation, a condition that’s likely to continue for quite some time to come.  Why, I hear you ask.  Is there a new man in my life?  Well…sort of.  Except the object of my affection has been dead for 528 years.  You see I’m a devoted fan of Richard III, England’s most enigmatic and much maligned king – the last English king to die in battle, in 1485.  The recent dig in the social services car park in Leicester, where his skeleton was unearthed,, has re-ignited my adoration.


I’m a paid up member of the Richard III Society (don’t knock it – the Society has been having 1.4 million hits a day on its website, so clearly I’m not alone in my interest!), and I’ve done an awful lot of reading about Richard and his life and times over the past 30 years.  I’ve happily and heatedly debated the ‘did he, or didn’t he?’ question regarding his two nephews, too often to count.  So the Leicester find and subsequent academic and historical interest has really excited me.


Last Saturday (March 2nd)I went on a one-day conference at Leicester University, entitled “The Greyfriars Dig: A New Richard III?”.  I was beside myself with excitement, as were the 500 fellow Ricardians attending.  And no, they weren’t all crusty old academics or badly dressed weirdo’s living in a 15th Century twilight world.  They were ordinary folk drawn together by their love of history and the desire to see this dead monarch of ours seen as a human being rather than as a pantomime villain.


It was an awesome conference, with some truly high quality speakers, sharing their knowledge and experience with us.  I don’t know how many of you actually watched the original “King in the Car Park” documentary on Channel 4, which featured Philippa Langley, the woman whose tireless dedication made the whole thing happen.  By dint of rather unkind editing the programme made her seem like an over-emotional loony.  This was far from the truth, as she’s actually a highly intelligent and articulate woman, and a successful screenwriter.  As one of the key speakers, she explained the long history of the project and LeicesterUniversity’s involvement in it.


Another speaker was Caroline Wilkinson (Prof. of Craniofacial Identification in the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at the University of Dundee – try saying that quickly after a night in the pub!), who was fascinating in her explanation of the reconstruction process of his face based on computer regeneration of his skull.  They’d brought the head for us to see; it was much smaller than I expected, which underlined the fact he was only about 5’ 6” and slightly built.


And the business of his ‘hunch-back’?  Not entirely Tudor propaganda as it happened, as he clearly had scoliosis, curvature of the spine.  Originally the scientists involved had said he was a hunchback, but then had to admit they’d made a mistake – scoliosis is a different condition altogether and much more common than people think.  Some really famous people have it, and it hasn’t done their reputations any harm, e.g. (amazingly enough) Usain Bolt, and Elizabeth Taylor.  But deformity was a moral judgment in the Middle Ages.  Richard would have accepted it in the same way as he might have accepted wearing a ‘hair shirt’.  It certainly didn’t hamper his prowess as a warrior, and all accounts, even those of the usurping Henry VII, refer to his bravery on field.

Prof. Mark Lansdale, an Experimental Psychologist, discussed Richard’s Psychological profile, outlining the Elements of Psycopathy – narcissism, self-preservation, disordered thoughts and difficulty with inter-personal relationships.  He said Richard didn’t display any of these trains, although Henry VIII did.  Therefore, in his view it was extremely unlikely that Richard was a psychopath…there’s no evidence for it.


And…did he/or didn’t he kill his nephews? Well the jury’s still out on that one.  Although it’s interesting that son of Richard’s brother George, Edward of Warwick, had a much stronger claim to the throne than the two princes given Edward IV’s supposed illegitimacy.  Yet he was alive, and was finally executed 14 years later by Henry Tudor. You go figure.


There’s so much more – I could go on for a very long time…don’t even get me started on the armor and weaponry…I’ve always been turned on by men in armor!!  So I’ll stop before your eyes glaze over and you cross me off your Christmas card list.  But if you want to know more about Richard and his life and times, log onto the Society’s excellent website – – and watch this space for Ricardian inspired poetry over the next few months.


And talking of poetry and writing, March has two brilliant features and a special guest to inspire you.  There’s the multi-talented Morgen Bailey (writer and blogger extraordinaire), the warm and wonderful and Rosemary Harris (poet, novelist and all-round good egg), and Special Guest appearance by Margaret Eddershaw, (poet, writer and performer) flying in from Greece to join us.  That’s on Wednesday, 13th March at the Poetry Café, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden. Kick off 8.00 p.m. £5./3


So be there or be square,





  1. Anne Ballard says:

    Dear Agnes   I followed this with interest too and thought it really unfortunate that the programme made Philippa Langley [and by implication the whole Richard III Society] look like some sort of loony.  However, did you see the new revised version?  It crept into the other Channel 4 programme, More4, unannounced but was very much better:  some interesting extra material and Philippa shown in a much better light.    Best wishes   Anne


  2. susan buonaparte says:

    Hi agnes, don’t know if you remember me but we met at the richard iii conference in march. We sat and had lunch together. It was a wonderful day, full of interesting lectures and was a great way to meet people with a passion for richard! Just been reading the article in the ricardian bulletin on the leicester conference and I saw your name mentioned so I thought I would leave a message and say hello! Good luck your poetry and continue the good fight on richards behalf. Best wishes, susan buonaparte.

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