A screenwriter who led a charge which unearthed the hidden remains of Richard III has revealed how she played a key role in the design of the fallen king’s new tomb.
Philippa Langley was so sure she knew where the long lost king lay that she commissioned the burial piece two years before the discovery in a Leicestershire car park.
The final designs of the sarcophagus are being kept a closely guarded secret for an official “reveal” next week.
But the amateur historian gave the Evening News an exclusive teaser into how the heavy stonework could look.
She confirmed it would feature carvings of a medieval five-pointed rose and other scenes to depict his life and even his death at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.
She said: “I can’t say much but one thing I can say is the tomb will feature the rose of York.
“We wanted it to feature things that were important in Richard’s life and the five-petalled rose is a big symbol for him.
“I commissioned it because I didn’t think anyone else would at the time. You can’t go into a search for a king without knowing what you’re going to do with him so we designed a tomb.
“It has taken two years to get the design ready but I knew we were always going to find him.
“The whole thing has been a bit overwhelming of course but the process for me doing this was just about him. It was about finding and honouring him.”
Philippa was instrumental in what has been labelled as one of the biggest finds in archeological history.
Secretary of the Scottish Branch of the Richard III Society, Philippa had harboured an interest in the infamous monarch for more than a decade.
Shakespeare portrayed Richard III as a hunchbacked tyrant but Philippa argues that the king was the victim of Tudor propaganda. His short reign from 1483-85 saw liberal reforms, including the introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.
Research for her screenplay The Real Richard led her to Leicester’s Grey Friars, now a council car park where she had a sensation she was walking on Richard’s grave.
“I had this feeling I was walking on his grave and that is what kicked it off and we had research that backed it up.
“On February 21, 2009, at the Cramond Inn in Edinburgh, we held a meeting of the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society. There were about 25 of us there and we decided the search for Richard III was under way.
“So Edinburgh clearly has had a part to play.”
Sceptics hanging on to the popular belief the king’s bones had been thrown into the river Soar were unwilling to back the project. But Philippa successfully sought permission from Leicester City Council, commissioned a dig by University of Leicester Archaeological Services and even generated £13,000 in an appeal to “worldwide Ricardians” after the initial sponsorship collapsed.
Her four-year battle to find him was officially vindicated this week when experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.
“A lot of people thought we were on a wild goose chase.
“Even when we were exhuming him, there were a lot of doubters who thought it was someone else but I knew straight away. It was a great moment.”
Monarch with a bad reputation
THE search for the remains of Richard III was led by “Ricardians”, who seek to revise the reputation of the late monarch.
Ricardians – of which the Richard III society are the most prominent group – believe many of the stories about King of England from 1483-1485, including his physical deformities and the story that he murdered his nephews, were propaganda spread after his death.
In an effort to challenge these stories and show that they were politically motivated, Ricardian historians have produced editions of documents from Richard’s reign, research, and articles which have contributed to scholarship of England in the 1480s.