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Top honour for writer who tracked down Richard III

A Scots-based researcher who instigated a dig believed to have unearthed the remains of Richard III in a car park has been given a top accolade by the society dedicated to the study of the English king's life.

PROUD: Philippa Langley said she was shocked and honoured to have received the Robert Hamblin Award for her role guiding archaeologists to what are believed to be the remains of Richard III.
PROUD: Philippa Langley said she was shocked and honoured to have received the Robert Hamblin Award for her role guiding archaeologists to what are believed to be the remains of Richard III.

Philippa Langley, who lives in Edinburgh, was honoured with the Robert Hamblin Award by the Richard III Society in recognition of outstanding service among its members.

Ms Langley spent years of painstaking work examining records in the search for clues about where he might be buried before finally leading archaeologists to the probable spot in Leicester where he had lain for more than 500 years.

The 50-year-old screenwriter, who is secretary of the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society, said she was immensely proud of receiving the award.

"It was a huge shock to receive the award, very unexpected, but very treasured and it was a great honour to receive it," she said.

"It was a massive battle to get the dig under way. It took three-and-a-half years to get to that car park, to get the major players involved, and commission the archaeologists as well."

Dr Phil Stone, chairman of the Richard III Society, said: "The Robert Hamblin Award, together with an honorary life membership of the society, is awarded to Philippa Langley in recognition of her work with the Scottish branch and, of course, her vision and indefatigable work on the Leicester project, which has resulted in the momentous finds. The project has been a landmark event in the society's history, and perhaps its full impact is yet to be realised".

Ms Langley's interest in the last Plantagent monarch was sparked because of his introduction of enlightened laws such as the presumption of innocence of an accused facing trial, and her belief that history had judged him unfairly.

Richard III was killed at the age of 32 by Henry Tudor's forces at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, effectively ending the 30-year-long Wars of the Roses.

The Richard III Society believes the popular portrayal of him as a nasty and ugly tyrant is unfair, and one that probably stems from the Tudors, who felt the need to blacken his name to justify his killing.

Ms Langley has drawn up plans to give the monarch a burial reflecting his status.

She has commissioned an artist and historian to design and build a new tomb if, as expected, DNA tests confirm the remains are his.

"I always had two aims," she told The Herald.

"One was to undertake original research into Richard III and to bring the real historical figure to the forefront rather than the Shakespearean and Tudor version of him.

"But the second, which was actually my main aim, was to try and retrieve his remains from an undignified place and give them the reburial that fits a king."

She consulted Buckingham Palace and the Ministry of Justice when drawing up the plans, which propose placing his remains in a tomb in Leicester Cathedral.

DNA tests are still being conducted on the bones and results of the tests will be compared to that of living descendants of Richard's eldest sister, Anne of York.

However, a wealth of circumstantial evidence suggests the skeleton found in the car park behind council offices in Leicester is indeed Richard's. There are signs the man sustained severe wounds just before death, including an arrow in his back and serious head injuries. The skeleton also bears striking similarities to descriptions of the king, according to which he was a hunchback.

"Where we're at the moment is that it's going to take a lot to persuade us the bones are not Richard's. We have done a lot of tests in the run-up and there have been no shocks, nothing to suggest they are not Richard's remains," added Ms Langley.

After Richard III was killed, his body was stripped and despoiled before being taken to Leicester, where he was buried in the church of the Franciscan Friary, known as the Grey Friars.

However, over time the exact whereabouts of the Grey Friars became lost as the site was developed.

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