Sunday, October 03, 2021

Digging for Richard III

I am a Yorkist. In my garden, I prefer red roses to white ones, but when it comes to the War of the Roses, I wear a white rose. When I was in York in 2017, after finishing my Hadrian's Wall trek, I got a pair of white rose earrings in the York Minster gift shop and I wear them a couple of times a week.

So, when my sister gave me her copy of Digging for Richard III: The Search for the Lost King, by Mike Pitts, I dropped everything and read it. Of course, I already knew the story of how the Richard III Society, with Philippa Langley leading the charge, commissioned the University of Leicester to help them search for the grave of Richard. What I didn't know was that the archeologists at UofL were focused on excavating the Greyfriars friary church, which was demolished during the reign of Henry VIII, and that finding Richard's grave was considered the longest of long shots.

In addition to reading about RIII and the War of the Roses and the Tudor propaganda machine, I absolutely loved reading about how the archeologists approached their task, the techniques and methodology, the scholarship involved, and the practical, financial realities of a project like this. This book very much tells the story of the discovery of RIII's remains from the point of view of the archeology team rather than the RIII Society, which is fine because Philippa Langley's movie about the project does the opposite. It's good to hear both sides of a story like this.

Next trip to the UK will definitely include a stop in Leicester so that I can visit the King Richard III Visitor Centre and the Leicester Cathedral, where RIII was reburied in March, 2015. In the meantime, I will content myself with rereading Sharon Kay Penman's fabulous Sunne in Splendour and Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time. I may even rewatch The White Queen, but you won't catch me sitting through another production of Shakespeare's The Life and Death of Richard III.


  1. I have read and enjoyed Daughter of Time and it gave me a curiosity about Richard III who seems to have been the victim of a great injustice. In terms of English Royalty I seem fixated on the 6 wives of Henry VIII but there is so much more and thank you for letting us know. Who was Thomas Beckett for example? Eleanor of Aquitaine? etc and Sharon Kay Penman sounds like an author worth checking out.

  2. Sounds like a fascinating read about a very enigmatic and most likely mistreated man.

  3. I echo everything you say, especially about Leicester!

    I think I am going to buy this for my mother for Christmas.

  4. I recall when this was in the news about digging for Richard III. So finding his whereabouts was the dig's main discovery ... but did they learn other surprising things? Like how he died etc? I can't seem to recall. nice post.

  5. Also, do you know why you are a Yorkist? Is it because of The Daughter of Time? It is partly that for me but also some children's book about Richard and his cousin Anne (maybe by Marguerite Vance? I will have to ponder) and the Mantlemass books by Barbara Willard which I found and loved as a teen.

    1. When I was in college, I took a history class on this time period and first encountered the idea that RIII was the victim of Tudor propaganda. I loved the class and wrote a paper defending RIII. Years later, I read Daughter of Time and that sealed it!

      The Mantlemass Chronicles look terrific. I wonder if I can find them these days?