Thursday, March 26, 2015
The Detective Novel That Convinced a Generation Richard III Wasn’t Evil
On Thursday, March 26th, nearly five hundred and thirty years after his death, King Richard III will be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. The discovery of the monarch’s remains after half a millennium was an improbable archeological feat, sparked in part by a writer named Philippa Langley, who was researching a screenplay about him. Langley, by her own account, was walking through an empty parking lot, when she felt a chill and decided that she was standing on Richard’s grave.
She then spent years persuading a University of Leicester team to do the dig and a group of Ricardians—people convinced that Richard’s reputation has been unfairly maligned for centuries—to fund it. In 2012, archaeologists excavated a skeleton with spinal curvature and battle wounds near that spot in the parking lot. They concluded, eventually, that it was indeed Richard III.
But the quest to discover Richard’s skeleton, and perhaps redeem his reputation, has earlier and equally unlikely roots. Though writers and historians have been arguing since the seventeenth century that Richard III wasn’t the villain whom Shakespeare described, it was a 1951 mystery novel that sparked mass interest in Richard’s redemption. The writer went by the name Josephine Tey, and the novel was called “The Daughter of Time.”