30. Jul, 2014

Letter from Philippa Langley

This week Philippa Langley sent the following letter to all who supported and gave money to ensure the archaeological dig to find Richard III was paid for, in full, in advance, as required by the archaeological contractors ULAS. It is an advance copy of the letter she has sent to the Editor of the Richard III Society’s ‘Ricardian Bulletin’.

Dear Editor

A word about the Leicester Visitor Centre

In July 2013 I was invited by the owners, Leicester City Council, to write the story of the Looking For Richard Project for display within the new Richard III Visitor Centre. This would include a personal diary of the dig itself, plus an important prior section under the LFR banner, located within the ‘pre-dig’ space, explaining exactly how the 2012 dig came about. All was approved and agreed with the Council on 23 May 2014.

It was with some dismay that I then discovered my agreed text had been rewritten, post deadline, without my knowledge or consent, by a member of the management at the University of Leicester; a person who had no direct part in the 2012 dig project.

I feel I need to bring this to the attention of all Ricardians, because those of you who visit the Centre will no longer be able to see my acknowledgement of your crucial role in making Richard’s discovery possible. It was your funding that allowed me to give instructions for the remains in Trench One, which proved to be those of the king, to be exhumed despite the scepticism of the archaeologists.

My original text:

‘I tell Richard [Buckley] I want them to be excavated nevertheless. There is very little money in the budget, but I have £800 remaining from the Ricardian International Appeal which helped to fund the dig. Richard says this will cover it.’

University replacement text which you will now see:

‘I tell Richard I want them to be excavated nevertheless. Richard says he isn’t digging up any burials until he knows for certain about their “context”, that is how they relate to the layout of the church.’

Representatives of the Richard III Society and the Looking For Richard Project (including Dr John Ashdown-Hill) held a meeting with the Council on 23 June 2014 as a last-ditch attempt to reinstate my text. There had been a series of such meetings and discussions subsequent to the abandonment of Annette Carson’s initial draft text for the Centre, commissioned last August. Persons unknown had rewritten Richard’s story, and Annette, Phil Stone, Wendy Moorhen and I had done our best to secure a more accurate and balanced depiction. Now I had to deal with the rewriting of my own story, both here and elsewhere.

We proposed the following compromise:

‘I tell Richard I want them to be excavated nevertheless and I have the money to pay for it from the Ricardian International Appeal.’

With the University’s management represented among the Visitor Centre’s trustees, I am told the likelihood of these corrections being allowed is very slim, although the Centre is open to comments by visitors. Their text now makes no sense with the unfolding dig narrative, suggesting that the king’s remains were authorised for exhumation following discovery of the choir. They were not. They were authorised before the location of the choir was established. Why the University needs to suppress the role of Ricardians and their funding I have been unable to discover. No explanation has been forthcoming. Perhaps we are an inconvenient truth.

I must also report that the visual display of John Ashdown-Hill’s ground-breaking discovery in 2004 of the king’s DNA has been removed from the ‘pre-dig’ section where it was to have been visually represented under the banner of The Looking For Richard Project. Instead, genealogical lines are now displayed as part of the University’s area. The original proposal had been to include John’s discovery of the genealogical line to Joy Ibsen together with a photograph of Joy and her original letter to John from 2004 confirming her agreement for a DNA test. The genealogical line John discovered is now within the University’s section. As for the photo of Joy and her original letter, these have, at present, been excluded.

The University’s changes are subtle and may not seem significant. However, there will be many whose knowledge will leave them wondering at this representation of the contributions made by Ricardians. We have spent several months doing what we can, and I can only apologise that our best endeavours have failed to correct the record now displayed in the Visitor Centre.

Philippa Langley

Looking For Richard Project