The Mythology of Richard III

The tangled web of myths surrounding the much maligned Richard III were unwoven by historian and author Dr John Ashdown-Hill when he addressed Brentwood School’s Senior History Society yesterday.

Dr Ashdown-Hill, whose research was instrumental in the discovery of Richard III's remains, endeavored to unravel the confusion and controversy which still surrounds the last king of the House of York and the last of the Plantagenet dynasty.

The myths that have always swirled around Richard III range from when he was born, to where he came from and what he looked like, his claim to the throne and the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

Was Richard III, who died aged 32 in the Battle of Bosworth Field, the victim of Tudor propaganda and Shakespeare’s pen? Dr Ashdown-Hill poured scorn on The Bard’s portrayal of a hunchback tyrant who killed his own nephews.

“Richard III got his height from his father. He wasn’t short and he wasn’t dark. Richard III was not a usurper. He was clearly a legitimate king,” he said.

Dr Ashdown-Hill was awarded an MBE in recognition of his services to 'the Exhumation and Identification of Richard III'. He described how in 2012 he carried the exhumed body from its ignominious grave under a Leicester car park shrouded in the king’s royal standard.

A breakthrough in the search for Richard III’s remains was the fact that Dr Ashdown-Hill, who is a genealogist as well as historian, had used DNA science to trace a descendant of the king – Mrs Joy Ibsen who lived in Canada.

He is now using that DNA sequencing to dispel the centuries-old myths surrounding the fate of the Princes in the Tower. Are the ‘bones in the urn’ in Westminster Abbey really those of the young princes? Dr Ashdown-Hill tempted students with the news that new evidence could be revealed later in the year.