Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

“The Lost King”

I didn’t think I would be going to see the new film “The Lost King” about the discovery of the skeleton of King Richard III. Reading news reports in recent days about the controversy that now surrounds the film raises one’s interest and awareness, but in fact makes me even less likely to go and see it. 

The discovery and identification of King Richard’s remains was, and is, a remarkable achievement. It would be best to leave it at that rather than turn it into what appears to be a cliché-ridden account of the plucky lady amateur Philippa Langley battling against entrenched Leicester academics. The clearly very considerable anger of those academics at the way they are depicted may have brought the film publicity but probably not the sort the makers wanted. It all very much seems  to reflect badly on the script and direction of the film. Such is, alas, very often the way of filmmakers, anxious to spin a sentimental yarn with little regard for the truth. There have been, and are, far too many instances of this in recent years when the historical record is mangled in what are purported to be depictions of recent or relatively recent events to create entertainment, and not provide enlightenment.

It does seem also to reflect that “chippiness” that one has seen or sensed with some Ricardians, disdainful of established academics, convinced of their King’s innocence and goodness, selective in their emphases.

Souring the achievement of all concerned by making this film does appear very regrettable - the story has quite enough fascination without introducing non-existent rivalries, only to bring them into existence. Unnecessary, futile and sad seems to sum up the situation.

I first saw this disputed narrative about the film aired on the BBC News website at The Lost King: Steve Coogan defends Richard III film in university row

There is extensive coverage from the Daily Mail  of the sorry saga at War over the hunt for Richard III and from The Guardian at Royal row erupts over Steve Coogan film about Richard III

Most film reviews available online appear to go along with it uncritically but The Guardian was not impressed in its review by Peter Bradshaw which can be seen at The Lost King review – Frears and Coogan’s Richard III excavation story rewrites its own history

Also unimpressed was goombastomp in their review of the film’s first showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, as can be seen at The Lost King is an Unlively Attempt at Revisionism

Independently the point occurred to me, as I subsequently found it did to the The Guardian film reviewer, that this rewriting of history, and demonising of perceived opponents, is just what the King Richard III enthusiasts claim Thomas More and William Shakespeare did to their hero.

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