‘The Lost King’ Ending, Explained: Why Did Philippa See Richard III? Did She Find The Grave?


Written by Steve Coogan and directed by Stephen Frears, “The Lost King” is a comedy-drama that depicts the true story of British writer Philippa Jayne Langley, who successfully discovered and exhumed the remains of King Richard III against all odds. “The Lost King” does take some creative liberties with the narrative, especially in the way they fictionalized the protagonist’s emotional struggle that draws her to King Richard III, which may not be the true account of events, but the purpose of the film is to portray that every research is an emotional journey of one’s dreams and struggles. So, let us shed some light on that.

Spoilers Ahead

‘The Lost King’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?

Philippa Langley (played by Sally Hawkins), a middle-aged woman, used to work in a marketing and advertising company where her boss severely undervalued her. At home, she was exhausted as a parent. Philippa was separated from her husband, but both were co-parenting the children. Philippa’s husband, John (played by Steve Coogan), was a good man who always tried to stand by her side whenever she needed him. Philippa took her son to Edinburgh to see the play “Richard III” by William Shakespeare. There, a young man (played by Harry Lloyd) playing the role of Richard III caught Philippa’s eye. According to Shakespeare’s play, the guy was playing the disabled and evil king Richard, who was a usurper and a murderer. During the play’s interval, Philippa met a couple who introduced themselves as experts on King Richard’s history. They said that Shakespeare wrote the play knowing about the recent history of Richard III. Philippa, who had studied the subject, informed him at the end of the play that Richard had died in 1485 and Shakespeare had written the play in 1539, almost 100 years later, so Shakespeare didn’t write his recent history in the play but rather a fictionalized or sensationalized version of it, maybe.

After that night in the theater, Philippa began to see Richard III everywhere she went. She continued to feel that Richard King had been given an evil form in history simply because he had a hunchback. She wondered whether Richard really ordered Tyrrel to kill his nephew, Edward V, and younger brother, Richard, as historians had said over the years. All these questions flooded Philippa’s mind, and hence she started researching more about the King. She did not find it written anywhere that Richard personally killed the princesses or his nephews. Therefore, she could not, in any way, accept Richard III as a usurper. Even after reading all of the historical records, she realized that Henry VII, who became the King after Richard III, did not mention the crimes as convicted by Richard III in his first speech to Parliament. She also collected various pieces of evidence, from which she concluded that King Richard III was not a usurper but the rightful King of England. Meanwhile, she joined a fan club, the “Richard III Society,” where she first expressed her desire to visit his grave. A member of the club informed her that Richard’s grave did not exist. Many said that Richard was killed in battle and thrown into the river, but the theory had since been discredited and the location of his remains was a mystery. Philippa realized that her research into Richard III for so long had a purpose. She decided that she would find and exhume Richard III’s grave.

Why Did Philippa See Richard III? Why Did She Relate With Him So Much?

Philippa was almost indifferent to both her family and her workplace. She was suffering from ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis), which required her to take pills. But beyond all of that, she was a talented and determined woman. Apart from her mental illness, she was a knowledgeable person. She had studied history and was a wonderful researcher. She might not have a degree to call herself that, but her hunger for wisdom made her accomplish it. She resented society for judging her ability to work by her look of fatigue brought on by her illness. As she discovered more and more about King Richard III and his character, she found his situation relatable to hers. Since she looked exhausted because of her chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), people doubted her abilities without trying to recognize her true potential, just as Richard III was misjudged throughout his life simply because of his hunchback. She knew that history was filled with a bunch of lies about him, and perhaps the root cause of those lies were the prejudices against his physical disability. Just because of a hump, he was not considered a worthy king and was even abandoned. Even a virtuoso such as Shakespeare acknowledged those lies and portrayed him as an evil and crooked person in his play. Therefore, Philippa took a stand for both herself and King Richard III to prove to the world that a physical deformity doesn’t mean a twisted personality.

As Philippa decided to bring justice to King Richard III, she became obsessed with him to the point that she started hallucinating. She saw him everywhere she went, sometimes sitting silently on a rock, or sometimes mid-conversation, or on horseback. Richard’s apparition didn’t give her any answers; it only repeated the words that Philippa already knew or wanted to express to the world. Towards the end of “The Lost King,” Philippa gains back control of these hallucinations.

‘The Lost King’ Ending Explained: Did Philippa Find King Richard III’s Grave?

Philippa remained steadfast in her promise to find King Richard’s grave. She studied him thoroughly and deduced that he was probably buried in Greyfriars Church, but the place was nowhere to be found. Finally, in conversation with an author, Dr. Ashdown-Hill, at a seminar, Philippa learned that Richard was likely buried in an open space, where shopping malls might be situated. Following his advice, Philippa started searching for such open spaces. She arrived at Friar Lane, where she found a nearby car parking lot with an open space marked with an “R.” She felt that Richard’s body was underneath it. She went to meet the archaeologist Richard Buckley and submitted her research paper to him. She formally pleaded to find Richard III’s grave. But Mr. Buckley granted her request only after coming under an imminent threat of their department being discontinued, which prompted him to turn towards Philippa’s mission which he had earlier not wanted to pursue. Buckley gave her proposal to the University of Leicester to dig for the Greyfire church to find the skeleton of Richard III. The chairman supported the idea and Philippa’s enthusiasm to carry on the digging process. However, one of the university’s members, Richard Tyler, disagreed. He raised concerns regarding the budget of the entire operation and said that there was no guarantee that the body that might be found in the parking lot would actually belong to Richard III. In this regard, Philippa replied that Ashdown had been researching the DNA sample of King Richard III recently, so a simple DNA test would be enough to know the true identity of the body. Eventually, the excavation began, and luckily, underneath the exact area marked “R,” a skeleton with a curved spinal cord was found. From the structure of the bone and the DNA test, it was finally proved that this skeleton actually belonged to King Richard III.

Once public interest in Pilippa’s quest had started gaining public attention, Richard Tyler of the University of Leicester became intent on stealing the limelight. However, Philippa would have just been happy if the university gave Richard III the actual honor he deserved. She talked to Tyler, who explained to her that since Richard III was a hunchback, history saw him as the Usurper and an evil-minded king. Philippa wanted to free everyone from the blind beliefs, but the university did not accept her interference at all. So, she realized that her fight was not over yet. After this, Philippa began a protracted campaign after which, in accordance with Philippa’s wishes, Richard III was honored with a royal coat of arms, meaning that King Richard III would no longer go down in history as a usurper. Philippa also got the recognition she deserved when Queen Elizabeth gave her an MBE for her long-term research and campaigning on Richard III’s history.

She had never seen King Richard as history had been portraying him for decades; rather, she saw him as a normal person. Philippa began to think that he was a perfect man. Even when his skeleton was recovered, it was found that his spinal cord was deformed due to scoliosis. Of course, in the 14th century, scoliosis was an undiagnosed disease that was referred to as the “hunchback.” Finally, Philippa proved with her unrelenting research work that Richard was a righteous king who was wronged and treated unfairly. At the end of the film, we see the man who played the role of King Richard in the play arriving at the funeral of Richard III. This was the man Philippa used to see in the form of Richard III in her fantasy world. She ultimately thanked the guy for playing this part that had stayed with her for so long. She had finally found her purpose in life, which was to bring justice to the name of Richard III so that history could remember him as a righteous king and not a hunchback or a usurper.

Final Words

“The Lost King” is a fascinating movie that leaves a deep impression on you. The movie depicts how research can become a happy obsession with gaining knowledge. This is the magic of study and research—it stays with you forever and gives you the power to have your own perspective and change the world. In “The Lost King,” Philippa became obsessed with Richard’s history, but she had a different perspective. She did not only gain knowledge from her studies but also wanted to establish an outlook, which turned out to be its own history.

“The Lost King” is a 2022 Drama Biopic film directed by Stephen Frears.

- Advertisement -
Notify of

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami is an artist and an aspiring screenwriter both by profession and passion. Apart from writing stories, poems and songs, studying cinema is her obsession. She is also a freelance painter yet it is the world of cinema that fascinates her the most.

Must Read

DMT Guide

More Like This