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

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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 in a partly fictional way. This film tells the story of Philippa Langley, who successfully performed the exhumation of King Richard III against all odds. “The Lost King” fictionalized Philippa Langley’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 was offended by her lack of concentration at work. So, she eventually got fired from the office. She did not mind losing that job because both her work and presence were undervalued. Even at home, she was annoyed by her two sons. Philippa was separated from her husband, but both were co-parenting the children. Philippa’s husband, John (played by Steve Coogan), was a good human being who had 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 very knowledgeable about Richard King’s history. They said that Shakespeare wrote the play knowing about the recent history of Richard III. Philippa, who had studied King Richard’s history, informed him at the end of the play that Richard died in 1485 and Shakespeare wrote 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. Philippa continued to feel that Richard King had been given an evil form in history simply because he had a hunchback. She wondered if Richard really ordered Tyrrel to kill his nephew, Edward V, and younger brother, Richard, as historians have said over the years. All these questions flooded Philippa’s mind, and hence she started researching more and more about Richard III. She did not find it written in any history that Richard personally killed his nephew or the princesses. She, therefore, 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 king after King Richard III, did not mention the crimes 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 found a fan club, the “Richard III Society,” where she first expressed her desire to visit Richard King’s grave. A member of the club informed her that Richard’s grave did not exist. Many say that Richard’s dead body washed down the river or that the history of his remains is still a mystery. Philippa realized that her research into Richard III for so long had served a purpose. She decided that she would 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 among all of that, she was a talented and determined woman. Apart from her mental illness or aloofness, she was a knowledgeable person. She had studied history and was a wonderful researcher. She might not have a degree to call herself a researcher, but her hunger for true wisdom made her accomplish it. She resented society for judging her ability to work only because she looked fatigued all the time because of her illness. As she discovered more and more about King Richard III and his character, she found his situation much more 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, Philippa was similarly misunderstood for her outward appearance. So, she was able to relate her situation to King Richard. She knew that history was filled with a bunch of lies about Richard III, and perhaps the root cause of those lies was his physical disability. Just for his 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 twisted spine doesn’t mean a twisted personality.

As Philippa decided to bring justice to King Richard III, she started feeling more about him and, in the process, became so obsessed with it that she started hallucinating him in front of her eyes. She saw her everywhere she went. Sometimes sitting silently on a rock, or sometimes in conversation, or on horseback. Richard’s apparition doesn’t give her any answers; it only repeats the words that Philippa already knew or wanted to express to the world. However, fortunately, by the end of “The Lost King,” Philippa, being a mature and educated woman, apparently understood that she was just hallucinating and had created King Richard’s existence inside her head.


‘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 thoroughly about King Richard III and learned that he was probably buried in Greyfriars Church, but the church was nowhere to be found. Finally, in conversation with an author, Dr. Ashdown-Hill, at a seminar, Philippa learned that Richard was likely to be buried in an open space, possibly where shopping malls might be situated. As Ashdown said, Philippa started searching for such open spaces. She arrived at Friar Lane, where she found a nearby car parking lot where an open space was marked with an “R.” She believed Richard’s body was underneath it. She went to meet archaeologist Richard Buckley and submitted her research paper to him. She formally pleaded to find Richard III’s grave. But Mr. Buckley grants her request only after seeing her thorough and reasonable findings in her research paper. 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 his concerns regarding the budget of the entire operation and said there was no guarantee that the body that would 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 proven that this skeleton actually belonged to King Richard III.

Already, Richard Tyler of the University of Leicester had deprived Philippa of all due credit for finding Richard III. However, Philippa would be happier 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 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 Richard King 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.

Philippa never saw King Richard as history had been portraying him for decades; rather, she saw him as a normal person with no deformities at all. 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 because he had 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 finally found her purpose in life, which was to do some 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 can leave a deep impression on you. The movie depicts how research becomes 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 as well, but she had a different perspective. She did not only gain knowledge from her studies but also wanted to establish her own outlook, which turned out to be history itself.


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

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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.

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