“The Lost King,” directed by Stephen Frears, depicts the true story of the exhumation of King Richard III by British writer Philippa Langley. Philippa Langley (Sally Hawkins) was curious about the distorted portrayal of Richard III in conventional history as well as Shakespeare’s drama. She felt it was cruel to present him as a wicked person simply because he had a physical impairment. As a result, she wanted to learn more about Richard III’s history. However, Steve Coogan and co-writer Jeff Pope took some creative liberty in depicting Langley’s mental turmoil because of which her character in the film often had visions of Richard III. But her journey to find the remains of King Richard III is a true story that was presented in the film.
Real life Philippa Langley is a British writer who first suspected the remains of Richard III were underneath a car park. She first stood in the open space of the Adult Social Service Car Park, deciding to dig the ground in search of the King’s remains. She was working on a script about Richard III at the time, which might have first sparked her interest. Finally, with permission from the University of Leicester, a team of archaeologists arrived at the parking lot and began excavations. In September 2012, the skeleton of King Richard III was finally discovered.
In the year 1485, Richard III was killed in the Battle of Bosworth which he fought against Henry Tudor. After his death, his body was buried in the Greyfriars Church in Leicester. Unfortunately, when the church was demolished in 1538, Richard’s tomb collapsed. Since then, many of them have believed that his corpse was washed down the River Soar. In actuality, the church ruins remained underground, and centuries later, in the age of advanced technology, people built a social service car park on top of them. “The Richard III Society,” led by Philippa Langley, attempted and succeeded in exhuming Richard III in 2012 as part of the “Looking for Richard” project. Following extensive research and DNA testing, the first skeleton discovered was identified as belonging to Richard III. The skeleton was centuries old and buried the same year Richard was. The skeleton’s mutilated spine also proved that it belonged to the King. But the spinal curvature was not shown as a hunchback; rather, it was identified as scoliosis. Even so, there were penetration marks on the back of the skull, which suggests how Richard actually died in battle. Finally in 2015, after Richard III’s skeleton was confirmed, he was formally reburied at Leicester Cathedral.
In 2014, Philippa recorded all the details of her research in her book, co-written by John Ashdown-Hill, “Finding the Richard III: Official Account of Research by the Retrieval and Reburial Project.” She then launched a long-term campaign that resulted in the Royal Family naming Richard III as the Rightful King of England from 1483 to 1485 on their website. Philippa was awarded an MBE by the Queen in 2015 for her considerable studies and hard work as a social activist. However, there is a controversy here as well. Stephen Frears’ directorial “The Lost King,” presents a realistic portrayal, but it certainly offends certain individuals. According to Richard Taylor of the University of Leicester, his characterization here is quite aggressive and malicious. In fact, the University of Leicester stated that the film did not do justice to this fact because, according to them, Philippa Langley was not excluded and gave most of the TV interviews on the King’s exhumation. Langley stated that on a key day, February 4, 2013, the day of the revelation of Richard III’s remains, she was neither called on stage nor placed on the panel. So it was quite obvious that Langley was not given due credit in the research.
In our opinion, “The Lost King” portrays Philippa’s research journey in a subtle manner. The writers depicted the emotional aspect of her journey without any exaggeration. Another important aspect of the film is the portrayal of Langley’s actual illness. Philippa Langley, in reality, suffered from Myalgic encephalomyelitis and chronic fatigue syndrome, just like it is portrayed in this movie. Without stigmatizing the disease in any way, the writer offers it a new spin, proving that we often judge people’s performance based on their appearance. For Philippa Langley, who suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome, performing her extensive research was a challenging task, but despite all the odds, she continued this research with the strength of mind and succeeded. “The Lost King” is a film that everyone should know about, so it should not be avoided because of some controversy. This film will be remembered for the portrayal of a brave woman who fought for justice and took a stand for herself and the misjudged King Richard III.
See More: ‘The Lost King’ Ending, Explained: Why Did Philippa See Richard III? Did She Find The Grave?