The Lost King: The amateur historian who inspired new Richard III film and her Darlington roots

Philippa Langley was instrumental in the discovery of Richard III's remains. Credit: PA

A council-run car park is not the obvious place to find the remains of a Plantagenet ruler - but that is exactly what happened in 2012.

The remains of King Richard III - one of Shakespeare's most famous literary villains and the last King of the House of York - were finally uncovered from beneath the asphalt in Leicester, thanks to the conviction of one amateur historian with roots in the North East.

The story is back in the headlines because it is the subject of a Steve Coogan film, The Lost King.

It tells the story of Philippa Langley, who was raised and educated in Darlington, who played an instrumental role in the discovery of the remains.

Ms Langley, who now lives in Edinburgh, is an executive producer for the silver-screen retelling of the story, in which she is played by Sally Hawkins.

Philippa Langley was made an MBE for her role in the discovery of Richard III's remains. Credit: PA

Ms Langley, who is back in Darlington this week to give a talk to students at Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form, managed the Scottish branch of the Richard III Society's 'Looking For Richard' project, which set out to determine the final resting place of the former monarch, which was recorded as the long-disappeared Greyfriars Priory, in Leicester.

There were a number of theories about the location of the Priory, with some suggesting the King's bones may even have been desecrated and thrown into the nearby river Soar.

Ms Langley believed the site was under a social services car park in the west of the city. She eventually gained permission from Leicester City Council to close the car park for three weeks to allow the excavation to take place.

Leicester University - which has disputed its portrayal in the film - carried out the excavation in September 2012.

The skeleton uncovered in the excavation was confirmed as that of Richard III after DNA testing. Credit: PA

On the first day of excavation, a human skeleton belonging to a man in his thirties was uncovered.

It had had several unusual features, including scoliosis - severe curvature of the spine. Examination showed the man had probably been killed by a blow from a large blade which had penetrated his skull.

His DNA was then compared against that of Richard III's 17th and 19th-generation descendants of Richard's sister, Anne of York.

It proved to be a match and in February 2013, the University of Leicester announced that, beyond reasonable doubt, this was the skeleton of the Plantagenet King.

On 26 March 2015, more than half a millennium after his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field, King Richard III's remains were reinterred at Leicester Cathedral.

That same year, Ms Langley was given an MBE for her role in his discovery.

She will be making a return to Darlington's Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, where she herself studied in the 1970s, to share her experiences with students.

She is now working on a new project, The Missing Princes Project, which aims to find out more about disappearances of 12-year-old Edward V and nine-year-old Richard, Duke of York, who mysteriously vanished from the royal palace of the Tower of London.

Leicester University said it had not sidelined Ms Langley, as depicted in the film.

In a statement, the university said: "We appreciate that while The Lost King is based on real events, it is a work of fiction, and recollections will vary from various people of what happened during such an incredibly exciting moment in history.

"It is our view that the portrayal of the University of Leicester’s role in the project is far removed from the accurate work that took place."

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