Richard III (or, perhaps, a skeletal imposter) is giving us an interesting media moment. As has become apparent over the past week, on Monday the University of Leicester (to quote one of its press releases), “will reveal the results of a series of scientific investigations into human remains – which are possibly those of King Richard III”. By now we all know the reference is to remains excavated last year in a Leicester car park. There is a very carefully orchestrated press event on Monday morning , where I hope to be. But the timing leaves weekend editors in a quandary.
By next weekend, the story will have been well turned over, and it will be difficult for papers to find much really new to say. Yet the results of the research, and all the details, seem to have been truly kept secret (certainly, I have no inside knowledge). So what do you do a day or two before the release? It’s hardly a story you can ignore.
You could, with sufficient resources and cunning, find someone to spill the beans, and run your own exclusive, ahead of the event. That may well happen. At the very least, you could run headlines that suggest that that is what you have managed to do, and after a couple of pages or so fess up in the last sentence and admit that actually, you don’t really, really know.
Or without too much work, you could just look at everything that’s been put out over the past few months. So here, without comment, is my little contribution.
Monday’s Channel 4 film is called “Richard III: The King in the Car Park”. No question mark, no “Mystery of…” or “In search of…”, just “The King”. That, of course, is pure hype. As is this book release from The History Press, which I received on January 29 (and which I reproduce below in full, so you can see the complete, unembargoed thing).
The book is by the resourceful John Ashdown-Hill, who has been credited with the research that identified a living descendant of Richard III. It is a revised edition of a book originally titled, The Last Days of Richard III, and published in 2010. Now it’s called, The Last Days of Richard III & the Fate of his DNA: The Book that Inspired the Dig. Fair enough. But did Leicester University press office approve this?
“…with the discovery of Richard’s skeleton at the Greyfriars Priory [the release actually says “Greyfrairs Priory”, but I think that’s a typo] in Leicester, England, John Ashdown-Hill… [gives] details of how Richard died, and how the DNA link to a living relative of the king allowed the royal body to be identified…
“Richard III’s family tree took John Ashdown-Hill three years to trace – now the living ancestor he found provides the key to analysing the DNA of the skeleton unearthed in Leicester.”
Either John Ashdown-Hill knows something most of us don’t, or he’s got horribly carried away. We’ll know on Monday morning. Or possibly over the weekend.