This month marks the 10th anniversary of the discovery of the remains of Richard III in Leicester. To commemorate this event, The Wallace Collection is hosting an exhibition devoted to one of British history’s most controversial sovereigns.
The Lost King: Imagining Richard III is running at the London museum until 8 January 2023. It examines both the medieval history of the English king as well as more modern portrayals of Richard. The exhibition is also connected to the upcoming feature film, The Lost King, which tells the true story of how Philippa Langley overcame every obstacle to track down the final resting place of King Richard III and give him an honourable burial.
For over a century, key works of art in the Wallace Collection have influenced our understanding of the life and character of King Richard III. Since the 19th-century, a sinister and heart-rending painting by Paul Delaroche (1797-1856), Edward V and The Duke of York in the Tower (1831), has provided the modern imagination with an indelible image of what has been judged to be Richard’s greatest crime, the alleged murder of the two ‘princes’ in the Tower of London. Weapons and armour at the Wallace Collection have been referenced by generations of artists in their interpretations of the Battle of Bosworth (22 August 1485), where Richard was famously slain. Finally, from the mid-20th -century, Wallace Collection staff have served as advisors to filmmakers placing this notorious figure on the silver screen.
“The story of how the Wallace Collection has influenced the cinematic portrayal of Richard III is a fascinating one, and we are thrilled to be telling it with this exhibition a decade after Philippa Langley’s discovery in Leicester,” says Dr Xavier Bray, Director of the Wallace Collection.
The Lost King – Imagining Richard III is a story told in three parts. The first section, The Black Legend explores the history of Richard III’s controversial reputation up to the end of the 19th century and features Delaroche’s Edward V and The Duke of York in the Tower.
The second part of the show – Richard III in the 20th Century – explores how both revisionist ideas, popularised by the Richard III Society and Shakespeare’s Black Legend each gained traction in their own ways, from the 1920s onwards. The final area – New Visions – traces the ways in which our understanding of Richard III has changed dramatically in the last 30 years, through new research, new archaeological evidence, and finally, with the production and release of The Lost King. It will feature the principal actor’s armour and costume from the film.
“Richard III works on the modern imagination in a unique way, attracting an unrivalled popular appeal,” explains the exhibition’s curator and world-famous arms and armour expert, Dr Tobias Capwell. “The extraordinary story of how Phillipa Langley discovered his grave has added another layer to his complex identity and reputation, and I am pleased that the Wallace Collection has been able to continue its own ‘relationship’ with him.”
Capwell was himself involved with the scientific research carried out on Richard’s remains and also served as a historical advisor on the film. The exhibition will display art and armour alongside costumes created for the new film.
“Over more than four hundred years,” adds Xavier Bray, “Richard III’s reputation has evolved from Shakespeare’s fictionalised drama to something more nuanced and fascinating and we are all really looking forward to exploring this in our new exhibition.”
The Lost King: Imagining Richard III can be seen at the Housekeeper’s Room at the Wallace Collection. It runs until 8 January 2023. Click here to visit the museum’s website.