Kiwi defenders of Richard III celebrate discovery

By Gerald Ford of the Wairarapa Midweek

The remains of Richard III. Photo / AP
The remains of Richard III. Photo / AP

Confirmation the bones of Richard III had been discovered in a UK carpark was thrilling news for two Kiwi defenders of the monarch.

Deidre Drysdale, of Featherston, is the president, and Rob Smith, of Greytown, the secretary of the Richard III Society of New Zealand.

The society had joined its UK parent body and others around the world to support the University of Leicester in its dig for the King Richard III's bones.

The body discovered in a carpark last September was last week confirmed by DNA evidence as that of the fallen king, killed at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 after just two years on the throne.

Richard III was the last of the Plantaganet kings and was defeated by the first Tudor king, Henry VII.

The King Richard III Society UK was founded in 1924 as the Fellowship of the White Boar, a group of amateur historians who felt the king had been unfairly treated by history.

In 1959, the group changed its name and continued to push for a revision of the much-maligned monarch's reputation, and branches of the society sprang up around the world, including in New Zealand.

The society challenges the stereotypical view of Richard as a hunchback tyrant who had allegedly murdered his nephews to take the throne.

This view was popularised by Shakespeare's villain of the play, Richard III, famously played by a limping Sir Lawrence Olivier in a film version.

Mrs Drysdale says she first became aware there was another side of the story when she read Josephine Tey's A Daughter of Time, a novel in which a modern detective examines the evidence surrounding Richard III's reign and arrives at some different conclusions.

Soon afterwards she heard a radio interview of the founder of the Richard III Society of New Zealand, and began her own involvement and continued investigation of the history.

"You ask where the source of information is, who were the authors, do they have a vested interest, did they have first-hand knowledge?" Mrs Drysdale said.

"If you study these things you get this sense of injustice."

Mr Smith said he has always had a passion for medieval English history, with its turbulent times and intrigue, and was inspired enough one year to place an In Memoriam notice for King Richard III in the newspaper.

That's when he discovered the King Richard III Society of New Zealand, then based in Lower Hutt, which had done the same thing.

The society continues to meet several times a year at venues in the lower North Island, and as Mr Smith says, "we are tremendously pleased that our raison d'etre has come to the fore".

- The Wairarapa Midweek

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