Woodbridge: Crowning glory follows quest to find lost king
A former Suffolk teacher who changed history by helping to unearth the remains of Richard III has celebrated the unveiling of a funeral crown fit for a king.
Dr John Ashdown-Hill, from Lawford, Essex, taught languages at Farlingaye High School, in Woodbridge, before embarking the Looking For Richard project, which found the lost grave in Leicester.
He designed and commissioned the crown, which went on show in Gloucestershire last weekend for an event commemorating the Battle of Tewkesbury on May 4, 1471.
A funeral crown would have been at the centre of the kind of ceremony Richard III was denied when killed in the 1845 Battle of Bosworth. The much-maligned king was accused of locking his nephews in the Tower of London and stealing the throne.
Dr Ashdown-Hill accompanied the crown to Tewkesbury Abbey, where he discussed his recent quest to establish whether or not bones buried the abbey belong to Richard III’s brother, the Duke of Clarence, who was supposedly drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine.
He said: “I was asked to talk about my latest book, The Third Plantagenet, the final part of which is based on research into the bones in the Clarence Vault.
“I think people were quite thrilled to see the crown. As Duke of Gloucester, Richard would have been at the Battle of Tewkesbury.”
Dr Ashdown-Hill left teaching after losing the hearing in one ear. He went on to gain a PhD in history at the University of Essex.
In 2004, his interest in Richard III, and his reputation as a usurper, led to a skeleton in Belgium, thought to belong to the king’s sister, Margaret of York. A DNA sample led to a direct descendent in Canada, Michael Ibsen.
Meanwhile, Dr Ashdown-Hill found the financial accounts of Henry VII detailing money set aside for Richard’s tomb at Leicester’s Choir of Greyfriars church.
Working with the Richard III Society and archaeologists at the University of Leicester, in 2012 he located the former site of Greyfriars - a car park belonging to the city council - where an unearthed skeleton’s DNA matched that of Mr Ibsen.
Dr Ashdown-Hill, author of The Last Days of Richard III, is now awaiting the results of a judicial review into where the bones should be buried. He said: “I don’t have a particularly strong opinion of where he should be buried but I don’t think he should be left lying around in boxes or on tables. I know he’s been waiting for 500 years, and can probably wait a little longer, but it would be nice to see it happen soon.”
Whatever the outcome, the funeral crown, made by medieval jewellery reproduction expert, George Easton, will accompany the king’s remains.