Richard III unexpectedly pretty


“It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant. I’m sorry but it doesn’t ... He’s very handsome. It’s like you could just talk to him, have a conversation with him right now."

Based on scans of his recently-unearthed bones, only the coloring was taken from the famous Tudor-era portraits, which historians long-suspected were contrived to make him appear more sinister.



  1. For a redemption of Richard III’s character, I recommend strongly the book Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey — it was required reading by my first college history professor to show how twisted and skewed our perception of history can get — because after all, history is written by the victors. (And popularized by Shakespeare, in this case!)  I’m glad to see Richard getting some good press (finally.)

    1. “history is written by the victors.”

      I don’t know about that, the Huns and the Vandals won in their respected times, and yet….

    2. Another one that presents Richard III in a better light is Thomas B. Costain’s “The Last Plantagenets.”

  2. Have we learned nothing from the dinosaurs? I am assuming that Richard III had feathers, just to be safe.

    1. I only heard about them in the course of all this R3 boning, and now I must say I am appalled that people care so damn much about rewriting shit that went down in the 15th century.  Oy!  Aren’t there 8 Is Enough reruns they should be catching up on?

      1. 500 years isn’t so long ago in Europe. The Yorkists have already started a petition to have his body repatriated to Yorkshire.

      2. It isn’t that their care that disturbs me, it’s that they care passionately about stuff they haven’t got the data to support… it is an object lesson in turning theories into dogma.  The tv programme about the discovery of the skeleton was irritating in the extreme, mainly because they behaved as though there were only one descendant of the platagenets when there are thousands in the UK alone (and many more in the US I think) and the odd woman from the R3 society who was visibly upset that he was proven to have a physical deformity, against the party line for the society.  On the other hand…she raised the money, and took them straight to the place where he was buried, so maybe we should forgive her disappointment at finding out the rumours weren’t all Tudor propaganda.

  3. If only these bones had been discovered 20 years ago — a younger Kyle MacLachlan could’ve played him in a biopic.

  4. Very cool how they can start with mere bones and figure out that he was cross-eyed and smirking.

  5. The left cheek bone looked higher and the left jaw wider then the right side of Richard III’s skull IMO. I wonder if the detail of the painting shown above is intentionally depicting his left eye larger and bulging and if that’s why he was portrayed with the left side of his face turned away, in the shadows.

  6. Ah well, we all know that attractive people could never ever be tyrants.

    I mean, if high school taught me one thing… oh wait… it’s the opposite…

  7. I don’t think that the older portrait really makes him look sinister; he looks more tired of all these damn lies people keep telling about him. The new one, though, makes him look all like, eh, whatevs. 

  8. If Richard III is to be promoted to the status of ‘good’ king, someone needs to be demoted to the position of ‘bad’ king. History is a zero sum game. There are inept Plantagenet candidates, Edward II or Henry VI.
    Now all we need is a long lost first folio with a missing 37th play….

  9. “…doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant”
    Tyrants have a certain face? Mao was ugly as sin, sure, but Stalin sometimes had a teddy bear look to him, and Tito looked more like a talk show host (when out of uniform). Even more to the point, except the odd moustache, most tyrants and dictators have had little physical in common as well.
    Maybe we could have a chart ala the plane recognition charts of the 1950s; how to spot a tyrant?

      1. Your chin diminishes, your bones shrink, you get neck-ache from looking up at everybody while looking down your nose, your voice gets louder, your hands move in nutty expressive patterns …

        It’s not all easy, being a tyrant.

  10. Well, if you’re not factoring in any expression, I suppose anyone can look innocent.  We all look like angels when we’re sleeping.

        1. I’ve never hit anyone hard enough to injure them, just wake them up.  I also wake up screaming at the top of my lungs a couple of times every year.  Honestly, I get more complaints about the farting.

  11. These reconstructions have been shown to be often very subjective.
    Last time someone did a test they gave same skull to a dozen different forensic reconstructors and came back with a dozen completely different faces.

    1. I can believe this.

      I’ve actually started to build quite a lot of distrust around this kind of work, archeology as well (I’m afraid to say).

      I’ve seen enough archeologists make bold, far-reaching claims, and present them as facts to know that at least some of the field is a bit iffy.

      Things like: “There are four people buried here in the middle of nowhere, and one of them is pointing south, therefore this country’s primary theology was Devil worship”. That’s a pretty good format example that can be applied to 80% of archeology claims.

      It’s the science equivalent of using a single anecdote to prove a theory.

      1.  In the programme broadcast earlier this week in the UK, the proofs offered were carbon dating of the bones, adjusted for the diet unusualy high in protein including fish, which skews it (but is another pointer towards high status corpse); circumstantial evidence of wounds to the body as reported contemporaneously; DNA testing against a known descendent of R3’s sister.  The reconstruction of the face was done by the expert from Dundee who features in History Cold Case, and was close enough to portraits, although there is always the suspicion that painters will glamorise a living sitter and demonise a dead one.

        1. It wasn’t Time Team was it? They’re the kings of drawing sweeping conclusions from practically no evidence.

          They’re probably more accurately described as psychics than archaeologists.

        2. It wasn’t Time Team was it? They’re the kings of drawing sweeping conclusions from practically no evidence. They’re probably more accurately described as psychics than archaeologists.

      2. How archaeologists jump from the physical properties of artifacts to belief systems and ideas is quite mystifying at times. However, without it archaeology is just a collection of indecipherable texts.They take no more liberties than are taken in trying to interpret contradictory written texts.

        But I do know exactly what you mean.

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