The Face and Voice of a Dead King: Richard III’s face unveiled and language expert claims he was a ‘Brummie’!

After the announcement that the skeleton found under a car-park in Leicester is in fact that of the 15th century monarch King Richard III, we now have an accurate idea of what he looked and sounded like. The Richard III Society today unveiled an accurate reconstruction of the king’s face at The Society of Antiquities in London, while an expert at the University of Leicester believes to have identified the King’s dialect… and it was not the Queen’s English!

Experts in cranio-facial technology used CT scans to add layers of muscle and skin to the bone structure to construct a 3D digital bust of the notorious king. A rapid prototyping system was then used to model the bust in plastic which was then painted and dressed. Janice Aitkin, the artist, studied surviving portraits of the King to get an idea of skin tone, colouring and clothing.

Rapid prototyping uses 3D printing technology and computer-aided design data to fabricate models of physical parts.  The technology for this has been developed since the 1980s and is often applied to small-scale manufacturing and industry, as well as by sculptors. Now, its application may be of important historical significance. There survive no contemporary portraits of Richard III – only those painted after his death, many of which were amended to portray Richard as severely deformed – meaning this newly revealed reconstruction is perhaps the only true likeness we have.

Many have expressed astonishment at how ‘real’ the reconstruction seems while some have gone so far as to indulge in physiognomy, suggesting that his does not look like the face of a tyrant. Richard’s life has certainly been the subject of much speculation, particularly regarding the infamous mystery of the Princes in the Tower, whom many historians think were murdered on the king’s orders.

His bones will be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral in 2014 and a temporary exhibition will open there for tourists and the public to discover more about the life of this extraordinary figure.

It is not only his face that has come back from the dead however. Dr Philip Shaw, lecturer at the University of Leicester, has managed to go some way in determining the sound of the king’s voice. After much analysis and transcription of original written correspondence belonging to the king, the language professor is certain that he would not have had a Yorkshire accent (the dialect assumed due to his allegiance to the House of York) but instead was more of a ‘brummie’. Dr Shaw claims that the use of elongated vowels in his writing – at a time in which standardised spelling did not exist – implies that he spoke like someone from the West Midlands – although this may also have been similar to a dialect spoken in London during this time. He also suggests that Richard, like many of his contemporaries, would have altered his voice depending on circumstance, employing different registers of the English language at different times. He has attempted to reproduce this dialect and visitors can listen to his interpretation of King Richard III’s voice on the University’s website – truly an amazing way to come face to face with history!

Sources include: BBC News; The Guardian and The Leicester Mercury Online


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One Response to The Face and Voice of a Dead King: Richard III’s face unveiled and language expert claims he was a ‘Brummie’!

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