King Richard III and his marvellous Leicester City football team
This is a tale, perhaps a fairy tale, about the skeleton of a medieval English king found under a carpark and a second rung football club.
It’s a euphoric tale, not quite finished, but already glorious, that will be shared around dinner tables and in football circles for centuries to come.
The word Leicester (pronounced Less-ter), a provincial city in the English Midands, will in the future be whispered in the reverent tones reserved for such holy sites as Lourdes, Old Trafford and Camp Nou.
Our story begins five centuries ago in 1485 when King Richard III was killed in battle at Bosworth Field, half a day’s walk from the city of Leicester.
Coincidentally, historians believe he was most likely butchered with a halberd (see below), the fearsome and preferred weapon of Swiss armies in the 14 th and 15 th centuries.
History is written by the victors. King Richard III, the last of Plantagent kings was buried unceremoniously in a Leicester churchyard and his name and legacy were thoroughly trashed by the new Tudor dynasty.
Shakespeare, himself performed the greatest hatchet job, or should I say halberd job, in his historical play Richard III written about 100 years after the king’s death.
Shakespeare’s Richard was beyond evil. He was a “poisonous bunch-backed toad” and “a lump of foul deformity” and my favourite, "an Elvish-mark'd, abortive, rooting hog!"
However, a growing movement of historians, which dates back to the early 1900s, believe King Richard III was in fact a pretty decent king who cared for his subjects and deserved a proper regal burial.
In August 2012, the Looking for Richard Project began digging up the northern end of the Leicester Social Services Department car park which lies on the site of the medieval Grey Friars churchyard..
Clearly, King Richard, was eager to be found. It took just one day to find his skeleton which was confirmed by DNA tests as well as the severe curvature of the spine, caused by scoliosis, which Shakespeare alludes to in his magisterial insults.
King Richard III redemption was completed in March last year when he was reinterred in the Leicester Cathedral in a ceremony watched around the country. Contemporary British royalty, the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, who not only has played the role of the king, but is also related to him, read a poem in his honour.
After 500 years of humiliation King Richard III was regal once again. Like all thankful kings, he wanted to share his joy with his subjects who have suffered terribly, not from plagues and marauding dragons, but from a terrible modern malaise known as "the underperforming football club".
Leicester City Football Club has spent much of its history playing in the second tier Football Championship League with occasional promotions into the top Premiership League. In 2012, the year Richard’s skeleton was found, Leicester City finished in ninth place in the second league.
Only those that believe in fire-breathing dragons could imagine that today Leicester City rules English football, comfortably ahead of massively-funded teams like Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United.
It’s a sporting miracle that beggars belief. A squad of ‘second rate’ players, many of whom have plied their trade in the second and third division is now a well-oiled machine that consistently plays the sharpest football in the land.
The city is abuzz with joy and the promise of history and potentially a crown, which for many football-mad Brits is today the holiest crown in the land.
If you’re still not a believer, you just need only look at the club’s main sponsor emblazoned on their blue shirts. This is a team whose home ground is called King Power Stadium. Yes, the force is strong with this one.
The much-maligned King Richard has offered his people and football followers a truly grand spectacle of David slaying the Goliaths. Premiership or not, Leicester City supporters will ‘live happily ever after’ and good King Richard can rest in peace.