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The Scoliotic Knight: Reconstructing the Real Richard III Tobias Capwell Monday 09 March 2020

The discovery of the grave of King Richard III in Leicester raised an army of new and fascinating questions.  The severe scoliosis exhibited by the skeleton revealed that the twisted physique of Shakespeare’s ‘Black Legend’ was based in fact.  How could a diminutive person, suffering from a significant spinal condition, have become a skilled practitioner of the knightly fighting arts?  How could he have worn armour and fought in three major battles?  What would his armour have looked like?  How might it have disguised the King’s condition, presenting him as a powerful warrior?  In the case of a king whose royal legitimacy was questioned by many people, how were the visual trappings of knightly kingship used to solidify his claim?  Here we encounter armour as an expressive art-form, designed to radiate messages, justifications, proof of the wearer’s right to rule as a king- a wielder of divine power on Earth.


Toby Capwell is Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection in London and an internationally-acknowledged authority on Medieval and Renaissance weapons.  He is the author of numerous books on the subject of arms and armour including Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection (2011; Apollo Magazine Book of the Year 2012); The Noble Art of the Sword: Fashion and Fencing in Renaissance Europe 1520-1630, ex. cat. (2012); Armour of the English Knight 1400 – 1450 (2015; Military History Monthly Illustrated Book of the Year 2017); ans most recently Arms and Armour of the Medieval Joust (2018). Toby also appears regularly on television, most recently on A Stitch in Time (2018; BBC4); as presenter and armour advisor on Richard III: The New Evidence (2014; C4), and as the writer and presenter of Metalworks: The Knight's Tale(2012; BBC4).  In 2015 Toby had the unusual honour of serving as one of the two fully armoured horsemen escorting the remains of King Richard III  from the battlefield at Bosworth to their final resting place in Leicester Cathedral.


Image:  Painting by Graham Turner - Richard III at Bosworth