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Richard III portrait unveiled by Dr David Starkey at Hever Castle

Shakespeare may have been responsible for giving Richard III a bit of a bad press, but ever since the King's body was rediscovered buried beneath a car park in Leicester in 2012 his public image is being restored.

Hever Castle, the popular tourist attraction near Edenbridge, has taken that restoration literally and added a portrait of the King to its Long Gallery exhibition of past British monarchs.

Duncan Lesley, the CEO of Hever Castle, with Dr David Starkey and the portrait
Duncan Lesley, the CEO of Hever Castle, with Dr David Starkey and the portrait

The painting was officially unveiled today by historian, Dr David Starkey - 567 years to the day after King Richard was born.

It was painted in the late 16th century, but has never been on public display before. It is believed to be a copy of an original painted during Richard's lifetime (he died in 1485) that has since been lost.

Dendrochronological analysis of the panel on which the painting is set suggests an earliest possible usage date of 1586. The work has been in private collections for many years.

The portrait, in which the King appears to be placing a ring on the little finger of his right hand, has been seen by some as evidence of his scheming nature (the ring being a symbol of love and faithfulness).

King Richard's short reign of only two years was marred by the accusation that he was responsible for the murder of the Princes - his nephews - in the Tower of London. But these days there is a suspicion that many of the slurs on Richard's character were created by Henry Tudor who defeated Richard at the Battle of Bosworth in order to claim the throne for himself.

Hever Castle - the childhood home of Anne Boleyn
Hever Castle - the childhood home of Anne Boleyn

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, the corridors and long galleries of noble houses were often hung with collections of panel portraits.

Reflecting Tudor fascination with dynastic matters, these collections were displayed as part of a historical narrative of English monarchy.

The painting was likely created for this purpose and it has now been displayed in a similar setting at Hever Castle more than 400 years later.

The castle already has one of the finest collections of Tudor portraits in the country, thanks to owners, the Guthrie family, who have built up the collection since taking over running the castle in 1983.

The castle's Long Gallery, which was created in 1506 by Thomas Boleyn, father of Anne Boleyn, has been faithfully restored so that it now resembles how it would have looked during the 16th century. It hosts 18 original portraits chronologically depicting the dynastic saga from the Wars of the Roses to the Reformation.

Dr David Starkey and Hever's portrait of Richard III
Dr David Starkey and Hever's portrait of Richard III

Dr Starkey said: “Richard III was the principal missing link in Hever’s remarkable collection of historic portraits. I am delighted that the gap has now been filled by this intriguing picture.”

The castle's chief executive Duncan Leslie said: “I am delighted that we have been able to purchase this painting and further enhance the historical experience we offer here at Hever Castle. It is an important addition to better tell the story of the Tudors, or rather how they came about.”

The castle is open from noon to 3.30pm, and the gardens from 10.30am. Admission is £17.75, with concessions. Call 01732 865224.

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