Published: 06:00, 16 January 2021
A retired radiologist and leading expert on King Richard lll has died at the age of 74.
Dr Phil Stone worked at Sheppey Community Hospital until he retired in January 2014 and gave talks about one of England's most controversial monarchs.
Former hospital colleague Michael Dillon said: "Dr Stone gave sterling service to Sheppey, Sittingbourne and Medway hospitals as a radiologist for 25 years. As chairman of The Richard lll Society he was intimately involved in the project to find the king's remains and to give them the regal burial they were previously denied."
Dr Stone gave talks on Richard lll at many venues including the Sheppey Little Theatre. He had been determined to try to change the public's perception of the king whose reputation took a pounding at the hands of playwright William Shakespeare and a particularly villainous film portrayal by Sir Laurence Olivier.
Dr Stone was shown the film at school when a games lesson was rained off more than 50 years ago.
He recalled: “I enjoyed it, this dreadful depiction, but I thought nobody could be quite so bad. Time passed and I read a little about him.”
Then he came across a newspaper article about obscure groups. The Richard III Society, which has members dotted all over the world, was featured. He joined it in 1976.
In 2014, two years after the king's remains were discovered beneath a car park in Leicester, he said: "I would never suggest Richard was a saint but I still don’t think he was the black-hearted villain of Shakespeare’s play.”
For years he shared his home in Gillingham with a £9,000 clay reconstruction of the king's head which he kept in a box under his dining room table. It had been based on the monarch's 500-year-old skull.
Richard fell during the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, and was the last English king to die in a fight.
Dr Stone said: “The society just wants to encourage people to start looking again about him instead of blindly following what we call the Shakespearean myth. It is a wonderful play but unfortunately a lot of it just doesn’t add up.”
His stepson Jeremy Horton said: "Phil was also passionate about Ancient Egypt. He loved spending time in Egypt examining the ruins and studying artefacts in museums. His house was full of both Egyptiana and Ricardiana including a much-prized 3,000-year-old shabti (an ancient death figurine of a servant Egyptian aristocrats were buried with to serve them in the afterlife).
"He also gave very interesting talks on medieval medicine including that given on the battlefield, thus combining both his vocational and leisure interests."
Dr Stone was born in Walthamstow, east London, in November 1946, the only son of Thomas and Doris Stone. His father was a certified accountant who died while Dr Stone was quite young.
Mr Horton said: "He did not have the happiest of childhoods. His relationship with his mother was always quite difficult. He always felt he was never quite good enough for her."
He was academically quite successful studying medicine in London and becoming a qualified doctor. His ambition was to be an orthopaedic surgeon and being an accomplished embroiderer his hands may have had the dexterity needed. But he never got through the extra exams required and so he became a consultant radiologist.
He was married three times. First and least successfully to Jill in 1974. The marriage ended after four years and without any children.
'They had quite a whirlwind romance'
In 1987 he met Mr Horton's mother, a radiographer work colleague at Greenwich District Hospital.
Mr Horton said: "My mum had been divorced from my dad four years earlier and had three teenage children: myself, who was a 19-year-old law student; my younger brother who had just left home and our sister who was 15.
"They had quite a whirlwind romance. My mum was very much swept up by this charming intelligent doctor."
The pair married after a six-month courtship but separated after 13 years. Mr Horton said: "Despite the divorce, I remained on friendly terms with Phil and always found him to be a very honourable, reliable and thoughtful friend. We always exchanged Christmas and birthday cards and presents and he continued to take an active interest in my twins who always continued to call him 'Grandpa'.
In 2004 Dr Stone married Beth, a friend from America. His stepdaughter was bridesmaid at their wedding in Chicago.
Mr Horton said: "They always seemed very well suited and happy together. It was a case of third time lucky."
But in June last year Dr Stone was widowed when his wife died with pneumonia.
Mr Horton said: "Phil seemed to take it much harder than he expected. He was still very much grieving for her when he died. I suppose ultimately he died of a broken heart in both senses."
Dr Stone was found dead at his home on December 17. The cause was degenerative heart disease.
Mr Horton said: "Apparently his heart just gradually wore out until it stopped. He was found slumped in his chair. They reckoned he may have nodded off in front of the TV, which was still on, and died in his sleep."