Monday, 4 February 2013

The King in the car park

Today there can be only one topic of conversation: dedication.

A team from the University of Leicester have announced that the bones found buried in ignominious fashion beneath a city centre car park are those of Richard III, the last English King to die on the battlefield. 

Richard III's skullThe team have confirmed that the skeletal remains are those of Richard, the last Plantagenet King, killed in 1485 (and how impressed with myself am I that I recalled that date from memory?) and whose death paved the way for the Tudor dynasty that was to rule England until 1603 (and that's two points on the date recall for me.)

With the skill, spite and speed of the most ruthless modern spin doctor, the Tudors set about destroying Richard's reputation, portraying him through the art and documents of the time as a bitter hunchbacked figure, murderer and usurper of the throne. This image abides, with anyone asked to mimic him instantly adopting a hunched posture and crying "A horse, a horse...", and referring to the grisly death of his nephews, the young 'Princes in the Tower'- allegedly on Richard's orders. You might say Tudor propaganda was so absurd... but I digress.

It appears that there was some truth in the rumours of a deformity, but scoliosis (curvature of the spine) rather than the hump and withered arm we believed was true. Was he the murderer of his nephews? Who knows- the grave isn't giving up every secret.

What we should pause to recognise is the remarkable dedication and skill of the team at the University of Leicester, who pursued the belief that they could find the King's grave so doggedly and made such a convicing case to be permitted to excavate the car park. They fought for years to be allowed to search, making a solid case to the Leicestershire authorities that even they saw the value in conducting excavations and began to get excited that the truth may be unearthed. Their research was so thorough, their talent so unstoppable that they found Richard in the first days of the dig. 

Apart from being an enthralling tale, and a reminder of the power of the image and reputation we leave behind, it illustrates perfectly the power of great research, belief and talent combined. The team's ability to work with the authorities, galvanising interested parties into working together to uncover the truth and solve a centuries-old mystery is to be lauded and celebrated. Their dedication to closing this coldest of cases is nothing short of remarkable.

It should be every leader's ambition to harness what the team from Leicester have achieved and put it to work for them. Seek out what captures people's imaginations, recognise natural talent, reward co-operative working... and value sheer dogged commitment and hard work.

You may not unearth a King, but you'll be rewarded in a hundred other ways.

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