The mystery of Richard Plantaganet – hidden down in Kent

As a South-East England Tourist Guide, I often travel the road between the city of Canterbury and Tenterden on my way to The Weald of Kent in the beautiful Garden of England.  Always plenty to see and to talk about, but recent finds under a car park in Leicester could just be providing me with some additional food for thought as we pass near to Eastwell Manor.  Today Eastwell Manor is a delightful 20th century country house hotel, spa/ wedding/conference venue.  However the history of the site goes back much further and hides an intriguing mystery at its heart.  Imagine, if you will, the year is 1546, and a magnificent brick-built house is being constructed for  one Sir Thomas Moyle. To his surprise he came upon a bricklayer, quite an oldish gentleman reading a book –  a most unusual skill for a 16th century labourer! – Who was this man, and what was his story? According to antiquarian, Francis Peck’s writings we learn that there was a young man named Richard who boarded with a Latin schoolmaster until he was 15 or 16. He did not know who his real parents were, but was visited four times a year by a mysterious gentleman who paid for his upkeep. This mystery person once took him to a “fine, great house” where Richard met a man in a “star and garter” who treated him kindly. At the age of 16, it was written,  the gentleman took the boy to see King Richard 111 at his encampment just before the Battle of Bosworth. The King informed the boy that he was his son, and told him to watch the battle from a safe vantage point. The king told the boy that, if he won, he would acknowledge him as his son. However, should he lose he told the boy to forever conceal his identity. King Richard was killed in the battle, and the boy allegedly fled to London.  He was apprenticed to a bricklayer but kept up the Latin he had learned by reading during his work.  So was this Richard the Bricklayer, really Richard Plantaganet, illegitimate son of King Richard 111?  A rubble-stone tomb with modern pointing, within the floor plan of the now ruined nearby church has a plaque with the following legend: Reputed to be the tomb of Richard Plantagenet, December 22nd 1550! So many questions and the mystery remains to this day, but now we understand that the body of King Richard 111 has been found under a car park in Leicester, do we seek to find out if his son lies in a disused churchyard down in Kent ?

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