On March 26, 2015, millions of people from around the world had a collective unique experience, watching the funeral of a king, a Plantagenet monarch who was brutalised, humiliated, killed and placed on public display in Leicester, later to be hastily buried by friars, and squashed into a short grave beneath Greyfriars church.

Over 500 years after his death, his body was found under a car park in Leicester. The global audience for his funeral was said to be 366 million people.

Richard III had his name blackened as a murderer by his successor, Henry VII, who had a tenuous claim to the throne. History is written by the winners, and Tudor propaganda, helped along by William Shakespeare's play, written in the time of Henry's granddaughter, Elizabeth I, became the accepted story.

And on March 24, two days before the funeral, the Daily Mail announced: "It's mad to make this child killer a national hero: Richard III is one of the most evil, detestable tyrants ever to walk this earth."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Philippa Langley at the grave site

This misunderstood king had a dignified and moving funeral, and was buried as a monarch in Leicester cathedral, following a procession patterned with white roses, from Bosworth Field where he was killed.

This whole event would never have happened but for the determination of Philippa Langley, historian, writer, award-winning producer and expert on Richard III, who instigated and led the search to find his body.

"I needed to find the evidence," she says. " The common belief reported as truth and fact in the history books before his discovery was that his remains were thrown into the River Soar, after the dissolution of the monasteries. I spent years researching, reading everything I could, and it was really hard to get people to take the research seriously.

"But I knew that if I found him, I could give the historical individual a voice for the very first time. There were many times when I could have walked away, but my Dad always told me, don’t give up, don’t give in; and so I kept going. I think it's because I'm a North East girl, it’s what we do."

When I spoke to Philippa she was preparing for a book tour, as seven years ago her attention turned to the mystery of the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower. The book is described as solving history's greatest cold case, and details her journey, with the gathered evidence, to find the truth. The investigation is called The Missing Princes Project.

"Our only objective is the truth," she says. "We have employed the same principles and practices as a modern police enquiry. It is a cold case investigation into the apparent disappearance of Edward V and Richard Duke of York, in 1483. You eliminate hindsight, pre-judgment or personal opinion and cross check everything, questioning everything and working only in the subject's present. We were advised to accept nothing, believe nobody and challenge everything."

Through this methodology there was no evidence that the boys had died during Richard III's reign. In all extant documents in England they managed to find, they were always spoken of as being alive.

"Accusations of Richard being the killer started in France, as the French didn't want an adult warrior king on the English throne," says Philippa. "Also, Henry VII had destroyed all of Richard's key documents. By this time we were searching for proof of life, and the police told us to look in the places they were last seen, telling us to follow the money and the law, to search the day to day administrative records. So, we turned overseas for the evidence."

Darlington and Stockton Times: Philippa Langley book cover

What they found was astonishing. Accompanied by Rob Rinder, who is a historian as well as a criminal prosecutor and lawyer, and who would assess all the evidence at the end of their search, they made a real-time documentary of their findings. It's compelling viewing and suffice to say, after years of detailed investigation, Philippa has changed history once more.

"I just felt so relieved when Rob gave his verdict on the evidence we had found," she says. "I was overwhelmed. I thought the evidence was compelling, and it was an enormous relief for all the people I had worked with on the project too to see it validated."

Philippa was born in Kenya, where her parents had relocated from Darlington. Her father was an engineer and East Africa offered good opportunities. They returned to Darlington when Philippa was three or four, and she found her love of history through inspirational teachers. However, when she changed schools aged 13, her O-level teacher killed the subject for her. She had been a tomboy and the leader of a gang, aspiring to be a drummer or a professional footballer, but after A-levels at Darlington's Queen Elizabeth Sixth Form College, she still hadn't found anything that really interested her, eventually finding that she really enjoyed marketing and advertising.

So, the big question was, how did the search for Richard begin.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Philippa Langley

"We were on holiday in Cyprus and I was about to go for my dream job on my return," Philippa explains. "I picked up a book on Richard, written by American academic Paul Murray Kendall, and it blew me away. Through the evidence he had uncovered from the contemporary materials created during Richard’s lifetime (as duke and king), a very different kind of man emerged than what history had portrayed, and I was fascinated."

However, during the journey back from her holiday, she caught Beijing 'flu, and developed ME, which she has suffered from ever since. She lost her dream job as the chronic fatigue, which she says is similar to Long Covid, prevents her working a nine to five.

"Because of this I had to find something else which interested me," she says. "My love of history had come back after reading the book, and I have learnt how to manage my condition through sleeping a lot, and reading does not tire me, so I read everything I could on this period of history. I also think that because I believe that truth matters, I wanted to bring the historic individual Richard III to light. He was a man of the north; a progressive and just king (as he had been as duke). We lost a lot when he died at Bosworth, as he was trying to level up society, creating laws which would give all people a voice. I believe that the Civil War in England would not have happened if he had continued as king."

Her quest for finding Richard began, and involved intensive research, which lasted years. Philippa found herself returning again and again to the social services car park in Leicester, where her research led her, experiencing the same intuitive feeling, whenever she was there, where the letter R for reserved parking was.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Richard III burial

Eventually, she secured the permissions she needed. The landowner, Leicester City Council, gave her permission to undertake the dig and the radar survey, and bring the documentary film crew, with a local archaeological company, paid for their services through funding from Leicestershire Promotions. The University of Leicester would lead on the DNA testing, thanks to the work of one of Philippa’s team members, Dr John Ashdown-Hill.

The ground penetrating survey was done, but there was no evidence found of the church where Richard was supposedly buried, under the car park, so the funding fell through, and everything stopped.

However after an appeal, the Richard III Society saved the day, and the university contributed £10,000. Philippa knew beyond doubt that they needed to dig in trench one, and as the client, paid for the remains uncovered there to be exhumed.

"Some people I was working with thought the remains we found could be a friar, not Richard," she says. "When the battle injuries and then the spine was uncovered, I knew. I knew it was him. He had been placed into a grave which was too small for him. It was proved he was not a hunchback (kyphosis) but had scoliosis, the same condition as some members of our royal family today, likely making one shoulder higher than the other. The DNA taken from two of the king’s relatives confirmed that I had found Richard."

Philippa decided to tell her story, and wrote, "The Lost King The Search for Richard III" (first published as The King’s Grave), in conjunction with military historian Michael Jones, whose chapters restored the reputation and honour of the king.

"Then Steve Coogan contacted me," she says. " He wanted to tell my story, as along the way the facts had got somewhat distorted about what had really happened. He co-wrote the film 'The Lost King', with Jeff Pope, a British journalist, screenwriter and producer, after years of research and interviews with eye-witnesses, and my opinion of the film is – yes, I think they nailed it!"

After a Channel Four documentary on the Princes in the Tower, last month, Philippa is now touring, with her new book, "The Princes in the Tower: Solving History's Greatest Cold Case", and is busy working on phase two of the research.

I first met her when I attended her talk at the Guildhall in York, just after her book on Richard had been published. Sincere, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable, her talk was compelling, and set me off on my own search for Richard through North Yorkshire and Leicester, resulting in one of my first features for the Darlington and Stockton Times, which she kindly helped me with.

Her book on the Princes is equally fascinating, and meticulous in its detailed research. It turns history on its head, and helps once again to restore the reputation and character of the man who could possibly have been, one of our greatest kings.