A little over a year ago, I visited Leicester with my family. We actually visited three times last year.
I did visit the town a few years earlier, but not on purpose. My partner at the time was driving me home to County Durham, along the A1. I was feeling ill, but we just thought that was because of the heavy night before !! I deteriorated as we were coming up to Leicester and he drove me straight to the local hospital, where we found out that I had a ruptured appendix and that I needed emergency surgery.
Our visits last year were of a more planned nature. I say planned, the first was talked about and decided against, then plans were changed within 48 hours of the trip and we went after all!
We sat at home watching the cortege of Richard III travel through Leicester and the surrounding areas on the sunday. Some of the services were quite emotional to watch, particularly the one at Bosworth, which I felt was well done (though whether Richard himself would have wanted soil from the place he died buried with him, am not too sure about).
After talking about it, my husband offered to take us to Leicester to pay our respects at his coffin, which was on display in the cathedral there until wednesday. I had been an advocate of his burial to take place in York, as he was from the House of York, and was unsure how I felt about him being reinterred in Leicester. In any case, we decided to go down there on tuesday.
I gave my eldest daughter the day off school, after arguing with them about how important an occasion this was (how many times in her life is she likely to be able to go and pay respects at the coffin of a 500 year old King of England?), and we set off early on the morning. Our younger daughters came too, though I doubt they will remember it.
We did not expect the crowds that were there !! The queues snaked thrugh the streets and people were standing for hours. It was unbelieveable.
I will be entirely honest with you, as I have said to others, I was not very impressed with the way we were rushed through the cathedral that day. I did not feel that we had time to stop and pay our respects or even say a prayer. It was more like, ‘take your picture and the way out is over there’. Not very respectful at all, in my opinion. I felt that they only wanted numbers through the doors, nothing more.
Still we did get to spend a little time talking to Philippa Langley while we were there, which I enjoyed. I even got to introduce her to my own little Philippa !
Our second visit was in the summer, en route to Wales. We re reouted via Leicester simply because I had wanted to see Richard III’s book of hours which was on display for a short time at a museum in the town. It was fascinating to see his own writing in the book and to see how well preserved such a piece of history was. Alledgedly it was found in his tent the day after Bosworth and presented to Margaret Beaufort afterwards.
Our third visit was again with the children, we visited the exhibition about Richard that had been opened on the site of his discovery. It was a fun time for the children and I think it was enjoyed. Standing above his actual grave site was a little eerie, especially when a silhouette of his skeleton lit up underneath me, without warning !!
Afterwards we went across to the cathedral to see his tomb. I was a little apprehensive after our experience during re-internment week, but I was glad to find the atmosphere to be totally different. We were not rushed through at all and were welcomed in. We spent time admiring the tomb itself. It looks very different in person than it did on television. I was not too impressed with the tomb originally, but once I saw it up close, saw the way the light reflected and the area surrounding the tomb, I changed my mind. There is a very tranquil feeling as you stand by it, I am not sure why, but that is what I felt. My misgivings about him being buried there have been more or less laid to rest now. He may have preferred to be interred by his beloved wife, though as she is in Westminster Abbey that would have probably required permission from the Queen, who has never really shown any interest in the finding of Richard, so probably would not have been in favour. Most of the House of York is not actually interred in York in any case, so maybe Leicester was not so bad a choice after all.
I don’t know whether I would be considered a full blown Ricardian, I do not think he was an angel, but Kings of that age had to be strong and sometimes ruthless. I have questions about his blame in the case of the Princes, they were in his care, but whether he actually killed them, I do question. There is some evidence that Perkin Warbeck may have been Richard of Shrewsbury, so maybe he did spirit them away from public view somehow. We will never know for sure. I do not believe that the remains in the urn in Westminster belong to the boys, no matter what. I can go into those reasons another time, perhaps. I do now believe that he has been treated well in his death and at least must now surely be at peace. Well at least this grave fits him !!