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Sunday, 22 March 2015

Days of Richard III fever

It's here...the week when the world's eyes are on Leicester and the Richard III events taking place.
We've been waiting a long time for Richard to be re interred here at Leicester Cathedral  ...since 2012 in fact, when his body was discovered under a council car park.

This is a still from the TV documentary of the press conference in Leicester's ancient Guildhall when it was announced that it could be Richard. I'm the one with brown hair in the cream jacket, frantically recording and writing notes.

A week of events began yesterday at the University of Leicester.....where hundreds of people attended talks by some of the key players in the finding of the last Plantagenet King of England. There's numerous other events taking place within the next seven days including the actual re interment ceremony on Thursday.

But today is all about a journey. A journey which started within the last hour. Richard 's remains have been taken from the university and the cortege will drive to Fenn Lanes farm which is now known to be the actual battlefield on 22 August 1485. There will be a short private ceremony held there, before the cortege arrives in Dadlington.

I was out around the county last week looking at the route of the cortege and chatting to organisers of events along the scheduled procession.

The village of Dadlington is an important one, because the church there is the only one where soldiers who died on the battlefield are buried. On the left of the photo , just inside of the church wall they lie, about two hundred of them. No one knows who they were individually or even if they were soldiers fighting for Richard III or Henry Tudor - it doesn't matter, they are buried here and are remembered.

Richard's cortege will pass through here just after 1pm, stop at the church briefly and then go through the village, where villagers will be marking the occasion with a hog roast, music, and a specially brewed beer .So, some merrymaking as well as a dignified sense of occasion.

Richard's journey continues  onto Sutton Cheyney, a small village a few miles away. It was here at the beautiful St James Church that Richard was thought to have heard mass on the eve of the Battle of Bosworth.

The cortege will be led into the village by a guard of honour in full plate armour before stopping at the church for another short service

It's then onto the Battle of Bosworth Heritage Centre for a service conducted by the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Reverend Tim Stevens in front of two and a half thousand people, and then through to the village of Market Bosworth for a short service, and then past the park opposite Bosworth Hall  where there'll be huge numbers of re enactors in  mediaeval costume, mediaeval music and entertainment for everyone.

The cortege then goes through the villages of Newbold Verdon and Desford, before arriving later this afternoon at Bow Bridge which marked the mediaeval boundary between town and county.

The old mediaeval bridge has long disappeared , replaced in Victorian times, but this place has a real significance in the Richard III story. Legend has it that when the King left Leicester on the day before the battle via Bow Bridge, as he rode across , his spur caught the parapet of the bridge.After the battle, when Richard’s body was brought to the town, along the same route, apparently his head struck the exactly the same place where his spur had hit it on the way out.

And of course there's the legend that Richard's body was thrown into the river this Victorian  plaque states, but of course, now we know better!

200 schoolchildren will welcome the cortege here along with the City Mayor of Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby and the Lord Mayor John Thomas, and the procession will make its way up a slight hill to St Nicholas Church, the oldest one in the city. Another short service, and Richard's coffin will be transferred to a horse drawn carriage for the procession around the streets ofLeicester.

There's ten horses in the parade, some of them have come from the City of London Police and thousands of people are expected to line the route and welcome the king. A far cry from his last journey back to the city 530 years ago.

Finally, the cortege will arrive at Leicester Cathedral where 650 people will be waiting inside to welcome King Richard II to his final resting place and mark the event with  a very special Compline Service. I shall be one of them waiting inside....and I cannot wait to witness what is sure to be a very moving and unforgettable service.


1 comment:

  1. You are all having such a lovely time!! I'm smiling from afar!