It is hard to believe it was a year ago this week that King Richard III was finally laid to rest after 5 days full of ceremony.
After so much controversy, the last Plantagenet King lies in a place of prayer, not quite the church many wanted for him, but at least he is not lost to time anymore.
It seems that controversy followed King Richard long after his brutal defeat on Bosworth Field in 1485, and having history deal him a low blow by writing him into infamy as a hunchbacked, twisted, murdering monarch.
When the King’s remains were discovered in 2012, many hoped for him to be interred in the North, where he lived most of his life and had connections. York Minster, would have been a preferred place, also along with Westminster Abbey where generations of monarchs are laid to rest.
It wasn’t to be, and Leicester Cathedral were granted the honour of burying him within their walls, and after debate agreed to give him an above ground tomb.
I will leave the controversy here, as I would rather focus on the positive aspects of finally laying to rest this 15th century monarch.
Paying My Respects
Leading up to the week of Richard’s reburial, there had been a ballot that members of the public could enter to gain the opportunity at a seat at one of the ceremonies during the reinterment.
There were 14,000 applicants from across the world, all wishing for one of 600 seats and although I knew the odds were slim, I still hoped that I would be chosen.
It wasn’t to be, so I took the train to Leicester on the 24th to pay my respects to Richard who was lying in repose in the cathedral before his burial on the 26th.
White Boar pinned, and with a bunch of white roses, I made my way to the cathedral, expecting people, but I hadn’t contemplated the shear number of those queuing to view the King. Richard’s coat of arms flew every where, and thousands of people queued for hours in an atmosphere was very hard to explain.
I was lucky enough to meet some wonderful ladies who had been instrumental in providing Richard with a rosary to be buried with him (among other actions to honour him) and we entered the church together.
The procession moved around his coffin, beautifully draped in a pall depicting important people in his life and discovery, including a image of his wife and son which I felt touching.
The coffin was guarded by four veterans the entire time he was in repose.
I found it hard to take in the whole scene, it was incredibly moving to see Richard finally getting respect and honour.
I also felt honoured and privileged to be able to say a prayer for Richard, one that he would have known and was within his statutes for the Collegiate Church at Middleham.
It truly is a moment I will treasure. As I had to move home to New Zealand less than a month later, I was grateful Richard was laid to rest before I left, I felt priviledged to have been able to be involved in an occasion that finally honoured King Richard after 529 years.
St. Mary De Castro
After saying a prayer in the cathedral for Richard, I headed to St. Mary de Castro.
St Mary de Castro is one of my favourite churches and dates to the 12th Century. It has a beautiful Norman doorway, and the stained glass is also lovely.
It is said that Geoffery Chaucer was married in the church in 1366, and that King Henry VI was knighted in the church in 1426.
It is also claimed that Richard worshipped at the church whilst in residence at the castle. I like to think of him gaining some peace within its walls, as it certainly lightened my heart after the solemness of the cathedral.
Sadly a few years back, St. Mary de Castro lost it’s spire as it was unsafe, and the
church was closed. It reopened to coincide with Richard’s reburial and now is on the ‘tourist trail’ of Richard’s Leicester, gaining more visitors which is excellent.
If you do visit Leicester, please visit this church, and if you can donate a few coins to help them restore their spire. Unfortunately the tower also needs a lot of work.
(You can also donate online, appeal here if you are interested)
After St. Mary de Castro I passed beneath the arch of Turret Gateway.
It is an arch which Richard would have passed through as King, and it is said his body was taken through this way after the Battle of Bosworth. This is a beautiful, humbling part of Leicester.
My day in Leicester is one I will never forget. It is completely surreal to think that we had the privilege to see a 15th century monarch laid to rest in the 21st century.
Whilst I believe not everything was done the way Richard would have wanted, or in a way he would have been accustomed to, I take comfort in the thought of prayers being said near his tomb daily, which is surely something he would have approved of.
Requiescat in pace, King Richard. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen
If you would like to view more photos from reinterment week, and those of Leicester, please visit my flickr