Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Leicester and Richard III

On the top of my list of visits during my stay in England, was a trip to Leicester. The city has often been in the news during recents years, due to the discovery of the remains of Richard III. It is indeed a great story, and it has been very interesting to follow the developments through books, news and studies (England in the time of Richard III with Future Learn).

So, one sunny morning I took the train from St Pancras to Leicester. About two hours later I reached the city in quite an exciting mood. I had done a little bit of research in advance so I knew more or less where to go. Once you exit the railway station, you don't have to worry. There are signs to the most popular places and it was no problem at all to find the area. I had a nice walk through an almost empty Leicester, at least in comparison to London. Just to be sure, I passed by the tourist office and got some more information.

I had booked my ticket on-line, not risking to ending up queuing. However, there was no problem to get in. The first room, which was beautifully done, like a room or hall way in a castle, showed a film on the stone walls, with actors playing the roles of Richard III and people in his surroundings. The next room contained the story of his life, with paintings, photos, text etc and music playing in the background. Continuing to the top floor, there was an exhibition on the whole story of how the grave was found, information on the digging, identification process and other scientific data. It was very interesting and pedagogically made. Leaving this room and heading downstairs again, I thought the tour was over. But...to my surprise, reaching the inner yard, there was a new small building, made of granite, containing the area where they actually found his remains. The grave was placed under a glass floor, with a glass tower on the side. Really beautiful. I did not expect this, so a real bonus. Furthermore, the lady guarding the room, had taken the same course through Future Learn as me!

Having looked through the museum, I took lunch at the restaurant in the inner yard. Lovely to be able to sit outside and enjoy a jacket potato in the sunshine.

When you only have one day to have a look at everything, there is no time to lean back and be lazy. Finishing my lunch, I ventured out of the museum with my purchases, a book and some small items, and headed towards the church. It was not yet opened to the public, so I took the opportunity to walk around the quarter and visit the old Guildhall. A wonderful building, built about 1390, as a meeting place for a group of powerful businessmen and gentry, The Guild of Corpus Christi. Today it is a museum and is also used for various venues.

Opposite the yard from the hall there are some Victorian police cells. I noticed that some people pushed a button when looking inside the cells. Of course I did the same and almost had a heart attack. When the light goes on you see a person inside. The figures were so well done, and looked almost real. They are two notorious pick-pockets during the Victorian times, 'Crankie Gemmie' and 'Emma Smith'.
Emma Smith

Once again outside I headed for the cathedral which is just next door. The way around the church was lined with information signs, referring to Richard III, but also making a religious connection. It was really very nicely done. All of a sudden I entered the middle space and there was the tomb of Richard III. I think I was lucky, that there were not that many people, so I could get a good look. The tomb has been designed by architects van Heningen and Haward. The light part is a Swaledale fossil stone, from North Yorkshire and the darker plinth is made from Kilkenny marble. There are simple inscription on the sides. I must admit that it was really touching, and I stayed on for some time.

Continuing the way around, I arrived to a glass box containing the cloth that was made specifically for the reinterment. A beautiful piece of art.

I continued around Leicester to visit the old gates and the bridge which Richard III took on his way to the battlefield. Surrounded by a beautiful park it is a pleasant area to stroll.

Nearby is Leicester castle which Henry III gave to his younger son, Prince Edmund, after the defeat and death of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, at Evesham in 1265. Its heyday during the reigns of the later Plantagenet and Lancastrian kings. It was Prince John of Gaunt’s fortress during the mid 1300’s and here Geoffrey Chaucer was married to his second wife, Philippa de Roet. After the Yorkist triumph making Edward IV king in 1461, the castle declined.

The rather modest Leicester castle

Next to the castle is the St Mary de Castro church. Today historians can only assume or speculate about Richard IIIs visits to this church. But, what we see today is what he would have seen if he did. He visited the castle in 1484 and would probably have attended Mass in the castle chapel, as well as on earlier visits.

Well, that was it and I decided to give my tired feet a rest, and went to find somewhere to eat. Believe it or not, but what I did find was Restaurant Bruxelles! A place with character, and sign of former glory, and, of course it included a figure of Tin Tin. If the food was Belgian? Hmmm. After a long day, I slowly wandered through the city main street, down to the station. A quiet trip back to London and early in bed! I had seen so much and such incredible things. A very good day!

If you are interested, here are my earlier reviews on the Richard III theme:

The Search for Richard III - The King's Grave by Philippa Langley and Michael Jones
Richard III and the Princes in the Tower by A.J. Pollard


  1. Hello Lisbeth. I came across your blog when researching Leicester for my own blog.
    I was looking for info on Crankie Gemmie and Emma Smith. Do you mind if I include a link in my blog to yours as I do like your photos -especially the one of Emma and those of the tomb of Richard III? Annie

    1. Dear Annie,
      Sorry about the late reply. May has been very busy, and I just saw your comment now! Please feel free to link to my blog post, I am honoured.
      Just had a quick look at your blog, and it looks really interesting. I love history and old building. Your photos are great. I will read more in detail about your trips.