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History

King Richard III brings extra visitors to Leicester on the first Bosworth anniversary since his reinterment

For years, August 22nd was the one time in the year when the focus really fell on Richard III. The last king of the House of York lost his throne and his life on that date when he lost the Battle of Bosworth to the first Tudor monarch, Henry VII. And for the long time when Richard’s burial place was lost, the end of his story was remembered on the anniversary of Bosworth. But all that has now changed.

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The tomb of Richard III – he died on August 22nd 1485 and this weekend sees the first anniversary of his death since he was reinterred at Leicester Cathedral

The reinterment of Richard’s remains in March this year, in a ceremony attended by the Countess of Wessex and the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, brought to an end a remarkable chapter in the king’s story which began in 2012 with the discovery of his body beneath a car park in Leicester city centre. Since then interest in the last of the Plantagenets has been huge and this weekend the ‘Richard Effect’ continues as another huge wave of visitors is expected in the city to mark the first anniversary of Bosworth since his reinterment.

At the site of the battle itself, just outside Leicester, a re-enactment of that tumultuous day of fighting is held every year and ticket sales for that are up 300% on the previous year. The new visitor centre there is also seeing a rise in numbers, up 28% since the discovery of the king’s body, with a spokesperson adding that “..interest in Richard, and the wider story told at the Battlefield Heritage Centre, continues to grow, with visitor numbers set to increase again in 2015.”

Richard Blunt who is cabinet member for museums at Leicester City Council underlined the difference the reburial of Richard III had made to the area. “The re-interment was a momentous event”, he said, adding ”it’s very clear from these really encouraging ticket sales that there remains a lot of interest in the story of the two kings which we tell in such dramatic fashion at Bosworth.”
That ongoing interest is also in evidence at the spot which is now the king’s final resting place. Millions around the world watched in March as Richard’s coffin was carried to into Leicester Cathedral to be reburied in a specially made tomb of Swaledale fossil stone. And the church has confirmed that visitors numbers since that historic day have risen ever higher. Before the discovery of the king’s remains they were around 30,000 a year but went up to 150,000 a year following the car park discovery. This year alone they have welcomed 165,000 people through their doors.

Head Verger, Peter Collett, said ”Numbers have increased recently due to the summer holidays and similar to those we saw during the Easter holidays.  We anticipate that visitor numbers will increase over the Battle of Bosworth anniversary weekend.”

A report earlier this year estimated that the rediscovery and reinterment of the remains of Richard III had generated around £60 million for the city of Leicester. And the city has worked hard to make sure its new visitors learn plenty about Richard III when they arrive to visit the place forever associated with his name.

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The memorial stone at the site of the Battle of Bosworth

At the Bosworth Heritage site, the re-enactment is just one element of commemorations of the king with the centre regularly laying on events including falconry flying, cannon fire demonstrations, living history camps, expert talks and jousting. This weekend will also see a rose laying ceremony to commemorate the soldiers on both sides who lost their lives in the battle that changed English history.

Meanwhile, at Leicester Cathedral the focus remains very much on the religious significance of the new resting place of the king. At his reinterment in March, his own Book of Hours – a type of prayer book used in medieval times – was used. At the heart of the display today is a modern interpretation of that made by local schools.

And while this king’s life may have ended in the muddy fields of Bosworth, five centuries on his final resting place is fit for a king. Peter Collett said ”Richard III’s coffin pall can be seen at Leicester Cathedral which includes embroidered figures such as a Greyfriar monk and Anne Neville – imagery familiar to Richard III.”

And those family links continue on the new burial site which has brought so many visitors to the city. Peter Collett added ”the tomb of Richard III…includes a carving of his motto and family crest in precious stones using an ancient technique called Pietra Dura.”

But it seems that for many in Leicester this first anniversary of Bosworth since the king’s reinterment is just the beginning with the Cathedral planning to unveil a new stained glass window next year telling the story of Richard III’s life. As the story of the last Plantagenet enters a new chapter, the city that became his final resting place is beginning a new phase all of its own.

Photo credit: Rambler77 and Andy Bullock via Flickr