The final journey: Richard III’s reburial procession

Over 500 years after his death, and nearly three years after the discovery of his remains under a Leicester car park, King Richard III is finally set to get the funeral that he deserves, as his reburial procession got underway in Leicester today. Richard III’s remains made the journey from the site of the Battle of Bosworth to Leicester Cathedral, which is to be the Plantagenet ruler’s final resting place.

King Richard III will be buried at Leicester Cathedral this Thursday.

King Richard III will be buried at Leicester Cathedral this Thursday.

King Richard’s body has made this journey before, but under vastly different circumstances. The last time Richard travelled to Leicester from Bosworth, it was as a fallen King. Defeated in battle, he had been stripped of his armour by the rival army, and his lifeless body had been thrown onto the back of a horse and paraded through the village. As Richard’s head lolled lifelessly, it knocked against rocks and stones on the ground – truly, a gruesome end for the last Plantagenet King.

This time, however, efforts are being made to ensure that the much maligned King gets the funeral procession that he truly deserves. His remains were placed in a lead-lined, English oak coffin, packed into position with wool and linen and covered with a linen cloth, embroidered with King Richard’s symbols – a white rose and a white boar. The remains were then transported to Leicester by a horse-drawn hearse, escorted by knights on horseback. Hundreds of people lined the streets to celebrate the former King’s reinterment, while bishops and priests prayed over the Royal bones. After a service of compline with a sermon from Archbishop Vincent Nichols, they will lie in Leicester Cathedral and be guarded day and night.

Until this morning, King Richard’s coffin lay at the University of Leicester. In the morning, a special ceremony was conducted, led by the University’s chancellor. Archaeologists, academics, researchers and King Richard’s descendants laid white roses on the Monarch’s coffin, before it departed for Leicester Cathedral.

King Richard's remains were discovered under a car park in Leicester.

King Richard’s remains were discovered under a car park in Leicester.

After leaving the University of Leicester at noon, the hearse made a stop at Fenn Lane, thought to have been the place where the actual battle took place. Bits of broken horse harness, artillery shot and weaponry were found in the marshy land, leading historians to believe that King Richard lost his horse and his life at that very spot, bringing about the end of the Plantagenet dynasty and the advent of the Tudors.

The procession next halted at the Bosworth Heritage Centre, which is where Richard’s army set up camp on the eve of the fateful battle. It passed through Sutton Cheney, where The King heard his final mass, and through Dadlington, which is where the soldiers who lost their lives in the battle were buried.

The Mayor, Peter Soulsby, met the coffin at Bow Bridge, the edge of the medieval city boundary. “It was from Leicester in 1485 that Richard rode out to battle and it was to Leicester that he returned, defeated, slung ignominiously across the back of a horse,” he said. “It’s now our opportunity to put it right and to make sure this time that it’s done with dignity and honour.”

The coffin will remain in Leicester Cathedral until the final reinterment on Thursday, which will be attended by members of the Royal Family, including The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester and The Countess of Wessex. The public will be able to view the coffin from Monday to Wednesday, and a number of events will take place across Leicester for the rest of the week, to mark the reinterment.

King Richard III was an English King from the House of York. After the death of his older brother, King Edward IV, in 1483, Richard seized the throne from his twelve year-old nephew, and locked the boy in the Tower of London along with his younger brother, ten year-old Prince Richard. The two boys were eventually found missing, and it was believed that Richard had killed them to remove any obstacles to the throne.

Richard himself was killed in 1485, in the Battle of Bosworth, by three blows to the head. He was defeated by the Lancastrian claimant Henry Tudor, who went on to rule as King Henry VII. After his death, Richard was hastily buried at Greyfriars Church, where it remained until the priory’s dissolution in 1538. In 2012, King Richard’s remains were discovered underneath a car park in Leicester, and after years of examination, will be buried on Thursday, the 26th of March.

Why not read all of Royal Central’s previous posts about King Richard here?

Photo credit: University of Leicester via photopin cc and lisby1 via photopin cc