Dynasty, death and discovery

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Richard III

Richard III

“A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!” bellows King Richard in Shakespeare’s play, Richard III.  The scene brings to life the pivotal Battle of Bosworth that took place near Leicester on 22 August 1485. The conflict, and Richard’s death, not only signalled the end of his reign but also of the medieval period.  It also marked the beginning of the Tudor dynasty.  After the battle, the former king’s body was unceremoniously buried in the church choir of Grey Friars Monastery within the Roman walls of Leicester.

On Saturday 26th July 2014, the new King Richard III visitor centre opened in the former Alderman Newton’s School, located next to the very spot where the remains of Richard were found.  The centre is based on the theme of Dynasty (the story of how Richard controversially ascended the throne), his Death on the battlefield and, carrying on up to the first floor, the Discovery section which is all about the science and archaeology around the finding of Richard’s remains.  Exhibits here include a detailed facial reconstruction, a replica of Richard’s skeleton that clearly shows the curved spine and battle injuries plus a timeline of actors who have portrayed Richard on stage.

The centre will ask visitors to ‘make up their own minds’ about the last Plantagenet king and vilified ruler who was also the last monarch ever to be killed on the battlefield.

Before the official opening, I spoke to Richard Buckley, who heads up the archaeology team for the University of Leicester and is co-director of rescue archaeology.  He explained that Philipa Langley, of the Richard III Society, was the catalyst for the dig, the first ever to take place within the walls of Roman Leicester.   Though the location of the precinct of Grey Friars was known, it was a ‘hunch’ of Philipa’s that pointed them toward the Northern end of this precinct.

“Within an hour, we had found the burial site with the first trench crossing and exposing the leg bones”, said Richard.  Did all involved in the dig believe this might be Richard?  “It was fairly obvious when examining the skeleton, with its curvature of the spine plus battle trauma, that this was Richard.  DNA testing then verified the find.”

The tickets will be assigned two hour time slots and can be booked on www.kriii.com. Reserving a time slot in advance is recommended.

Adult tickets cost £7.95, and a child’s ticket (five to 15 years) is £4.95.  Family tickets (two adults and two children) cost £21.95.  Concessionary and groups of 15 or more rate is £7.00.

Opening hours: Monday to Friday: 10.00am – 4.00pm, Saturday, Sunday & Bank Holidays: 10.00am – 5.00pm.

King Richard III Visitor’s Centre, 4A St. Martin’s, Leicester, LE1 5DB

East Midland trains have regular daily departures from London St. Pancras, Derby, Lincoln, Nottingham and Sheffield to Leicester and Cross Country provides services from Birmingham, Cambridge and Stansted. there arec also some direct services from Leeds and York.


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