Sunday, 17 March 2019

Richard III

Okay, so I know this is primarily a bookish blog but a memory trigger today got me thinking about a trip I made a few years ago that meant a great deal to me. So I made a blog post about it.

It was March 22nd 2015, a Sunday afternoon. I was watching Channel 4. Richard III's coffin was being driven from Bosworth Field to Leicester Cathedral. I had followed the story of the king in the car park avidly so this was essential viewing. While I was watching I received a text message from a friend, also watching, who has a similar interest in history. The message read, 'Do you fancy driving up to Leicester to see the coffin?' I didn't hesitate. 'You bet.' was my reply.

So at some ungodly hour on March 25th we set off for Leicester. We arrived just before 8.00 in the morning and we parked at the first opportunity in this unknown city. Too early to get our bearings or ask anyone. It was a shopping mall car park. Practically deserted at this hour.  We descended in the lift.  A young girl was waiting to go up in as we left so we asked her if we were anywhere near the cathedral. She looked horrified and told us, 'No, it was quite a way away.'

This wasn't what we wanted to hear so we wandered around at ground level and stood bewildered in the street needing to make a decision. One of us, and I think it was me, spotted a grand ecclesiastical looking building far down a lone avenue. Something about the road looked familiar from the TV programme. So we started towards it. With each step we became increasingly less confident that this was the right direction. We saw some people standing by a bus stop.  We asked if we were heading the right way for the cathedral. They just shrugged or shook their heads. A  lady walking in the opposite direction to us clearly heard the word 'cathedral' for she enquired if that was where we were headed. When we said yes she agreed to take us! She explained that she was only popping out for a coffee and it was no real problem to show us the way. We learned that she worked in the visitor centre but because all the activity of the last few days she taken the day off as she was exhausted. She bombarded us with information on our walk which was fascinating. She been witness to the progress of the excavation of the bones and had seen Phillipa Langley. 

Because of a fall I'd had previously in the week, as a precautionary measure I'd taken a walking stick with me. One reason was because I wasn't sure how long I could manage to stand before we could get in to see the coffin. The news had suggested that the queues were 3 or 4 hours long. So I asked our guide, who we learned was called Kath, if the queues had quietened down at all and she said no, quite the opposite, they had got longer and longer. My heart sank but she smiled and said. 'There is some provision for disabled people, let's go and ask.' Okay, I'm not disabled. I did feel bad. It seemed like false pretences. But my intuition said just go along with it. So we continued to follow her .

We passed numerous personnel in high visibility jackets, some of them seemed to know Kath. She asked one where disabled people should go. She was told there was provision round by the Chapter House. We went on none the wiser but Kath clearly knew exactly where that was and confidently led us forward.

We rounded the corner past, some grey stone buildings we'd been walking alongside for some several metres and saw the cathedral and the green and the outbuildings and the crowd snaking their way back through the cobbled streets and alleyways of Leicester. Kath approached one of the official, uniformed guides and asked again where disabled people should go and the guide said, 'Just go straight in!' 

So we went in the cathedral door and stood right next to  the coffin of King Richard III.

The time on the photo was recorded as 8:49 on March 25th. We'd barely been in Leicester an hour and we'd seen the coffin! Rather than drive straight back south again we decided to visit Bosworth Field. It all felt so right. As if that's what we 
had been destined to do. The next day I watched the funeral on TV. And I made a thank you card and sent it to Kath c/o The Richard III Visitors Centre, Leicester. 

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