© Richard III Society - Leicestershire Branch
Richard III Society
Leicestershire Branch

The Re-interment Story - Re-interment

Laid to rest with dignity and honour

After Richard’s discovery and identification the huge task of planning for his re-interment had to be undertaken. Leicester Cathedral was being re-furbished at the same time, so there was a lot to be considered. A number of groups were set up to address different aspects of the work to be done. Members of the Leicestershire branch representing the Richard III Society were on the Fabrics Group, Liturgy Group, Interpretation and Education Group, Events Group, Communications Group and Fundraising Group. Discussions also continued with the cathedral with regard to the banners that we were having made by Flagmakers. In 2013 a group of collateral descendants of Richard III calling themselves the ‘Plantagenet Alliance’ commenced judicial review proceedings. They claimed that as they had not been consulted on Richard’s place of burial the Ministry of Justice had violated their human rights. It was their wish that Richard should be re-interred in York Minster rather than Leicester Cathedral. Plans put on hold Leicester’s plans for the re-internment had to be put on hold until May of 2014 when three High Court judges ruled in favour of the Ministry of Justice. Rt Rev Tim Stevens, the Bishop of Leicester then announced that the re-interment would take place in Leicester Cathedral in the spring of 2015. On Friday August 22nd 2014, 529 years after Richard’s death, two banners were presented to Leicester Cathedral at the Evensong Service. Both were presented by the Leicestershire branch of the Society. One of the banners depicts the Arms of England and the other shows Richard’s own White Boar emblem. They now stand sentinel beside Richard’s tomb and are used during the anniversary of the re-interment services and also on the anniversary of Richard’s death. In the six months prior to the re-interment, Leicester Cathedral underwent an internal re-ordering to create an appropopriate space to accommodate Richard's tomb. Meanwhile, the tombstone itself was carved from a block of Swaledale fossil stone from Yorkshire. Inscribed with a cross, it now faces towards the Cathedral’s magnificent east window depicting Christ the King coming in victory at the last.   Crafting the king’s coffin Richard’s descendent Michael Ibsen, who played a key role in the DNA analysis of the king's mortal remains, is a cabinet maker and was given the task of crafting the king’s coffin and the ornamental box used to store soils from the three most important sites in Richard’s life: Fotheringhay where he was born, Middleham and Fenn Lane, the site where archaeologists now believe Richard was struck down in battle. The carving for King Richard’s coffin was done by Anna Taylor. Richard’s re-interment finally took place on March 26th 2015. The world watched as Richard was finally laid to rest with the honour and dignity so cruelly denied him in 1485. The whole week of the re- interment was quite extraordinary as people from all over the world converged on Leicester. On Sunday March 22nd Richard was coffined at Leicester University as the first step of a procession which took the king’s remains back to the Bosworth battlefield and then re-traced his final journey into Leicester. Philippa Langley, who was at the forefront of the search for the body of the king, laid a white rose of York on the coffin. After a short service of dedication, the coffin left on its 13 mile journey retracing King Richard’s final journey from Leicester to the site of the Battle of Bosworth. Accompanying the coffin on its
journey were lead archaeologist Dr Richard Buckley OBE and Canon Stephen Foster, chaplain to the university. Sunday began with a dawn vigil at Fenn Lane Farm. Near here, King Richard, fighting on foot, suffered the fatal wounds which brought to an end the Plantagenet dynasty. The king’s mortal remains were returned to the site for the first, private ceremony of the day. The Rev Hilary Surridge, accompanied by the Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens, conducted a short service. Rose petals scattered The cortège then passed through the battlefield villages of Dadlington and Sutton Cheney where the crowds came out in large numbers to pay their respects. In Dadlington, rose petals were scattered in memory of those unnamed soldiers who fought and died in the battle. The service was led by the Rev Linda Blay. On the eve of the battle a number of Richard’s soldiers camped near to St James’ Church and the adjacent manor house in Sutton Cheney. Before risking their lives, they may well have gone to seek absolution on that Sunday night. St James’ holds an annual memorial service for the fallen on the anniversary of the battle, attended by members of the Richard III Society. The service on this memorial Sunday morning was led by the Rev Julia Hargreaves. At the battlefield, Army cadets drew the coffin on a bier to the crest of Ambion Hill for a service that remembered all those who fell at the Battle of Bosworth. The king’s mortal remains were given a 21 gun salute, fired by replicas of the artillery pieces that were on the field of battle 500 years ago. The cortège then moved on to Market Bosworth, which has been associated with the battle since the 15th century. People thronged the Market Square to catch a glimpse of the passing cortège. Thousands lined the route Estimates put the crowd lining the procession route at 30,000. King Richard’s remains were greeted at the Leicester city boundary on Bow Bridge by 200 school children with their banners and Leicester’s City Major Sir Peter Soulsby. The coffin made a short stop in St Nicholas’ Church, the oldest in the city and one that King Richard would have passed close by as he led his army to Bosworth in August 1485. Transferred to a horse-drawn gun carriage and accompanied by a mounted honour guard, the coffin made its way solemnly through the city centre to its final resting place in Leicester Cathedral, where a service of Compline was held on the Sunday evening. On Monday a buffet lunch had been arranged for Society members at the Holiday Inn and, in the evening, there was a special service at Leicester Cathedral just for the Richard III Society. This service had been arranged by Father Alan Hawker, a local branch member. Thousands of people queued to file past Richard’s coffin, covered with Jacqui Binns’ beautiful pall on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The actual re-interment service on the Thursday was televised worldwide and also shown on large screens around Leicester, enabling people who had not been lucky enough to get a seat in the cathedral to see the service and also to soak up the atmosphere. On Friday there was a service of Reveal when the tomb was shown to the world for the first time. Throughout the week the Society had an Hospitality Room in the Guildhall where members of the Society could drop in and have a coffee and a piece of cake and chat to other members from around the globe. Local branch members were on hand every day and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with old friends and to make some new ones.