King Richard III Reinterment - Aftermath
At the time of writing, King Richard III was re-interred in his tomb at the centre of Leicester Cathedral over a week ago. On one hand I am overjoyed that he now rests in a tomb fit for a king but on the other I feel somewhat at a loss now that it is all over. Fortunately I have a trip planned for May that includes another visit to Leicester to see the tomb and how everything has settled in. Figures are coming in showing there have been over 2000 visits to the Cathedral since the Reinterment which bodes well for the summer when holidaymakers make a concerted effort to visit the tomb of Richard. This final article is about my visit to see the tomb as a visitor not as a guest of the cathedral. I hesitate to say final visit because it won't be by any means the last visit. As Churchill said, this is not the end, this isn't even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning. And Richard takes his rightful place in history.
The Return of the King
Well not really, more the return of a dedicated follower of all things to do with King Richard III. This time I was not staying overnight so I had to navigate Leicester by car and find a multi story car park. I thought that I knew Leicester now but only as a pedestrian, it is definitely more nerve wracking on the road. I walked up the pedestrianised precinct after parking in the Swangate Mall. To my expectation the city has now moved on to other things and there was little sign of Richard in the streets. I walked on up the familiar path I had trod so many weeks before and reminisced as I went of the wonderful time I had had. The cathedral loomed large in my site as I approached and gone were all the barriers and security that were so prevalent last visit. I circled around the cathedral to the west and arrived at the south door. I then stepped inside....
The Sanctuary of the Cathedral
The quiet of the cathedral seemed so different to the hubbub of March where everyone was milling around and the seats were arranged for the masses and dignitaries alike. There was no lots of space and lots of places to walk. I was greeted by a very knowledgeable lady who encouraged me to follow a path to the right up the south aisle. I was unaware but she followed me up to where Richard lay at rest and stood where the Archbishop of Canterbury had overseen the reinterment. I had originally hoped to take a photo of myself to prove that I was there but I was unsure how this would be taken so I asked the lady. She was quite clear that 'selfies' were not allowed as it was deemed inappropriate and disrespectful. I am inclined to agree although I think the cat is rather out of the bag at this point.
The tomb is now widely photographed and there is little I can add to its description except for a few observations. It is somewhat surprising just how small the tomb itself is. I had recently visited Worcester and John's tomb is massive in comparison. The lady said that the powers that be had wished for a tomb that evoked the past and the present connections that Richard now has with the world: a tomb that is recognisable as a tomb but also one that is both modern and unmistakeable. This they have achieved.
My other observation is the beauty of the stone slab itself, I was able to get right up close and see the fossils present in the pale limestone tomb and the darker dolomite slab upon which it rests. I am a geologist by university degree and was fascinated by the sea life that is visible.
I have a friend on Twitter who is as mad about Richard as I am and she was quick to publish her material on that media. I was following and reading everything she had to say in her very authoritative way but something was not quite right. She had called the pall the 'paul'. Depending on your accent this would be a very natural mistake but when I pointed it out she was quite deflated for a moment but soon recovered and saw the funny side. "That's what happens when you tweet late at night and you are tired" she said.
The pall was made locally and it is exceptionally beautiful. Many comments were made at the time of the reinterment about how good a job was done and how fitting. I had never imagined that it would have its own case and be lodged in the cathedral not far from where the king lay. The location is in the north aisle and a fitting addition to the whole cathedral efforts to pay homage to the king.
Being a creature of habit I decided to end my most recent visit with a stop at the Globe ( I say most recent since I know it will not be the last) The Globe is a wonderful 18th century pub and a veritable rabbit warren of rooms. I selected the same table as my first visit and was delighted that the landlady remembered me. I had a lovely meal and a pint of Everards, not two because I was driving this time. I was also able to read my copy of the Leicester Mercury and reminisce about the events of the Spring.
Finally I headed back down to my car and out of the city, glad that I had finally completed the missing piece to my visit to King Richards new tomb.
OK so here now finally I can lay down my thoughts on what has taken place over the past few months. King Richard has gone from some bones buried in a car park to this figure of almost cult status. He has gone, for the general public, from an obscure medieval king renowned only for killing two children and dieing in a Shakespeare play without a horse. To a king who was good, trusted, brave and was no worse or better than his bedfellows, to a king who now lies in state in a beautiful cathedral surrounded by all the history through which he lived, to a king who can take his rightful place in history and finally to a king who, so far, can truly claim to be part of the modern world on film, on social media and in print.
I often think on this last point. It is true that many kings have been written about in online blogs, had themselves dissected on Wikipeadia or other such websites. But it is always describing what they did or who they were. Occasionally an artifact will be found, as in an undiscovered painting or a long lost ring. But the history of these kings remains in the past. Not so with Richard, his history is rooted in the past but his story, his legend will always include and finish with a 21st century climax. Richard, king of the social media age.
Finally a word on the location. There are many people who feel strongly that Richard should have gone home to York. I have tried hard not to get involved with this argument. There is a strong case that Richard himself wanted to be buried at York and the debate was healthy. But in the end when I hear the debates on social media my thoughts always return to the man. Better a tomb in the centre of Leicester Cathedral than six feet under the tyre of a car in a car park. Richard, no longer the car park king.