Magazine of the Gloucester Branch of The Richard III SOCIETY
I postponed issuing News & Views in March to give members opportunity to comment on the re-interment of King Richard’s remains and I have received some excellent contributions. I have a few outstanding items in abeyance so apologies to members who hoped they would see their efforts in print this time – they will hopefully appear in the next issue.
I will start with Keith’s visits to the Gloucester Festival in March.
Richard III Festival 2015, Gloucester : Saturday 14th March, 2015 - by Keith Stenner
Sadly, this year, I was only able to attend the Festival on one day but arrived to find a number of Gloucester Branch members in attendance . It was also good to see Lynda Pidgeon there.
“Tis but a scratch”, the reality of 15th century Warfare : Bob Woosnam-Savage
The first talk for the day featured Bob Woosnam-Savage who presented an excellent overview of weapons, armour and tactics employed during the late 15th century. In case any audience members were under any illusions about the brutality of engaging in conflict, Bob also had some very explicit modern photographs of the consequences of a sharp weapon injury to head and body – not viewing for the squeamish ! Bob, of course, is from the Royal Armouries, Leeds , and a real expert on the subject. He was also involved in the detailed research into the injuries sustained by Richard at Bosworth and part of the talk focused on the horrific and cynical blows which resulted in his death.
Richard III’s Heir – The Dublin King : John Ashdown-Hill
John’s amazing and prolific book output continues and John’s talk offered the opportunity to promote his latest publication. We are all familiar with John’s ability to look beyond the accepted versions of events and “givens” in history and this book is another opportunity to revisit long “received “ material with a fresh and penetrating resolve. Lambert Simnel has long been assumed to be a complete impostor but John presents new evidence and suggestions which demand the circumstances be assessed anew – was he really Richard Duke of York ? John carefully builds a compelling case for this intriguing mystery to be given new and more in-depth consideration. Needless to say I was quickly in the queue to get my signed copy of the book.
Shakespeare and the Remains of Richard III : Professor Philip Schwyzer
Branch members are painfully aware of my aversion to anything fictional about history. My initial intention was to “duck” this talk but I relented and decided to go along. It was an excellent decision. With my usual prejudicial approach I was expecting an analysis of Richard III’s character as seen through the pages of the Bard’s theatrical foray. I was completely wrong. Professor Schwyzer outlined an impressive array of sources from which, he suggested, Shakespeare lifted information to include in the play. Many related to personal anecdotes about Richard handed down to contemporaries who either passed them verbally or through retained notes. In some cases it was just possible the respective authors had discussed the information direct with people who had known Richard III. Most of the material discussed was completely new to me and provided some real possible insights into what we know about Richard. The talk was followed by another book signing session and, once again, I was quick to get my copy. I will asking Professor Schwyzer to speak to the Branch during the next programme.
Sunday 22nd March 12 midday. Arrive hotel in good time, – it’s close to Shenton and very impressive. Unload bike, pack maps, itinerary and spare sandwich and head off towards Bosworth. Only one and half miles to Shenton, a doddle. Pleased to see the signs “road closures ahead due to special event” and feeling quite smug about my cunning bicycle plan.
12.30 These Leicester miles seem long, though terrain mercifully flat. Overtaken by many fellow cyclists, some of whom are dressed like me in ordinary clothes and are riding sit up and beg bikes, also like me. Shenton is delightful and stopped to take a picture of some enterprising children who had set up a stall outside their house selling ‘vittles’ to passing trade.
12.45 Approaching Shenton station find first Security detachment controlling the lanes. Cortege not due here till about 3.30? Conflicting info on times of Cortege but route pretty unequivocal. There’s such a lovely atmosphere, the excitement and camaraderie quite palpable. Hordes of professional cyclists now flying past.
1.00 Shenton Station – helpful security man disentangles my brake cables and now I can fly! Instead sit down with cup of tea and bacon sarnie at the café while I think of how to kill a couple of hours. Shall I head for Dadlington, is it too late? Decide to cycle towards Market Bosworth, phew, this is still hard work. Winter idleness taking its toll.
1.45 Verges filling up with picknickers. Stopped on upward stretch to view the Battlefield on the skyline, much traffic to-ing and fro-ing. Speak to lady passing by, she has a marvellous, precise route map – “ooh where did you get that…I looked everywhere on line”, “I live locally and we had one put through the door”, she replied. Warned me that Market Bosworth full to capacity. Cyclists still hurtling past in both directions. Sure there was a fish on the last one. Feel as though I’m not quite with the programme. Small planes, helicopters, microlites and all manner of things criss crossing the sky. Make sure I wave madly at them all. Wish I was up there.
Mickie taking a breather just outside Market Bosworth with a view of the Battlefield behind.
2.30. Approached MB and familiar security barriers. Friendly would be Ricardian Security lady warned me that the village was dangerously full but lots going on, if I could get into the park where there was to be a short ceremony for Richard, then I should! 15 minutes later after failing to get into the crowds never mind past them (in the Square) decided to abandon all hope and left. Quite a carnival atmosphere though and most gratifying to see the bunting everywhere.
Crowds lining the route at Market Bosworth
3.00. Somewhere on the road back from MB to Shenton , wide deserted grass verge, set up camp. Speak to a few more passing pedestrians, one couple had walked miles along the route and reported the wonderful presentation at Dadlington earlier. Furious with myself for not going there- this wasn’t on my itinerary plan, I had trawled thru masses of stuff on the internet, no mention of Knights on Horses and such like.
Never mind, I shall be seeing plenty tomorrow, just enjoy the moment on the most glorious of days.
3.30 Feeling a bit lonely and bored with waving at planes. Friend texts me that the Cortege has just left Battlefield Centre – not long now. Strain to see any movement across the fields but get the old mobile on to video camera ( not holding out any hopes) and ready to film. Headlights appear coming up the road towards me, police motorcyclists. Get a little frisson of excitement, long gap – there’s more coming! A cavalcade of police motorbikes leading 3 shiny black hearses. By now I’m worrying more about the wretched videoing of the thing than appreciating it, but can’t stop. Real Gulp moment as hearse with coffin draws alongside – wanted to shout ‘slow down’ but lump in my throat stopped me and he was gone.
4.15 Back at hotel, weary but glad to be there. Had a mad idea to follow the cortege into Leicester – in the car of course – but put TV coverage on instead. Wow, what a gloriously hectic and exciting atmosphere in the city. Who would ever have imagined this? Glad to be watching it on TV and try to spot any friends. No way. Looking forward to being there – after all, tomorrow is another day.
There was no doubt that the reinternment week was going to be special. Press coverage was extensive, and I had witnessed the level of acclaim and respect Richard had at last achieved as I pedalled wearily along a small section of the Cortege route. Those who weren’t there must have watched the televised incredible reception the Cortege received as it returned to Leicester Cathedral on Sunday night. Monday March 23rd was a dull, grey day but Leicester was buzzing. I arrived at about 2pm, the Society Buffet was at 4.30 so I took some time out to seek for familiar faces amongst the throngs and queues! St Martins House I spotted and old friend from the past – Suzanne Doolan no less! We had much to catch up on, Mary Friend from Worcester R111 came over, followed later by Judith Sealey and Ann Allen, also fellow Worcesterians ( clever contraction?). It seemed that everyone was a ‘Ricardian’ in Leicester that day, that week even. I was amazed by the amount of volunteers manning stalls, stands, information points, security posts- many of whom had come some distance to be part of the celebration. The Society Buffet was, as a meeting, mingling point for Ricardians, absolutely perfect. I sat next to two American Ricardians – the Kalbfleisch family from Maryland, reassuring to be reminded how universal the cause is! I believe that the Buffets served over 400 people that day, too many people, too little time! Managed a quick chat with Lynda Pidgeon and old Bristolian member Richard ……..? A brief hello to Peggy and Roger Martin, longer chats to old chums from North Mercia Branch led by Marion Moulton. The Service was due to begin at 7.30, I turned up at the early time of 6.30 to find yet another ubiquitous queue, moving very slowly into the Cathedral.
Last of the queue entering the Cathedral.
Now I just cannot stand for long so opted to sit on a bench and take in the beauty of the Cathedral front with its R111 ‘son’ ( no lumiere). Judith and Ann’s husbands came up and we had a delightful chat while waiting, consequently I was last in to Cathedral and no seats left, standing room only! Rather ironic I thought. So, managed to find a space on the steps of the North Door, along with fellow Worcestarian David Cox. Cold and hard it may have been but the Cathedral, the ambience, the ‘Coffin’, the magnificence and splendour of the Clergy, the sheer spirituality of it all was beyond words. I hadn’t expected to feel like this and was so utterly privileged to be there.
A view of the coffin inside the Cathedral
The readings from Contemporary Sources was a complete joy, delivered by worthy Ricardians Rita Diefenhardt-Schmidt, John Saunders, Don Jennings, Ken Hillier and Philippa Langley. Chairman Phil Stone and Sally Henshaw gave readings from the Gospel according to John and A Reflection on King Richard 111’s Prayer – poignant and pertinent. Wendy Moorhen read a lengthy and thought provoking passage from the first Letter of Paul to the Corinthians The whole service with its familiar and comforting hymns, the old responses, the warmth of the mini sermons by the Bishop and the Dean was such a unique experience, I am running out of words. I can only echo the gratitude and admiration for all the work done by so few, (we know who you are) which will be remembered by so many. A very special atmosphere indeed.
Reinterment of King Richard 111 – Peggy Martin
Following our successful application in the ballot for the Society Service. we decided to go to Leicester for the service but not to stay on for the other events. We thought that it would be better to visit the tomb at a later date when it would be quieter. However in the event we did travel up on the Sunday to visit some other places not connected with the Richardian events, namely the New Walk Museum and Art Gallery to see the Picasso ceramics and the Arts and Crafts Gallery dedicated mainly to Ernest Gimson the architect and designer who was a member of a prominent Leicester family but moved to Sapperton in Gloucestershire to work with the Barnsley brothers. He and a group of craftsmen and artists were responsible for designing and furnishing places such as Rodmarton and Owlpen. We also visited a cottage called Stoneywell just outside Leicester in Charnwood Forest, which Ernest designed for the Gimson family as their holiday home. It is now owned by the NT and is well worth a visit if you are interested in the Arts and Craft Movement. I have to say that it was a pleasant contrast to the crowded streets of Leicester. On the Sunday we visited some places on the Richardian trail. The Magazine Gate and the Newarke. Taking the tour of Trinity House Chapel and the remains of the Church of the Annunciation. The basement arches of the church were well displayed in the De Montfort University building which had been recently opened to display aspects of the development and teaching of skills for industry and art and craft in Leicester. Unfortunately the Church of St Mary de Castro was not open. We were disappointed as we had visited it on a previous time in Leicester and found it very interesting. It is well worth a visit though the castle is not. However the 15th century gateway is picturesque. With time to spare we wandered into the centre of town. It was very crowded around the cathedral waiting for the cortege so we moved off and found a quiet street on the route of the cortege and decided to wait to see it pass. By the time the cortege was due it was now longer quiet but thronged with people spilling into the road. We had a good view as it passed with some people throwing white roses onto the coffin but alas we found it disconcertingly disappointing. I felt no emotion at all. In fact the atmosphere and the procession lacked the ceremony that I expected. Apparently I was not the only one to feel this way. A couple, who stayed at the same B&B, went to the service at Bosworth in the morning. The wife found the service moving but the husband thought it was just play acting. On the Monday we sallied forth again and among the places we visited was the Guild Hall where there were some small interesting displays. We were not sure whether we would be able to view the coffin at the service so we decided to queue to see the lying in repose. Luckily we joined the queue at the right time so we did not have so long to wait but again we were disappointed. I was expecting the people to file slowly and sombrely past the coffin, but we were allowed to stop and take photographs and move around. This was good in one way but robbed the occasion of all dignity. In the end we did stop to take photos as well. Although I was uncomfortable to do this, there was no point in desisting as you could not stop quietly for reflection. I asked if there was somewhere to light a candle and leave a prayer but there was nowhere.
So to the Society service: Luckily we had a reasonable view from our seats and could see most of the participants . For all the services during the week the liturgy was carefully chosen for its appropriateness to reflect the different emphasis of each service. Unsurprisingly the themes of the sermons emphasised the differences between earthly and heavenly power, the hope and trust in the mercy of God for forgiveness and redemption through Jesus Christ and the need for reconciliation and reflection over dispute and retaliation. Part of the Society service included member’s reading from contemporary sources in praise of Richard. I thought all of the services were thoughtful and well conceived. I particularly liked the service of Compline and Cardinal Vincent Nichols’s sermon and the poem by Carol Ann Duffy at the reinterment . I also picked up on the internet a presumably illegal video of the reveal service which included a dance performance based on conflict and reconciliation which I thought added little to the proceedings. You can visit www.kingrichardinleicester.com Service of Reveal live to see this. Also on this website you can download the Service of Reinterment with a commentary on the liturgy and the text of the sermon. You can download the text of Cardinal Nichols’s sermon on www.indcatholicnews.com and on www.catholicherald.co.uk you can down load his homily given at the Requiem Mass. Apparently at this requiem the cardinal wore a chasuble once worn by the Benedictine monks of Westminster Abbey during the reign of Richard 111.
The chasuble worn by the cardinal which was once worn by Benedictine monks at Westminster Abbey
Since the discovery of the remains of Richard’s body I have followed the media coverage sometimes with irritation and disbelief. I have supported the forensic investigations and found the results fascinating. These have sometimes been misinterpreted in the media to create more sensational headlines. I found the commercial exploitation of the discovery of Richard in Leicester uncomfortable and sometimes ludicrous. We will go back to Leicester to see the tomb when the crowds have dispersed. There were many people in Leicester for the reburial with a serious intent to honour Richard but there was also an element of celebrity culture so prevalent these days. Richard was a man of contradictions whose reputation will no doubt continue to be open to debate. Through his faith he trusted God to be his final judge, as we all must do.
I will leave you with these lines from the poem “Ulysses” by Tennyson. You may find them appropriate for Richard. We are not now that strength which in the old days Moved heaven and earth; that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and, but strong in will To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. Footnote. Much was made of the prayer Richard used from his Book of Hours. I would recommend reading Anne Sutton & Livia Visser – Fuchs book The Hours of Richard 111 for a better understanding of it’s content.
Having arranged to go and stay with my sister in Bedfordshire for a few days in April, I was amazed when she suggested we should visit Leicester (she’s not a Ricardian you understand!). I jumped at the chance so off we went on 14th April by train via Peterborough. We decided to go straight to the Cathedral just in case we ran out of time, which was just as well as when we arrived we found a notice that the Cathedral would be shut that afternoon for an event in aid of the Leicester Tigers (Rugby League team I think!). We didn’t experience the crowds that Peggy and Mickie did so were able to take our time – and lots of photos – although I have to thank my sister for most of them as my camera started playing up! I agree with Peggy, I was surprised at the lack of solemnity and the ease with which we could wander round and take photos but I did feel the relaxed attitude made the Cathedral warm and welcoming, reassuring me that this was a fitting place for Richard’s last resting place.
The first thing we looked at was a Book of Hours compiled by Leicester school children.
The tomb is every bit as plain as I had anticipated – austere is the word that springs to mind - in a chapel, near to the altar but easily accessible.
The tomb itself
The pall used to cover the coffin before it’s re-interment was also on display separately together with an embroidered cushion and John Ashdown-Hill’s crown. The pall is made of black velvet with sewn figures – on one side featuring medieval figures and on the other present day people associated with the discovery of Richard’s remains. The cushion is also beautifully made.
The following is just a selection of the photos I have received of the pall. It was very well lit when we visited so, unfortunately, this meant a lot of reflections on the glass.
Two photos of the pall taken at the Society’s service taken by Peggy
Photos courtesy of Hazel Hammond
After lunch we went to the Guildhall which in itself is very interesting but as we were a bit pushed for time, apart from the visitor centre shop, we decided against actually going into the visitor centre – that can wait for another time. Certainly we felt that Leicester is worth another visit.
Of course, the city is obviously cashing in on the re-burial. The gift shop in the cathedral had some fairly tasteful items but I wasn’t terribly enamoured with those in the visitor centre. Several things we noticed in the city amused us though: the aptly named “White Rose Café” next to the Cathedral advertised “The King’s Batons (baguettes)” and “The Prince’s Panini (toasted)”. We also saw a pub in the town called “The Last Plantagenet” and the pub next to the station offers a beer named “1485 – The Return of the King”.
N.B. Peggy has let me have a copy of the order of service for the Society’s Service, which I will bring to the next meeting and can take copies of anyone would like one.