The week beginning Sunday, the 22nd March, 2015, was a week when King Richard III finally received the honour, dignity and recognition that had for centuries been denied him. The people of Leicestershire turned out in their thousands, to pay their respects.
The coffin was taken from the University of Leicester and, with its cortège, progressed to Bosworth, passing through the villages of Dadlington and Sutton Cheney. After a commemoration service at the battlefield, the cortège, retracing the king’s final journey, returned to Leicester Cathedral, where the coffin was to lie in repose, with a military guard of honour, until the service of reinterment. This time, King Richard’s return was marked by respect for a slain king, in contrast to the disrespect of August 1485.
Many thousand people viewed the coffin during the few days until the reinterment. At times the queues extended through the streets of the city, causing some people having to wait up to three hours before reaching the cathedral. Ricardians travelled from all over the world to attend this special event. Streets and buildings were decorated, with white roses everywhere.
On Thursday, the 26th March, the public’s attention and media coverage were focussed on Leicester, as King Richard was reinterred in the cathedral with pageantry, solemnity and honour. The service was one of great dignity and beauty, presided over by both the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of Leicester. The Royal Family was represented by H.R.H. the Countess of Wessex, the Society’s Patron H.R.H. the Duke of Gloucester, and H.R.H. the Duchess of Gloucester. Her Majesty the Queen sent a message which read, “The reinterment of King Richard III is an event of great national and international significance. Today we recognise a king who lived through turbulent times and whose Christian faith sustained him life and death.”
The congregation included representatives of all those associated with the finding and identification of King Richard’s remains, in particular, Philippa Langley and the Looking for Richard team, the Richard III Society and the University of Leicester. There were also descendants of those from both sides of the Wars of the Roses, and representatives of organisations in Leicester and Leicestershire, as well as members of the general public.
In his sermon, the Bishop of Leicester said, “People have come in their thousands from around the world to this place of honour, not to judge or condemn, but to stand humble and reverent. From car park to cathedral. Today we come to give this king, and these mortal remains, the dignity and honour denied them in death.” The Bishop also acknowledged the Richard III Society’s key rôle in promoting a reappraisal of the king’s posthumous reputation. The Archbishop of Canterbury then presided over the reinterment, and offered prayers, together with the Rev. Monsignor Thomas McGovern, Diocesan Administrator of the Catholic Diocese of Nottingham. King Richard’s coffin was carried to his tomb by a military bearer party, whilst a specially commissioned anthem, Ghostly Grace, was sung. Earth from Fotheringhay, Middleham and Bosworth was scattered over the coffin.
Following the reinterment, the actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, recited a poem specially written by the Poet Laureate, which included the lines :-
“ ..... or I once dreamed of this, your future breath in prayer for me,
lost long, forever found.”
This was an historic and very moving experience for all those present, and now, after five hundred and thirty years, an anointed king of England at last rests in peace, honour and dignity.
The Kings coffin lies in repose as thousands of people file through Leicester to pay their respects.
Dr John Ashdown-Hill commissioned a 15th century-style gold-plated crown in tribute to the late king with white roses and gems.
The Kings tomb finally revealed
King Richard finally honoured with respect and dignity.