Richard arrives at the Cathedral

Sunday 22nd March 2015

Richard III – the burial of the King – part 1

The king’s remains are brought to the Cathedral.

Trevor Locke reports on the transfer of the king’s remains from the University to the cathedral.

First edition, 23rd March

Today, the remains of the last Plantagenet king of England were brought to Leicester Cathedral in readiness for their re-burial on Thursday.


Crowds had gathered along the route of the funeral procession, not just in the Leicester but in the other places along the way:  Market Bosworth, Dadlington, Sutton Cheney, Newbold Vernon, Desford and Leicester Forest East. Some estimated that the crowds in the city were in excess of 35,000; more than double that number were present in the county along the route taken by the procession.

The hearse traveling through Leicester Forest East Photo by Kevin Gaughan
The hearse traveling through Leicester Forest East
Photo by Kevin Gaughan

It was bright afternoon, the sun shining down from a clear blue sky – which encouraged many people to turn out to view this historic moment in the life of the city and county.

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At the Clock Tower, a large screen was showing the live broadcast to masses of people who had assembled behind crash barriers that extended up to the top of the High Street and beyond.

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In Jubilee Square, another large screen was also broadcasting TV pictures to people who had assembled there.

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People choose all kinds of places to get a view of the procession as its passed.

Around St. Nicholas church people had filled every available position, long before the procession was due to arrive.


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The procession arrived at St. Nicholas Circle, led by the Mayors of Leicester and The Bishop of Leicester The Right Reverend Tim Stevens.

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Various other representatives of the city followed.

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In their red regalia, were the Guild of Freemen of the city.

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A band of Dhol drummers reflected the multi-cultural nature of today’s event.

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A large party of school children was carrying banners and flags that they had made.

The coffin was taken into St. Nicholas church, where a service was conducted.

The coffin was transferred to a horse-drawn gun carriage for the next leg of its journey around the city.

Overhead, helicopters hovered, high in the sky, their rumble troubling the otherwise fairly quiet scene below.

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In the ground outside the south entrance to Leicester Cathedral, the media was setting up a large number of camera points. Media from 19 countries were here to cover the event.

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Priests dressed in a variety of coloured vestments were getting ready for the service and officials scurried around attending to last-minute details.

An air of restless anticipation pervaded the grounds as people awaited the arrival of the king’s cortege.

As I was writing up my notes, a film crew from Channel 4 arrived in front of me. Philippa Langley, from the Richard III society was interviewed by news presenter Krishnan Guru-Murphie.

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Philippa Langley was the driving-force behind the search for the remains of the king which result in the discovery of the bones in a car park in 2012.

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Diocesan Press Officer Liz Hudson was busy organising the large corps of media representatives, talking on her radio and doing a great job keep the vast media machine rolling forward smoothly. Much of the work of organising this internationally televised event required minute attention to detail.

The slow-moving procession wound its way through the streets of the city before finally arriving outside the south gate of the Cathedral.


A single bell began to chime from the tower of the Cathedral. The procession arrived in Peacock Lane, two soldiers in full medieval armour leading the procession on horseback; they rode into the grounds and took up position in front of the south porch.

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Various dignitaries took up their positions and the University of Leicester handed over the remains of the king to the Anglican Bishop of Leicester. Richard Buckley, the Project Director of the Richard III dig at the University of Leicester, formally handed the legal document transferring the custodianship of the remains to the Bishop of the Leicester and his diocesan colleagues.

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The coffin has been brought from St. Nicholas church by a horse-drawn gun carriage. The procession of was led by two horsemen dressed in 14th century armour, representing the pageantry of the occasion.

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The gun carriage, pulled by four horses, stopped outside the gate.  Along the processional route, many members of the public had thrown white roses on to it, as it passed them by.

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The coffin was brought into the grounds and taken into the Cathedral. The plain casket was made from English oak by Michael Ibsen,  a cabinet-maker from Canada and one of the descendents of the King, whose mDNA helped to prove the authenticity of the bones.

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Inside the Cathedral many people had gathered, representing a wide cross-section of the many faiths of Leicester and its various communities. After almost 523 years the last remains of Richard III were brought to the Church of St. Martin, which was standing at the time he was buried in the chancel of Greyfriars Monastery.  After his death at the Battle of Bosworth, in 1485,  Richard was given a hasty burial in a small grave, where he remained until 2012 when a team of Archaeologists from Leicester University discovered his bones, underneath a car park in the nearby buildings of the social services department.KR3 March 22 for magazine 23

The gun carriage was pulled by four horses.

Although he reigned for only two years, Richard III’s time as king of England was marked by unrest and conflict between opposing factions. The Tudor dynasty, whose king – Henry – vilified the deceased monarch.  Shakespeare (the favoured playwright of Elizabeth I) was instrumental in creating the myth that surrounded Richard, through his play Richard III.

The coffin of the king will be buried in a specially constructed tomb on Thursday 26th March.

See also:

Our feature article that gives the background to the life and times of Richard III

Our article that gives information about the various places that the procession went to or passed by

News and information about the reinterment events