Richard III: The Return of the King

Before starting the reburial of Richard III project, I had pretty defined views on the medieval king of England. I’m convinced that he wasn’t a particularly good guy. In fact he was pretty darn bad!

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With that in mind, I couldn’t figure out why he has such a loyal modern following. He wasn’t particularly liked during his reign so why is he revered today?

But perhaps the strongest belief I had was that he definitely should not be buried in Leicester, the city nearest his death. Surely Westminster. Or York – his home town – but not Leicester!

So going into the re-internment ceremony on Sunday (22nd March) I thought “fair enough – he’s an old monarch of this country. No matter how good or bad he might have been, Richard III should be buried without judgement and with dignity” and so early on Sunday we begun. My job that day was to go to Fenn Lane Farm on the exact spot he was cut down by Henry Tudor’s men and report from there.

It was meant to be a quite intimate ceremony in which a small party would collect soil from the site and on Thursday scatter it into his coffin.

I thought maybe a small group of say 30-70 people would turn up. Tops!

By the time we tried to leave an hour later there must have been 100 people around us. Then his coffin left the site to begin its journey in a hearse to the cathedral in Leicester. The country roads were packed! I couldn’t believe it. By the time we got to our production office next to the cathedral, Richard was quite some way away. I got myself a coffee and started watching the coverage coming in from the cameras dotted around the city and the helicopter and sat, stunned as the streets begun to fill. We anticipated maybe a couple of thousand people would stumble upon the cort├Ęge and hang about to watch it. But by the time the coffin came past there were tens of thousands of people out to see the king buried in their city!

I was amazed! They weren’t just Sunday dog walkers – there were people with banners for the old king, kids with faces made up, flags flying high and proud. By the time the coffin got to the cathedral it was littered with white roses thrown in by the people of Leicester.

The whole event was brilliant. Better than anyone had dared hope. There was a lovely atmosphere on the streets and it suddenly dawned on me that in fact this was more than just the burial of a king. It was something for the people of Leicester to own, to be proud of, and to look back on. Something to remember.

When they bury him on Thursday (26th March) it’ll close this chapter of his history and Leicester’s but what a brilliant ending.

It finally all made sense to me, good king or bad is irrelevant. That was 500 years ago, what matters is that the people of Leicester today can hold onto this and enjoy it.