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A year of anniversaries


2016 has been the 1000th anniversary of Edund Ironside’s accession and death, also of the death of his father Ethelred Unraed and the double accession of Cnut of Denmark. It has also been the 950th anniverary of the battles of Stamford Bridge and Hastings, being the end of the House of Wessex after its interruption.
Four centuries ago, St. George’s Day to be exact, marks the death of Shakespeare and possibly his 1564 birth. Opinion is still divided as to whether, in Richard III’s case among others, he merely embroidered what passed for history during his lifetime or invented many of the significant events he wrote about. At least we can precisely date his death better than we can his birth and we can, ironically, rely on the flow of his plays relating accurately to the culture of his own time, such as Cordelia’s execution, which could not have happened in Richard’s own century.

In March, Helen Castor marked the anniversary on Channel Four by investigating the fate of the Bard’s own remains in this documentary. It transpires that, having been buried in Stratford’s Holy Trinity Church with his family and a forbidding epitaph(1), GPR investigations show that his skull is probably missing, just like Morton’s at Canterbury Cathedral. Richard, of course, was intact except for his feet. It seems that not everyone over the years heeded the curse:

(1) Good frend for Iesvs sake forbeare,
To digg the dvst encloased heare.
Bleste be Middle English the.svg man Middle English that.svg spares thes stones,
And cvrst be he Middle English that.svg moves my bones

After Richard, where’s Wolsey….?


Leicester has more than one ‘lost’ personage, although Richard III has to be the most important, of course. But Cardinal Wolsey has eluded discovery so far, as is revealed in a very interesting article from the Leicester Mercury of 20th April 2015.

Fascinating details about how Richard may have been lain to rest…..

Fascinating details about how Richard may have been lain to rest.....

This article brims with interesting information relating to the form Richard’s burial may have taken at Grey Friars, Leicester. It raises more questions in my mind, not least that Richard may indeed have originally been placed in a coffin, as in the accompanying illustration, but that if the grave was too small for him, it would certainly be too small for a coffin. Maybe they had to dispense with the coffin and try to get him into the grave as he was, time and so on not being on the side of enlarging the grave.

Someone else then suggested that the grave may have originally been intended for another person entirely, and thus was ready at the relevant time. This is a possibility, but who might be important enough to warrant burial near the altar? Who died at that time? Someone from an influential family. Local? Whoever it was, a small(ish) grave could be for a woman, a teenager, a slightly built man… Lighting on the right person would be a chance too far, I think. And if it was intended for a reburial, we’ll probably never know. Whoever he/she was, the grave went instead to the anointed King of England. (The only King of England, because Henry Tudor certainly wasn’t that yet, he was only the cowardly victor at Bosworth. To me that’s all he ever was.) If this possibility is true, I hope the original intended occupant of the grave still got a suitable resting place.

The decision, finally

So, Leicester it is. After all the furore, delay, money spent and suffering (if bones can suffer) of Richard himself, we are back where we started. If it were not for this judicial challenge, he would be buried now and at rest. But, Spring 2015 is when he is to be finally shown the honour, respect and consideration his rank is due. Then we, his supporters, will be able to go to Leicester and think our personal thoughts while we are actually within feet of him. No more seeing from afar on TV or in the press, we will be physically close. It is something to which I look forward. He’s been important to me for so long that I need to pay my personal respects. May everything go well from now on, and may the wounds of this disagreement between friends be over and done with. We’re not York or Leicester, we’re Richard’s supporters. Maybe we are laughed at sometimes, for adhering to a long-dead king, but we know what it feels like and what it means to us.
Loyaulte me lie.

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