Queen Street Quarter – Richard III
The year 1452 saw the birth of the would-be King Richard III of England, in Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire. Though royal blood coursed through his veins he was not born a Prince but cousin to a King; and with a curvature of the spine and the youngest of four brothers, Richard was an unlikely candidate to rule. However England was in turmoil, rife with plots, political manoeuvrings and desperate battles known today as the Wars of the Roses.
Amidst the chaos the unlikely Prince rose to become King Richard III of England, ruling for a mere two years before being brutally slain at the Battle of Bosworth, aged just 32. It would seem then, within the vast annals of history, Richard is but a fleeting footnote. However Richard’s infamy, galvanised by Shakespeare’s immortalisation of him as the archetypal villain, continues to provoke passion, intrigue and controversy to this day; a legacy that is seldom matched by that of other historical figures.
In 2012 on the 527th anniversary of Richard’s death, the Looking for Richard Project Team and the University of Leicester combined resources and against all the odds, found the lost King under an unassuming Council car park in the centre of Leicester.
Set ablaze was public interest in the ‘car-park king’, spreading not only throughout Leicester but across the globe. The media storm only crescendoed as televised, King Richard III’s remains journeyed from Bosworth Battlefield to Leicester Cathedral, alongside mounted escort on March 21st 2015. Tens of thousands from all over the world turned out to pay their respects the King, the coffin enrobed with an embellished pall (cloth), upon which a specially commissioned crown took centre place.
Then on 26th March 2015 Richard was forever entombed within Leicester Cathedral; the contemporary cross-incised tombstone a lasting monument for future generations.
The King Richard III Visitor Centre
Following the wake of Richard’s discovery, in response to overwhelming interest, the King Richard III Visitor Centre opened on 26th July 2014. Situated on the very spot where he lay lost for so long, over the Medieval Friary of the Grey Friars, the centre presents the story of Richard’s dynasty, death and discovery in an intellectually stimulating, yet fun and engaging exhibition.
The combination of audio-visuals, contemporary interpretive panels, touch screen displays, cutting edge 3D printing and the tranquil grave site, carefully preserved under super-strong glass, all serve to create a unique and holistic visitor experience.
To learn more about the Centre, its upcoming events, talks and activities visit the website at: www.kriii.com
King Richard III has undoubtedly provided a focus for Leicester’s heritage, casting new light on the city’s largely overlooked Medieval and Roman past. The multi-award winning Visitor Centre, though the subject of much media attention, is but a catalyst to a series of regeneration projects including Leicester Cathedral Gardens, pedestrianised walk-ways and Jubilee Square Gardens with more in the planning. It marks a promising start in the wider appreciation of Leicester’s rich culture, which everyone in the city can be a part of and have a hand in shaping.
By Matthew Titchiner: B.A. Hons Archaeology and Medieval History and Visitor Services Assistant at the King Richard III Visitor Centre. Connect with Matthew on LinkedIn