last updated on: 14th Oct 2013
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Find out more about the dig and discovery at the University of Leicester site
Richard III and Leicester Cathedral
Leicester Cathedral has been the site of King Richard’s memorial since 1980. A large memorial stone (pictured above) is inscribed “Richard III King of England killed at Bosworth Field 22nd August 1485 Buried in the Church of the Grey Friars in this Parish.”
This is a great honour for the Cathedral, for the City and the Diocese of Leicester, because only one memorial stone is permitted for each monarch. Naturally the Cathedral is the focus for the much of the commemoration of this the last Plantagenet king. There are many visitors to the memorial each year, some of whom leave flowers, and the King Richard III society lay a wreath in his memory.
The memorial stone
The current memorial is not the first to have been proposed, or even to have existed. One of the reasons for siting the memorial inside Leicester Cathedral is that it replaced an earlier memorial laid in the parish by Henry VII. Plans for a memorial inside the Cathedral began at least as early as 1965. A statue to have been mounted next to St Dunstan’s chapel was designed in 1973 but rejected partly due to high costs. A successful appeal was launched in 1976, and the current memorial was designed and carved by eminent British artist David Kindersley, whose work is also at the V&A museum, the Museum of Modern Art (New York) and numerous private collections.
The memorial to King Richard III was dedicated on the 497th anniversary of his death, and thirty years later we hope that the mystery of the whereabouts of Richard’s remains has at last been solved.
Grey Friars Friary
Robert Heyrick (Herrick) has a memorial in St Katherine’s Chapel (North East part of the Cathedral). Robert Heyrick was elected as one of the town’s two Members of Parliament in 1568, Mayor of the town in 1584, 1593 and 1605. He lived with his wife Elizabeth Manby, in a house on the site of the dissolved Grey Friars Friary opposite St. Martin’s Church. It was in this house that the tomb of Richard lll lay and is recorded by Christopher Wren in 1612 who saw the pillar covering the grave with an inscription ‘Here lies the body of Richard lll, sometime king of England’.
It has been a long journey and considerable research that is bringing him back to another place of honour and safety. King Richard lll will be interred with respect and honour, in the Christian belief of the resurrection.
Richard IIl: A king and a man
Richard III died at the Battle of Bosworth on 22 August 1485. There are accounts of his dead, bound and naked body being brought into Leicester and displayed publicly. Evidence confirms that his body was humiliated yet not destroyed so that it could be established properly that the King was dead. Despite his high status and being anointed as King, he was defeated and was returned to the dust of the earth. In this way he resembles most human beings who try to do their best even in the worst of times.
The Christian faith celebrated in this Cathedral proclaims that all may receive hope and forgiveness and that love transforms us all.
‘pray for kings and all those in authority’: The Bible, 1 Timothy 2:2
King Richard III called a parliament which passed acts for the benefit of the people. He brought reform to how land trustees behaved, reformulated the requirements of court officials to behave with impunity, abolished benevolence taxes and protected the European book trade, enabling education to be pursued.
The Yorkists’ army led by Richard at Bosworth Field outnumbered that of Henry Tudor. Yet the King was defeated and the War of the Roses concluded. Henry VII then came to the throne beginning the Tudor dynasty. Within less than 50 years the monasteries were dissolved. Politics and the church were reformulated.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II visited the Cathedral in 2012 at the beginning of her Diamond Jubilee. Over those 60 years our community has changed. Mosques, Gurdwaras, Synagogues and Temples now also enrich the skyline. The Lord Lieutenant representing the Monarch and the Mayor as first citizen along with the County Chairman regularly come to this Cathedral.
Civic, political and community leaders renew their commitments to the ‘common good’ in a changing world.Here we remember that power is exercised in accountability to each other and to God.
‘in your dwelling you keep them safe’: The Bible, Psalm 31:20
Stories have suggested that the body of Richard III was dismembered and thrown into the River Soar by Bow Bridge. The recent dig has proven that Richard III was in fact buried in haste in the choir of the Greyfriars Friary, in a place of honour and safety. The Friary sits in the parish of St Martin Leicester. Both are commemorated in St Katharine’s Chapel (North East corner of the Cathedral).
Richard III will be re-interred in this Cathedral accompanied by the prayers of the church. As a devout person of faith, he trusted that God’s love would triumph over evil and suffering. This offers us a sense of peace that is beyond understanding whilst much seems uncertain.
Our Cathedral doors are open each day to welcome whoever may come in. Those who have been broken by the unkindness, injustice or violence of the world seek peace here. Often these people teach us most about what it is to be truly human. We learn from them how our Cathedral and city can be real places of sanctuary.
Richard III events in Leicester
To see what's on in Leicester visit the 'Visit Leicester' website. The temporary exhibition at the Guildhall is open until 2014 and, next door, the Cathedral is open all day for visitors who wish to see the memorial stone and Richard III portrait. Our shop 'Christian Resources' and the White Rose Cafe are open in St Martins House selling a range of Richard III souvenirs and serving sandwiches, drinks and snacks.