My recent journey through England was again partly on the footsteps of Richard III, like two years ago. Today is the anniversary of  King Richard's death in battle at Bosworth , 22nd August 1485,  and I think it is the perfect occasion to share with you some facts and pictures from the interesting sites I visited in July.


This time last year (25 August 2012) work began on the excavation of the Greyfriars car park and the remains of King Richard III were finally rediscovered. Screenwriter Philippa Langley inaugurated the search for the king's lost grave as part of her research into the real Richard for a screenplay. 
The University of Leicester and Leicester City Council, with the support of the Richard III Society, excavated the site. During the course of the excavation, the skeleton of an adult male was discovered after just a few days. Surprisingly,  the first human remains found were proved to be, beyond all reasonable doubt, those of King Richard III through radiocarbon dating and DNA tests.
The car park where King Richard was found

I had been following the search for King Richard step by step and was so moved while watching the documentary film about the whole process that I had to go there and see the place with my own eyes. And I went. On a hot, sunny July afternoon, my friends and I were in Leicester to see the car park (you couldn't see much of the excavation site, actually) and the church (there's a memorial stone in it). They are preparing a Richard III permanent exhibition centre in town, yet to be opened, but  at present they are battling at court with the city of York to keep the remains of the King and becoming his resting place. Who will win the final battle is yet to be seen. What I hope is that, at last,  King Richard may rest in peace and have the proper burial place for a great king. Possibly next to his Queen Anne. 


Ludlow Castle
The castle was probably founded by Walter de Lacy in the late 11th century and it belonged to Richard III's father, the Duke of York,  later in the 15th century. So he probably spent his early years there. Sharon Kay Penman's beautiful fictional biography of Richard III, The Sunne in Splendour,  opens at Ludlow in September 1459 when he is simply Dickon, a child, afraid of darkness.

Under the ownership of Richard, Duke of York, the castle was a major base in the Wars of the Roses. It was taken by the Lancastrians in 1459, but was back in York hands in 1461. Ludlow,  afterwards,  became a royal palace. In 1472 Edward IV sent his son the Prince of Wales and his brother (later the ‘Princes in the Tower’ of Shakespeare fame), to live at Ludlow Castle, which was also the seat of Government for Wales and the Border Counties. When Edward died in April 1483, Richard, his brother,  was named as protector of the realm for Edward's son and successor, the 12-year-old Edward V. 

As the new king travelled to London
Ludlow Castle
from Ludlow, Richard met him and escorted him to the capital, where he was lodged in the Tower of London. Edward V's brother later joined him there.

I loved the atmosphere in Ludlow Castle. Those remains tell visitors much about the past greatness and help them figure out the schemes of power, the plots and dangers of the life back then, at Richard III's time.


While Ludlow Castle  is a partly ruined medieval building, keeping is ancient charm intact, Warwick Castle is an impressive complex, which has been transformed in a huge, stunning theme park "with epic adventures for all the family."

We had fun and stayed there all day though both my friends and I definitely prefer the appeal of quiet,  ruined abbeys and castles, surrounded by green meadows,  to a crowded present-day tourist attraction.  It was great anyway, we loved visiting the castle and even enjoyed ourselves. 

Warwick Castle

Jousting knights - Warwick
We visited the towers and the  Chapel, Great Hall and the State Rooms. There were wax reproductions of scenes prior the battle of Barnet , in which the Earl of Warwick fought against his own cousins -  Edward and Richard -  was defeated and killed. We watched stuntmen explaining children how to sword-fight, we admired jousting knights, and last but not least, we had a laugh being involved in a lesson in a Victorian class, given by a hilarious actress parodizing  a Victorian teacher. Richard Neville, the Earl of Warwick,  was Richard III's beloved cousin before he decided to leave King Edward IV's side and support first his brother George of Clarence,  then the Lancanstrian King, Henry VI. 

Richard had been trained as a warrior in the Earl of Warwick's house in the North, Middleham Castle. 
The Castle of Warwick belonged to Neville until his death; then to George Duke of Clarence, who had married his daughter, Isabelle; finally, after his death to their son, Edward,  who was only 3 at the time, so the castle was actually in custody by the crown. 

The Bear and Clarence Towers were built around that period as stair turrets of a large tower. They had been begun by Richard III,  but left unfinished.

So Richard III must have been there on several different occasions,  before and after Warwick's death. By the way, I met him!

Richard III - Wax reproduction at Warwick Castle

Tewkesbury Abbey
After Edward IV  and his brother Richard defeated Neville at Barnet, with him dead,  they eliminated the remaining Lancastrian resistance at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471. 

This is the place where the York brothers defeated and killed the Lancastrian heir and where Richard may have met Anne Neville again as the wife of his enemy. Anne had in fact joined her husband, the Prince of Wales, and Margaret of Anjou in their desperate final attack to the House of York. 

Historical fiction writers usually imagine her hopeless and alone on the battlefield being saved by Richard,  who must have appeared to her as a real knight in his shining armour. 

At Tewksbury we visited the remarkably beautiful abbey where, among others,  George of Clarence and Isabel Neville were buried.

Gloucester Cathedral

We also visited Gloucester - in the same county as Tewkesbury , Gloucestershire - with its beautiful cathedral. In all the county the legacy of Richard III and the York brothers is still alive. 


Anonymous said...

What a wonderful trip! Thank you so much for posting those photos. If we could not be there, it was the next best thing. :)


Sophia Rose said...

I enjoyed your fun travelogue. Thanks for sharing!

Traxy said...

You seem to have been to all the places I want to visit! Getting jealous now. ;)

Did you visit the free R3 exhibition in Leicester's Guildhall?

Servetus said...

Wow -- what a trip!