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Discovering King Richard III

Sixth Form

11 February 2022

As soon as we stepped off the train, Leicester's allure pulled us in; from its defined Victorian architecture to the historical sites rooted in the city's landscape… Fareedat Kenyon shares her thoughts on a trip to visit the King Richard III centre.

An aspect of our A-level course is to learn about Richard III, one of the most famed monarchs in English history. Along with that fame, however, comes speculation and with that the reason behind our visit. The purpose of our trip was not to only bask ourselves in the aesthetic of the city, but to visit the King Richard III centre. It was here where Richard’s remains were found in a car park by Phillipa Langley with the help of The Richard III Society in 2012. The site has become a protected monument and has been described as ‘one of the most important sites [in the UK’s] national history’. 

In our A-level history classes all of us have become exceptionally entertained by the soap opera that is the War of the Roses. Richard III for example is a king who has confounded historians over centuries due to the speculation of his involvement with the ‘Princes in the Tower’ and how he came to the throne. The most notorious depiction of the King derived from Shakespeare's 1593 play Richard III where he named the King a ‘hunchback villain’. This portrayal of Richard was partly encouraged by the curvature of his spine, which today we call scoliosis. Medieval thoughts and perceptions surrounding physical disability were extremely narrow and limited but as keen A-level students, equipped with skills of analysis and our teacher Miss Glover, we were able to see that this villainous portrayal of the King was primarily fueled by Tudor propaganda. 

The centre itself was built on the site of the medieval friary of the Grey Friars where the king’s remains were buried over 500 years ago. Through 21st century design and technology, the previous school building was elevated to tell the story of Richard’s life and death. We were extremely lucky to have a seminar delivered to us by Rachel at the centre, which instead gave us a nuanced view and detailed insight into the historiography of Richard III. We learnt about Traditionalist and Revisionist historians as well as the Richard III society who work to preserve and promote a good reputation of the King. After the talk we were able to see where Richard’s body was found. A fitted light under a glass floor projects the exact positron where his body lay. We also visited the Guildhall, one of the oldest sites in the city, which is still in use! It was built in about 1390 and has the best-preserved timber frame hall in the country. Its first role was as a meeting place for the Guild Corpus Christi as well as public performance space where even Shakespeare may have acted. The medieval books are still intact and the hall homes one of the oldest public libraries in the country. We were shrouded in the medieval and it was amazing to be in such an interactive space where we could see appliances and the mode of life people lived so many years ago.

Whilst we did have an obligatory visit to the gift shop at the centre for assortments of Richard souvenirs we also left with an enriched insight into historical interpretations where no two are the alike. Opinion is like a flow of water; it changes and redirects its focus to discover new things.


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