The beginning of Richard III’s funeral procession starts today — an event that signifies the final chapter of a 500 year long story. His cortege is conveying his remains to Leicester Cathedral where they will be on display, effectively “lie in state” for the next four days. Richard’s burial is next Thursday.
In keeping with medieval tradition, the funeral procession is weaving through multiple stops.
In fact, if you are reading this right now (at 12:10 PM EST) you might be able to hear live radio coverage on BBC 4. (I think I only get the link from the US if I connect to the BBC website using a VPN to the UK.) It is also difficult finding links with live video feed for this event.
Richard’s reburial is truly a unique event because no medieval kings has been found 500 years later and then reburied in a televised world-event type way. Has a medieval king’s discovery (or, possibly, burial) ever trended on Twitter before? Even though Richard only reigned for a couple of years, he has a tremendous worldwide following. From the sounds of it on the live radio feed, there is a feeling of community today in Leicester. Perhaps, this is a day for modern-day Ricardians and Tudor followers to reunite.
Richard, a possible historic inspiration for Tyrion Lannister, was famously found under a parking lot in August 2012. The Princes in the Tower, whose disappearance is infamously attributed to Richard III, is a repeated motif in Game of Thrones and ASOIAF.
Here is the Richard III burial page on BBC’s website.
As this historic event transpires, I will continue to update this post with more information and more resources.
Press refresh your browser (F5) to see updates.
Richard III’s hearse is drawing away from Bow Bridge. The ornate bridge, with its cast iron parapet, was built in 1862.
Here is an image that is perhaps closer to how the bridge might have looked in Richard’s day:
The funeral procession’s next port of call is Saint Nicholas Church, an ancient church that would have been there when Richard rode to the fateful battle. The pallbearers are removing the coffin from the hearse and just about to walk into the entrance of the church gates. St. Nicholas Church is the oldest church in Leicester. Some parts of the church date back to 880 CE (AD). Some form of it would have been standing when Richard was alive. The church is now Anglican.
The choir is singing, perhaps somewhat ironically, “Thou Knowest the Secrets of Our Hearts” by Henry Purcell. The minister is now leading the congregation in prayers. They just finished the Prayer for Repose. The coffin is being sensed (?) as a sign of respect for the departed. The congregation has now risen and the coffin is making its way out of the church. The choir is signing “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” I believe.
“Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence” is an ancient sacramental chant that dates back to at least 275 CE (AD). It was originally a Greek chant, but when a Victorian schoolmaster set it to a French folk song’s tune, it became popular again.
The horse-drawn cortege is beginning to leave the church. The carriage is drawn by four horses where it is going to Leicester Cathedral, where the body will rest “in state” for four days. At the Cathedral service tonight at 6 PM there will be representatives from the Richard III Society, the University of Leicester, and Richard III’s (indirect) descendants. Here is an example of how the horses might have looked if Richard III had been buried in a state funeral during the Middle Ages:
The cortege is carrying Richard’s remains through the ancient city of Leicester, escorted by what sounds like four magnificent horses in addition to those drawing the carriage and motorcycle outriders. Representatives from the City of London police are also walking in this procession. The crowd is quite thick: arms stretch over heads to snap photos, and people toss white flowers, including white roses and white carnations, at the cortege. This is because the symbol of House of York was the white rose.
This evening (UK) there will be a service at Leicester Cathedral before Richard’s remains lie in state.
The announcers are saying that this event has gotten off to a slow start and there weren’t that many people until suddenly about 20 minutes ago. Some people, however, have been there since 6 AM and people have flown in from around the world. The announcer is also commenting that Leicester is an appropriate burial place for Richard since it is gritty which (perhaps) befits his controversial reputation. She also noted that people don’t care what Richard was like; they are just pleased to have him here in Leicester. And, Richard III is right in front of her.
Ladies are in black livery. They are followed by two more black horses, chomping at the bit, a solemn looking lady with a black crop, and Richard is right there. A pink rose was just dropped on the floor. The procession is walking at a steady pace, following the king. The crowd is following. The mood is of content and excitement in Leicester.
The cortege is just about to arrive at Leicester Cathedral. The announcer is noting that the light is perfect; it is almost twilight. The cortege is almost at the spot where Richard was hastily buried over 500 years ago. The coffin has arrived almost to the entrance at the Cathedral. The university will then relinquish responsibility for Richard to the church.
The international transmission rights will end in roughly six minutes I believe. BBC radio does not have international transmission rights after 6 PM UK time.
The Cathedral bells are tolling.
The university representative is handing over the documents, which granted the university license to exhume Richard, to the church.
The crowd pays rapt attention. The air is of quiet solemnity but also expectant. The assistant bishop is accompanying the representatives into Leicester Cathedral. There are four members of the nobility present — two from the York side and two from the Lancasterian (?) side. The theme of the services this week will be reconciliation. The coffin is being lifted gently off the carriage and onto the shoulders of the six coffin bearers.
The crowd has spontaneously broken out in applause. It isn’t raucous but applause of appreciation is how the announcer puts it. The coffin has now gone through the south door, accompanied by the Duke of Gloucester and
The Service of Compline is about to begin. A pall and ancient bible will be placed on the coffin. Compline is the final service of the day (in the medieval canonical hours). It seems that this carefully planned event has used symbols in a way in keeping with medieval culture. Richard’s remains entered the Cathedral of his final resting place at twilight, an appropriate symbol for his last journey, and at compline, as the last service of the day.
From the sounds of it, Richard III’s funeral cortege today had designated mourners in its procession. In the Middle Ages, designated mourners or attendants — that is, mourners who walked in the procession — often included the poor who were given new clothes, a black robe, and held a candle. (When the wealthy died, it was customary for them to remember the poor. The day of the funeral the poor were also often given small amounts of money, food, and drink.) In some funeral processions, such as that of Elizabeth of York, the number of attendants carrying candles equaled the number of years the person lived. And, some late medieval tombs would even included stone statues of mourners on them.
During the last few years of Richard’s life, he experienced great personal tragedy. His ten-year old son Edward of Middleham died in April 1484, less than a year after he became king. His wife Anne Neville quickly followed, dying of tuberculosis in March 1485. Five months later Richard himself would be riding through Leicester on his way to Bosworth field where he met his death.
This ends our coverage of Richard’s funeral procession. Sadly, the BBC did not obtain the rights to broadcast the funeral procession internationally past 6 PM UK time.
Links to Richard III Articles at History Behind Game of Thrones