Richard III Funeral Procession Begins Today: Live Now (Live Updates)

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Richard III reportedly had blonde hair, at least in childhood, and blue eyes. His eye color appears to be lost in some portraits in which his eyes appear to be dark.

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.

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Richard III trending on Twitter. What medieval king has ever done that before?

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.

***LIVE UPDATES****

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.

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Bow Bridge in Leicester where Richard III’s funeral cortege passed earlier today. Image: Stephen Richard, Creative Commons.

Here is an image that is perhaps closer to how the bridge might have looked in Richard’s day:

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Bow Bridge in 1791. Image: John Throsby, The History and Antiquities of the Ancient Town of Leicester 1791.

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.

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St. Nicholas Church Image: Creative Commons.

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.

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Richard III has even permeated popular culture. Here Tyrion (Peter Dinklage) poses fidgeting with his rings in a manner reminiscent of Richard III’s portrait. Image of Tyrion copyright HBO.

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:

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Elizabeth I’s state funeral. You can just see the bier carrying her body in the background. From Wikipedia: “Horse-drawn bier flanked, as in modern times, by Gentlemen-pensioners carrying their axes ‘reversed’. The coffin has an effigy of the late Queen on top of it, and is flanked by knights holding banners and a canopy.”

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.

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Leicester Cathedral. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

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.

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Richard III

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.

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Another example of a medieval funeral, that of Richard II of England, who died 85 years before Richard III.

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.

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Richard III with his wife (Anne Neville) and his son, Edward of Middleham.

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

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For fun, I photoshopped this version of Tyrion’s portrait to place the portrait of the Princes in the Tower in his hands. I think it is an apt symbol.

Richard III, Theon

The Lost Princes and Tyrion’s Escape from the Tower

Tyrion, Bran, Joffrey, and the Princes in the Tower

The Princes in the Tower & the Murder of the Lannister Nephews

 

Richard III Burial Resources

Viewer’s Guide at The Telegraph

A discussion of the tomb design

Preparations in Leicester

Richard III General

Opening stone coffin

Richard’s facial reconstruction

Richard’s blonde hair – model changed

What did Richard III sound like?

Richard III deserves a state funeral like Margaret Thatcher

Richard III’s DNA

Jamie Adair is the editor of History Behind Game of Thrones, a website about the history behind George RR Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" novels and the hit TV show, "Game of Thrones."

19 Comments

  • Reply March 22, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    I haven’t been able to watch this because I went out today with a monthly luncheon group I belong to. It will probably be on iplayer for a time however. Is the Bow Bridge mentioned in your article the one in East London? I worked in Bow for about 9 years and lived there for two. I read a history book (factual) about Bow and the surrounding area before it became urbanised – it contained a picture of a haycart going over Bow Bridge (whether it’s the same bridge as now I am uncertain) and you would hardly believe it was the same place as the modern built-up area. The disappearing English countryside is a sore point with me because there are the first few of 600 houses going up a little way down the road from me on previously open country as I type. People have to live somewhere but when there is derelict land that could be reclaimed…but I’m getting off topic.

    Does Richard III have direct descendants Jaime? I thought his son died young…but then he could have had children or a child by mistresses or a mistress, I guess. Here am I living in Olde England and you (in the States) and Olga (in Australia) seem to be as knowledgeable if not more about Richard III.

  • Reply March 22, 2015

    Jamie Adair

    I believe it is the Bow Bridge in Leicester. (Sadly, argh, I couldn’t see it. But they were in Leicester when they mentioned going by it.) I’ll add a sketch to the article above. However, your story is very evocative. I could picture the haycart as your wrote.

    Ah, that’s so funny you picked up on the direct descendants. Lol. I will have to change that. I was writing quickly and fumbling for the write term. (I think they said “descendant” on the radio, but it is his sister’s ancestors I believe.) To the best of our knowledge, Richard III does not have any direct descendants. His son died. He did have eight (?) bastards I believe, but I’m not sure what became of their descendants (if any).

    • Reply March 23, 2015

      timetravellingbunny

      Wait, where does the idea about eight bastards come from?! According to all sources, he had two acknowledged bastards, probably fathered in his teen years – John of Gloucester and Katherine Plantagenet (who were old enough by 1483 to be knighted/appointed as Captain of Calais and to be married, respectively). There’s a story about some old guy called Richard who supposedly claimed in the 16th century that he was Richard III’s bastard son, but that’s all. I don’t think there are any other rumoured bastards of Richard’s.

      • Reply March 23, 2015

        Jamie Adair

        Re: the bastards
        I’ve read eight before, but I don’t remember the source off hand. A quick search in Google Books… This book says “at least seven” https://books.google.com/books?id=uwSfO-SbbfoC&pg=PA79&dq=Richard+III+bastards&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Ud4QVaDoFcKYNpjXgsAF&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Richard%20III%20bastards&f=false
        Admittedly this is *not* a great source, but it is late over here. 🙂
        This book says he *acknowledged* three bastards (which doesn’t mean eg didn’t have others): https://books.google.com/books?id=PEc7AwAAQBAJ&pg=PT168&dq=Richard+III+bastards&hl=en&sa=X&ei=Ud4QVaDoFcKYNpjXgsAF&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=Richard%20III%20bastards&f=false

        • Reply March 24, 2015

          timetravellingbunny

          The first book appears to be a work of historical fiction, so it can’t be used as a source. No other source ever mentions more than two or three – John and Katherine were the two definitely acknowledged, and there’s an unconfirmed story that he acknowledged a third one, Richard, on the evening before the battle of Bosworth.

          • March 24, 2015

            Jamie Adair

            Lol. Those are fighting words. 🙂 So, saying “no other source” is a pretty bold statement. Have you read every single book ever written about the Wars of the Roses or Richard III? I haven’t and I have roughly a hundred books on both subjects in my living room. You can’t even say every single _primary_ source because there are the chroniclers and then there are things like court records, parliamentary rolls, private letters, and so on. It would be very difficult for anyone, even somebody like Michael Hicks I’d think, to have read every single item in existence, even though there aren’t that many that survived. That implies that you would have personally evaluated every one of those court documents where his name is mentioned, etc. So, I’m not trying to be snarky, but you are calling me on the carpet.

            While I pulled that number out of my memory, I didn’t make it up. Arguably, I shouldn’t have said it without supporting it, but these are comments, not an article. When I cited the first “source,” I only glanced at the page in Google Books. But, it does indicate that perhaps this isn’t a coincidence and I didn’t merely conjure this number up out of thin air. Again, I’m not trying to be snarky, but you are making some pretty strong statements.

          • March 24, 2015

            Jamie Adair

            Also, note that I did put a question mark beside the eight bastards. (However, now I’m stubbornly maintaining I read it somewhere. 🙂 ) It is possible that I’m imagining it, but I doubt it because I remember the context – just not the source yet.

            Whether or not somebody chose to acknowledge a bastard could be due to a variety of reasons, including knowing the bastard existed, believing the mother, not wanting to support more bastards, etc. Henry I acknowledged 20 or more bastards, which is exceptional, and he used them as part of his overall political strategy (e.g., he found them partners that helped him, was moderately concerned about their welfare, etc.)

        • Reply March 24, 2015

          timetravellingbunny

          Thanks for the link to the second one, it has more info on the third bastard, Richard, apparently born in 1469 and died in 1550. So, just like the other wo, born before Richard’s marriage. I wonder why it took him so long to acknowledge that one? If the story is true. So, it’s 100% confirmed he had two, and maybe a third one as well.

          • March 24, 2015

            Jamie Adair

            So, I’m looking through a few books…
            Michael Hicks Richard III and Charles Ross both mention 2 acknowledged bastards.
            Dan Jones mentions a third in his footnotes in his new Wars of the Roses book. Specifically he writes that Richard’s bastards were Sir John of Pontefract, Katherine Plantagenet, and possibly Richard Plantagenet b. around 1469 and who died in December 1550 having lived his life in London as an anonymous bricklayer. According to Dan Jones, the eighteenth-century antiquarian Francis Peck recorded a family legend he’d heard about Richard Plantagenet — apparently Richard P. was presented to Richard III the night before the Battle of Bosworth. As Jones notes, the story is unprovable.
            Now it is bothering me where I read this though so I will take a look through a few more books.

          • April 10, 2015

            timetravellingbunny

            Did I read every book out there?! That’s a pretty odd question to ask?! By that logic, nobody in the world could ever say anything about anything from history until they’ve read every single book in the world. Obviously, what I was saying is that there is no known primary source for the idea of RIII having more than 2 or 3 bastards – or else, I think logic says at least some of the many modern historical sources available – whether it’s those who hate RIII or those who like him or those in between, or just simple databases – would mention it. What are the chances that there is some primary source that nobody in the world knows of except one or two authors of historical fiction?

            Anyway, I think I may have learned where the number of eight (?) bastards may have come from – I don’t know for sure, but someone on Tumblr who has a historical blog mentioned recently that Alison Weir claims in one of her books that Richard III had seven bastards and that three were fathered during his marriage, but gives no source and no evidence for it. Weir is also apparently notorious for 1) not giving the sources and references for many of her claims, 2) making claims and assumptions without explanation, such as “character X was thinking/intending this and this….” as if she has a direct connection to the historical figures’ minds, 3) having an extreme and obvious hate-on for Richard III. I don’t know if this is all true since I haven’t read any of her books, but the quotes from them I’ve read and some articles where she talked about her “historical discoveries” really made me go WTF and seem to confirm what people say. (Case in point: there was one article where she excitedly said she had just found new evidence of RIII’s guilt for the murder of the Princes in the Tower, and that, as it turns out, was the fact that he went to some cathedral while visiting a town and donated a lot to it, which apparently shows he must have murdered his nephews and felt guilty about it. Seriously.)

            According to the people on that historical blog, Weir also, claims that Richard III was ugly (ha, we’ve seen the facial reconstruction in the meantime, she’s wrong) and that his scoliosis must have made him bad in bed (LMAO) so nobody would have wanted him, but then she also claims he had 7 bastards. Geez, at least keep your slander consistent! LOL

  • Reply March 23, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    For the avoidance of doubt, I didn’t mention “descendants” to be a smarty-pants. So he got around a bit did Richard – if he had eight “bar sinister” children I would imagine the law of averages would dictate that at least SOME of them would have descendants alive now, though would those descendants be aware of their ancestry? I guess it would depend how “noble” their families were. I judge people by their characters rather than their rank but I am interested in history and records – at least in Medieval and Tudor times – seem to have been largely (though not exclusively) kept by the nobility or those who worked for the nobility so it is to their documents we must (largely) look for information about those times past.

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Jamie Adair

      Oh I didn’t read into it. 🙂 Thanks though for saying… He only acknowledged three bastards, so maybe the other bastards weren’t tracked? I’d need to dig up the source for the eight bastards. I think it was used to show Richard wasn’t a prude. All of his bastards were conceived before marriage I believe, but again I’m going by memory.

  • Reply March 23, 2015

    timetravellingbunny

    There really aren’t that many similarities between historical Richard and Tyrion, apart from the murdered nephew accusation and the fact that both became subjects of maligning and a popular play that portrays them as monsters, only with RIII it happened after his death. While I agree that you can see aspects of Richard in Tyrion, you can also seem them in Ned, Stannis and some other characters, but none of them is a perfect parallel.

    If I were to take a guess, Richard had brown hair (many people with brown hair had blond hair as children, even I was blondish at 4 but now my hair is dark) and dark blue/grey eyes. That’s how it seems based on the portraits, and while portraits show all three York brothers with various shades of brown, there are accounts that call Edward blond and claim that Richard had darker hair than his brothers.

    Hm, come to think of it, is “Stark” look more or less the York look (aka the look of Richard, Duke of York and Richard III, who resembled his father a lot)? Medium height (as opposed to the tall, muscular Edward IV and George), slim, longer and bonier face compared to the round-faced Edward IV, possibly brown hair and grey eyes…?

    • Reply March 24, 2015

      Jamie Adair

      Interesting… The grey Stark eyes. I’m not sure about Clarence but Margaret of York had blue/grey eyes I believe. As for the hair, my hair is naturally very very dark blonde. It looks light brown, but it is technically blonde, acc the color charts. On the rare occasions I haven’t colored it, it looks lighter at the ends. Like Richard, I was blonde as a child, and I have dark grey eyes — and very pale skin. (I have a tan in my photo.) Just guessing based on my coloring, I suspect Richard would have been the same where his hair looked pretty close to brown with lighter ends or pieces and you can kind of see it in the portrait in this article. In fact, I’d almost wager the brown hair, pale skin, grey eyes thing is a common combo for people with grey eyes. I also believe that grey eyes are considered lighter than blue eyes (less melanin or something), so it makes sense for them to go with really pale skin. Therefore, Richard may have been quite pasty (like me 🙂 ) in real life.

  • Reply April 17, 2015

    Kim Dz

    I think the “8 illegitimate children” idea came first from the book The Royal Bastards of Medieval England” (Chris a given-Wilson) & was promulgated by Alison Weir. There is no contemporary source that I know of that backs this up. Richard acknowledged 2 children, John & Katherine. The 3rd, Richard of Eastwell, seems to have sprung up in legend after Richard III’s death, but there’s little to back up the claim. Interestingly, it’s now almost certain that we know Katherine was buried in St. James’s Garlickhythe in a London (the original church was almost completely destroyed in the great fire of 1666 & then bombed during WWII, so her grave is lost, although there is still a parish church standing and in use). It does not appear that she had children. John was (it is thought) eventually imprisioned by Henry VIII and executed around the same time as Perkin Warbeck & Edward of Warwick, Clarence’s son. If he had children they are unknown & lost to history. Also, the idea that Richard III went on Pilgrammage as some sort of penance for the killing of his nephews was put forth by Amy License, not Alison Weir (sketchy theory at best)

  • Reply April 17, 2015

    Kim Dz

    Sorry, re: my initial comment, that’s executed by Henry VII not Henry VIII – damn you autocorrect!

  • Reply October 8, 2015

    Duchess of Lancaster

    Oh, fidgety Richard III and his rings. There are also paintings of Edward IV, who is holding up his ring, and one from about 1520 in which Henry VIII is in exactly the same pose as your second portrait of Richard (which I think is generally thought to be a copy and the one that X-rays show the humped shoulder was added to). However, some art historians say the ring is to symbolize Henry’s devout piety — not fidgeting. Polydore Vergil helped out by saying that Richard III apparently had a nervous habit of half-drawing his dagger and resheathing it and also drew his rings on and off. I remember reading somewhere that Sir Thomas More used this info to make Richard seem more sinister.

    There is an interesting short article at the BBC History Magazine site about hand gestures in portraits to draw attention to the ring as symbols of kingship, loyalty, authority, wealth and status. What drew my attention is that the ring also symbolized marriage — just like modern engagement and wedding portraits. I read somewhere on a Tudor website that a historian says the ring portraits like Richard’s (especially the one at the top of this article, which is probably closer to the original) pays homage to the consort, and the paintings of king and queen were made to displayed looking at each other, drawing attention to their wedding rings, and rings in medieval and renaissance weren’t always worn on the left hand. Plus the coronation ring was on there somewhere.

    Anyway, the historian noted that painting a portrait is something that takes time and is deliberate — not like catching someone’s nervous tic in a snapshot. Just shows what political propaganda and creative playwriting can do! Richard didn’t know he would need an image consultant.

    Also, the “censing” — this is swinging incense (in a censer) during a funeral Mass. And coronations, at least in the days of Edward, Richard and Henry. I think Cranmer mentioned censing in his description of Anne Boleyn’s coronation — which is difficult to read to but lovely. I have plenty of questions about what Richard did and why, but at last he got a decent burial. History does remember the winners (and some of the flamboyant losers).

    I really enjoy your site — especially when you look at the art history, too. The Boticelli piece was great — and I really appreciate when you show the HBO actor portraits next to those they may be portraying: Richard III and Tyrion, Daeny and Elizabeth I, Cersei and Isabeau. Someone at HBO is looking at lots and lots of paintings.

    And, I am curious — did you write the second part of the article on the time-traveler medieval wedding? I can’t seem to find it.

    • Reply October 9, 2015

      Jamie Adair

      Thank you for the kind words about the site – that’s lovely of you.
      A quick reply because it is past midnight here…
      Re: the rings
      I have read, possibly in one of John Ashdown Hill’s books, that Richard may have commissioned one of his portraits in the last months of his life, while he was looking for a bride. (That is, for his envoys to bring on trips to show to perspective brides or their fathers, etc.) All or most of the gestures and objects in medieval portraits are symbolic, as I’m sure you are aware. I’ve read (and I believe this is true) that many of the meanings of these symbols would be transparent to a medieval audience; however, their meaning has been lost to us today. I found that idea really intriguing.
      In the case of Richard, all of your comments are really interesting. I do think – and I don’t remember what I said in this article — that it is possible his rings are a symbol that marriage was on his mind or that he was open to marriage. Interestingly just like a water glass can appear half full or half empty, you can perceive Richard III, in his portrait, as either pulling off his ring or putting it on. In the case of his desire to remarry, he might have been putting it on to show he wanted to wed or desired a wife/diplomatic alliance.

      Re: the Botticelli article
      Thanks for the compliments on the Boticelli article. I didn’t hear very much about it. When that happens, I always wonder if the article was a flop and if I should do more or less of that type of thing.
      I was very pleased about HBO’s Emmy wins. I know many hard core book fans feel frustrated with the show, but I feel in my heart that they are two different mediums and I applaud the artistry that goes in to the show (eg studying art, making allusions to mythology and literature, the workmanship and artistry). I feel that if book fans criticize the show too harshly that other shows won’t attempt to rise to that level of artistry. Networks and showrunners will think “why bother?” I’m not saying people shouldn’t speak their minds, but I worry about the baby being thrown out with the bath water.

      Re: the time travelers marriage article
      No I haven’t finished the article I’m afraid. I really enjoyed writing it but I hit a bit of a roadblock when I tried to write about the jousts at Margaret of York’s wedding. It would be easier if I spoke Dutch or Flemish. I eventually found some somewhat detailed information about them and I should finish it at some point. I’m sorry about that.

      Anyway thanks again for your comment and kind words.

  • Reply October 8, 2015

    Watcher on the Couch

    This is a bit off-topic, Lady Lancaster, but a lady who comments on a history site I sometimes visit had a birthday recently so the various avatars wished her avatar a happy birthday. Someone posted an online birthday card (the lady is a Ricardian) with a picture of Richard III touching a ring with a caption about him counting how many people he planned to do away with….

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