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Dynasty, Death and Discovery – King Richard III Visitors Centre (Leicestershire) 

October 13, 2017

The county of Leicestershire has a wealth of history and amazing stories to tell. None more famous than that of King Richard III and his untimely end at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. 

Last weekend we were invited along to the King Richard III Visitors Centre in Leicester. It just so happened that it was the Plantagenet Kings 565th birthday! 

The visitors centre opened in 2014 and is dedicated to telling the story of King Richards life, death and his discovery some 527 years later.

Located inside a stunning Victorian Gothic revival building, once home to a school. The building is located next door to the carpark where King Richard was discovered in 2012. It seems a perfect place to house such history. 

We weren’t sure what to expect really and I have for admit that I don’t know as much as I probably should about the War of Roses or the Battle of Bosworth. We’ve always been big history lovers so we were keen to learn more about the history of the area we live in. We knew L would be interested if there was talk of swords and battles! 

The museum is located in the pedestrian quarter of Leicesters old town. There is parking quite nearby and it’s an easy walk. We were warmly greeted by staff at the entrance. They gave L a fantastic goodie bag and activity sheet to fill in as he went through the musuem. Split over two floors the museum is divided into three areas – dynasty, death and discovery.

Dynasty 

This area tells the story of Richards early years against the backdrop of civil unrest and the War of the Roses. His rise to the throne in 1483 was fraught with conspiracy theories and accusations of murder. 

There is focus of the infamous story of the Princes in tower. The princes were the children of Richards predecessor Edward IV. The eldest held claim to the throne and whilst campaigning for role of Lord Protector, Richard took the princes to the Tower of London after which the princes all but disappeared and were never seen or heard from again. There is much speculation as to the true fate of the children. The princes disappearance made way for Richard to ascend the throne in July 1483. 

Richards reign as king was in stark contrast to the men who came before him. He implemented much social reform but certainly had enemies who believed that his rise to the throne had cost the lives of the two princes.

Death 

Tells the story of Henry Tudor a political exile with a weak claim to the English throne. He saught to overthrow Richard and plotted against him from his base in Brittany. In August 1485 his army began invading England making landfall in South Wales. Richard mobilised forces in Leicester. 

Unbeknownst to Richard he was about to be betrayed by one of his nobleman, Thomas Stanley who had rallied 6000 men and when the three sides met on the fields of Bosworth, Stanley commited his men to the Tudor cause. Surrounded Richard was unhorsed and killed. Richard was eventually laid to rest in Greyfriars Church in an open grave with no coffin and no ceremony. The Tudor age had begun! 

In order to strengthen his claim to the throne Henry VII set about blackening the name of the former king. Much of what we know today has been the result of picking apart Tudor propaganda and the truth. 

Discovery 

Over the next five hundred years Richards exact grave site was lost to history as the church was replaced by other buildings.  In 2004 a member of the Richard III society visited the Greyfriars precinct of Leicester whilst researching a play and felt compelled to push for research and excavation of the Greyfriars precinct. By 2011 the society had secured the backing of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services and a TV production company who agreed to film the process.

In the summer of 2012 after careful analysis of the area, the excavations began in the carpark of a social services building. In August 2012 the dig had uncovered a grave site that indeed matched the description and approximate location of the kings final resting place. Within the grave was a skeleton which bore obvious battle wounds. In February 2013 it was announced to the world that after careful radio carbon dating and numerous tests, that they had indeed discovered the body of the last Plantagenet and the last English king to die in battle. 

The Grave of King Richard lll 

The centre is separated into two areas by the main foyer. One side is main the musuem and the other is the actual grave site of King Richard III! This is a fascinating and modern room that has a unique ceiling feature pointing towards his resting place. 

Murder, mystery and mayhem

A new exhibition that chronicles in more detail the War of the Roses. Long considered one of the most turbulent and complex periods in English history. 

On the day we visited the centre was holding a family fun day to celebrate Richards 565th birthday! We enjoyed learning about knights and weaponry, playing DNA dominoes, crown making and whilst we werent able to attend there was also DNA workshops. 

We were so impressed with the modern technology used to tell Richards story! State of the art projections and graphics, interactive screens and sound bites are used to great effect. 

The centre has a great cafe serving a range of hot and cold drinks as well as light meals. There is also a small gift shop in the main foyer which has some great souvenirs including Top Trumps!

Final procession 

The centre sits in the shadow of the stunning Leicester Cathedral. This is where Richard was finally interned in 2015 with the pomp and ceremony that he had been denied 500 years ago. 

Our verdict 

We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the King Richard III Visitors Centre. L loved the stories of the battles and we were fascinated by the history surrounding this much debated period of time. We would absolutely recommend a visit if you are visiting Leicestershire.

Good to know – 

Ticket prices: 

Adult (16 years and over) – £8.95 

Children (5-15) – £4.75 

Family (2 adults and 2 children) – £21.50

Seniors and Concessions – £8.00 

All tickets are valid for a year so we can return as many times as you like within the year. 

Opening times:

Monday to Friday and Sunday 10am-4pm

Saturdays 10am-5pm 

Getting there: 

The centre website has a very comprehensive guide to accessing the centre. 

What’s nearby – 

Whilst your there why not visit the Guildhall. An exquisite timber framed building next to the cathderal that dates back 600 years. Entry is free and there are many curiosities to explore in this amazing piece of medieval history. 

Thanks for reading 

L x

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Disclaimer  – we were very kindly provided with tickets and a souvenir goodie bag by the centre in return for an honest review. Our thoughts and opinions are our own. 

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