I’ve just returned from a ten day Richard III tour, and it was superb! We had wonderful guests, excellent sites and guides, and luckily, great weather. Our tour took us everywhere from London, to Oxford, to Stratford Upon Avon, to York, and Leicester. There are too many highlights to mention, so I thought I’d just choose a few …
The tour began on a great note when we arrived at the picturesque village of Minster Lovell. Minster Lovell is somewhere I’ve been dying to visit, as I’ve always been interested in Richard’s friend and ally, Francis Lovell. What’s more, it didn’t disappoint! The ruins of the house were truly spectacular, and we were fortunate to have great weather in which to enjoy them. We also caught a glimpse of the medieval dovecote, although we were unfortunately unable to explore.
The church dedicated to St Kenelm was also intriguing. In its present form, it was largely built by William Lovell in the fifteenth century, and has, rather remarkably, remained largely unaltered since that time. William’s splendid tomb can still be seen inside.
On our third day of the tour, we visited the splendid Tewkesbury Abbey. Tewkesbury has always been a favourite of mine, but on this occasion we were privileged enough to be allowed to visit the Clarence Vault – what an experience! The vault supposedly contains some of the remains of George, Duke of Clarence, and his wife Isabel, but it has been opened on many occasions over the centuries, and there is good reason to believe that many of the bones contained in the vault belong to others. Nevertheless, it was a highlight that will stay with me for many years to come.
The same day we also visited Kenilworth Castle, which is of particular relevance to me at the moment – I’ll keep you posted!
We enjoyed a wonderful visit to Ludlow – the castle and the church of St Laurence, where we were treated to a private organ recital! I particularly enjoyed my visit to the castle on this occasion, as we were given an illuminating tour by the energetic Julian Humphrys. Despite the fact that the castle is now a ruin, it’s not difficult to imagine the future Edward V (one of the Princes in the Tower) dining in the Great Hall, or the turmoil that must have filled the castle as Prince Arthur lay dangerously sick there in 1502 (he died at Ludlow on 2 April 1502).
Other highlights of the tour included a visit to the spectacular Middleham Castle – I’ve never visited on a sunny day before! Middleham is not only closely associated with Richard III, but also with many members of his family and those who were involved in his story.
It was also great to have the opportunity to visit Sheriff Hutton Castle and the church. Very little now remains of the castle, but it is nevertheless an atmospheric spot. Similarly, I was struck by one of the memorials in the church – that of Mary Hall who died in 1657. I have no idea who Mary Hall was, but her memorial brass was so beautifully detailed. From the words on her brass, it seems that Mary died at the same time as her baby son – almost certainly as the result of the birth.
Our group also enjoyed a fantastic evening at Barley Hall in York, where we participated in a medieval banquet. You can see me here, on the far left, with some of our other wonderful guests who really got into the spirit of things. I think somebody forgot to tell Henry VIII that we were on a Richard III tour though!
We also visited Leicester. It was interesting to be able to see Richard III’s final resting place, and the newly built tomb that has been erected to his memory. In fact, several members of our group found it quite an overwhelming moment, and I can understand why. Richard III has, for obvious reasons, attracted a great deal of media interest recently, and to come so close to the remains of this man who formed the subject of our tour was quite incredible.
Having visited the city where Richard’s remains were laid to rest, it was a strange feeling visiting Fotheringhay the following day, the village where Richard was born. Only one slab of stone now remains of the castle in which Richard was born on 2 October 1452, but the church is a monument to the House of York. Richard’s parents lie entombed there, and although I’ve visited the church on many occasions, never before have I noticed the white boar that adorns the pulpit donated by Edward IV. It’s a wonderful detail that’s probably overlooked by many visitors to the church.
It’s at Fotheringhay, more than at any of the sites that we visited, that I personally get the greatest sense of Richard. After all, it was at Fotheringhay that his story really began.