The City of Leicester and King Richard III

I was born in Leicester (for overseas readers it is pronounced simply as Lester) in June 1954. My family left the city for the nearby town of Rugby six years later. When asked I always say that I am from Leicester and I am always proud to say so.

Not so proud however to confess that sixty years later despite going to football matches and Baileys Night Club in the 1970s I have never found the time to properly visit the city and give it some of my time and attention.

Although Leicester is a large city in the UK there are only four places in the U.S.A. named after it which have the same spelling , in New York, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Vermont. There are however eleven cities and towns called Lester, in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Washington and West Virginia.  . As far as I can see there is no Leicester in Canada, New Zealand or in Australia. Perhaps it is just too difficult to pronounce correctly?

Just recently I was able to put right my dereliction and I especially wanted to explore the link with King Richard III, the Medieval monarch whose life and reputation is intrinsically woven into the life and the fabric of the city. I still remember the stories that my Dad told me about King Richard and who like most people from Leicester was a staunch Ricardian.

Richard was the last Plantagenet and House of York King of England, the last Medieval King, the third and last King of England killed in combat after King Harold at Hastings and Richard The Lion Heart at Aquitaine in France, at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, and succeeded by the victorious Henry Tudor of the House of Lancaster.

I started the visit at Leicester Cathedral to see the tomb of the late King.

Thanks to William Shakespeare poor old Richard is mostly remembered as a bad man and an evil treacherous King who got what he deserved at the battle of Bosworth but history is now beginning to revise this judgement following the discovery of his bones in an unlikely burial place under a public car park in the centre of the city.

Thanks to Shakespeare the name Richard is so disgraced and besmirched  that no one has dared to revive the noble name of Richard for an English King.

Incidentally, after the reign of the tyrant number VIII there has never been another King Henry either.

No other English King has generated so much vigorous reinterpretation as Richard III. It is hard to imagine English history without the Tudors but sometimes I wonder, what if…?

After the discovery Yorkshire demanded that he should be immediately returned to the City of York for a final burial but the discoverers held firm and after a messy little legal spat and court case he now lies in the Cathedral of his adopted County of Leicester.

This is Richard at Middleham Castle in Yorkshire…

Leicester has laid claim to Richard III. Some people affirm that this is significant. Leicester City are a football team in England who have never really done anything spectacular. In 2014 they were playing badly and looked likely to be relegated from the Premier League but after the bones of Richard were found they suddenly began to play like champions and in the following year won the English Premier League. The reversal of fortune has been attributed by some to Richard III and though it is unlikely it is such a good story that I really want to believe it.

The Richard III visitor centre puts on a fine exhibition that chronicles his life and times culminating in the bloody showdown at Bosworth.

Our version of the reign of Richard and of the battle of Bosworth is almost entirely informed by Shakespeare but as with most of his histories this was a highly dubious account of what really happened and modern historians have reached the view that far from being gallant and chivalrous and still celebrated as a golden moment in history the battle was filthy, horrible and merciless.

Weapons were crude and brutal. Arrows from the longbows of the Welsh archers rained down and where the sword of a knight would not penetrate the armour of a noble foe and did not have the weight to knock a man off his feet, a poleaxe (a long-handled axe or hammer, topped with a fearsome spike) would fell him fast and then it was easy to raise the victim’s visor and slide a knife through an eye. That was how hundreds of men died – their last sight on earth a dagger’s point.

It turns out that Bosworth is not a tale of chivalry at all, but rather of desperate men hacking at each other to break limbs and crush skulls. Of hundreds of opposing soldiers weighed down by heavy armour submerged and drowning in marshland. Hand to hand combat by men using lead-weighted hammers, poleaxes, mauls and falcon-beaks, the ghastly paraphernalia of medieval fighting.

At some point in the battle and with things not going so well for the King, Richard led a rather reckless charge against Henry Tudor. He most likely looked quite magnificent in his gleaming suit of made-to-measure armour and wearing a crown on his helmet which may have been somewhat unwise (rather like Nelson in 1805 at the Battle of Trafalgar wandering around HMS Victory in full Admiral uniform and getting shot and killed) and before he could engage in hand to hand combat he was cut down and slain, not by a Prince or a Nobleman but by a common foot soldier with a spiteful pike.

I enjoyed my day in Leicester and I am certain now to return.

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

A to Z of Statues – U is for King Umberto I of Italy

This one was taken in the City of Naples…

Umberto was king of Italy from 1878 – 1900 when he was assassinated by an American/Italian anarchist

This is an interesting but unlikely story about him..

One day he was eating in a restaurant when he noticed the owner was a near-exact physical double. It emerged that both were born on the same day, in the same town, and had married women with the same name. The restaurateur had opened his establishment on the day of Umberto’s coronation. Umberto was shot dead on the day he learned the restaurateur had died in a shooting.  His dad had no doubt been playing away.

Umberto was allegedly an uneducated man which led him to have the unfortunate nickname of Umberto the Simple.

Lots of Kings in history have been given unkind nicknames…

Read The Full Story Here…

People Pictures – Conversation

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken on the Greek Island of Folegandros.  The woman seems to have drifted out of the conversation, maybe the men were talking football?

Read The Full Story Here…

Odd One Out – Reflections

It was Venice for all the reasons you came up with.  Well done everyone.  Too easy by far, I am working on something more challenging for next time.

I thought that the cruise ship might have confused some of you…

Reflections

Based on the success of my previous ‘odd one out’ posts here is another.

Which one is it?

A to Z of Statues – T is for Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was a radical revolutionary, a sort of proto-Marxist, a latter day Leveller, a real trouble maker, an all round (excuse the pun) pain in the ass to the establishment of late eighteenth century England and he didn’t come from London or Bristol, not even Ipswich or Norwich but from sleepy little Thetford.

In his writings he explored the origins of property, openly challenged the concept of monarchy, introduced the idea of a guaranteed minimum income, supported the abolition of slavery, questioned the very concept of Christianity and inspired The Declaration of the Rights of Woman and the Female Citizen of 1791.

An interesting feature of the statue is that the book he holds is upside down maybe because his ideas turned regular thinking on its head.

Read The Full Story Here…

Odd One Out – Markets

Did you spot the odd one out?

According to my stats page a lot of you flirted with this one.

Well done Sheree, Sue and Margaret and Derrick who got it right but for the wrong reason.

European markets.  This is the odd one out because it was taken in Leicester in the UK and the UK is in Europe but sadly not in the EU.  All of the others are.

I was born in Leicester in 1954 and my parents lived quite close to the city centre.  I don’t remember much about it because we left when I was six but I do rather curiously remember the Leicester Market where Mum would go shopping maybe twice a week.  I never liked the place.

On my return journey to the city a couple of weeks ago I went looking for Lineker’s fruit and vegetable pitch,  Gary Lineker is/was a famous England footballer whose family worked the Leicester market.  I asked this man where it was and he burst out laughing.  “Been gone for twenty years he said” so, hiding my embarrassment  I asked him if I could take his picture instead and he happily obliged.

Markets of Europe

Recently I posted an odd one out challenge (Chains, Ropes and Anchors) and loads of readers begged me to do another one.

Well, actually only two to be truthful.  Thanks to both of you.

Anyway, here are some pictures of markets all taken in Europe and all you have to do is identify the odd one out and the clues are in the pictures…

People Pictures – Rainbow in Morocco

When it comes to taking pictures I like doors, statues, balconies and washing lines, Kim on the other hand likes people pictures so I thought I might share a few of them with you.

This one was taken at the Roman City of Volubilis in Morocco.  While I was busy taking pictures of the ancient Roman city Kim spotted this party of local tourist women with a tour guide…

Read The Full Story Here…

A to Z of Statues – S is for Stan Laurel

There is a pub in Bishop Auckland in Durham called the Stanley Jefferson to commemorate the fact that Stanley Jefferson once lived in the town and attended the Grammar School there.

Stanley Who I hear you ask?  Well, Stanley Jefferson is better known to everyone as Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame.  There is a statue of him nearby on the site of a theatre that was once owned by his parents, long since gone of course.

I remember Laurel and Hardy from Saturday Morning Pictures at the Granada Cinema in Rugby where I lived as a boy.  They were my favourites then and they remain my favourites now.  Surely there has never been a finer comedy double act in entertainment history.

I have always taken some sort of patriotic pride from the fact that Stan was from England and was the comedy genious of the pairing.

True story… a few years ago I took my Mum to the cinema to see the Film ‘Stan and Ollie’ and as we left I asked if she had enjoyed it, ‘oh yes’ she said ‘I didn’t know that they were still making films’.  She was 85 years old and I was quite unable to offer an explanation that would have made sense to her.

There is a city in New Zealand called Auckland and a county in New South Wales in Australia.  They were both named in honour of George Eden, 1st Earl of Auckland (1784-1849) who held the title but never visited the town (or New Zealand or Australia).

Read The Full Story Here…