Friday, 22 September 2017

A Horse! A Horse! In Richard III's Footsteps near Leicester, UK

On my visit to Leicester I was hosted by the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre, the King Richard III Visitor Centre, and the Belmont Hotel.

"A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!"

There was a good chance I'd quote Shakespeare's famous line from Richard III at some point, the day I visited the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre. The moment I heard about the marshy ground which had unhorsed him on the day of his final battle, out the words came.

That marsh had long been remembered, but its exact location in this much-drained modern era was uncertain until recently, when a comprehensive survey established precisely where the Battle of Bosworth Field had taken place in 1485.

It turns out that the Heritage Centre, established in the 1970s, is actually on the site of the king's camp rather than the battlefield itself, which stretches down from the site over privately-owned farmland.

However, there are great views from the centre's extensive parkland, which features old and new memorials to this epochal battle which ended the reign of the Plantagenet kings and ushered in the Tudor dynasty...

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There's also much to learn from the exhibitions within the buildings of a former farm.

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Weaponry is well covered, with a wall of evil devices explained by intelligent captioning. The visitor also learns about the different classes of soldiers present at the battle, and how they would have fought.

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There's some useful audio-visual content, including a depiction of the battle, and commentary from characters (a farmer-soldier, a mercenary's wife etc) who might have witnessed the events.

At the end of the exhibition is the interesting story of how the location of the battefield was debated over the decades, and how it was finally decided by a scientific survey which turned up cannon shot and other military debris.

This being England, the task was complicated by the locale also witnessing a battle in the later Civil War, but there was enough period evidence to fix the site once and for all.

Given the significance of the Tudor monarchs' era - including the break with the Catholic church, and the start of Britain's empire - it seems fitting that the place where their reign began should be appropriately marked and remembered.

With the recent rediscovery of King Richard III's remains in nearby Leicester, there's much more for the historically interested to do in the area - starting with a visit to the excellent King Richard III Visitor Centre, followed by a visit to the late monarch's tomb in nearby Leicester Cathedral.

But that's a story I'll expand upon another day. As Shakespeare has Richard say, "An honest tale speeds best, being plainly told."