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Blog: A Royal Funeral

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I was in Leicester on Sunday for reasons that a) I'll come on to another time b) were entirely unrelated to the fact that there was a procession going through the streets carrying the coffin of Richard III. When i first realised that I'd be there on that day my initial reaction was of Slightly Annoyance, in that it might interfere with getting there and/or the gig I was doing . As it turned out though everything went as planned and the procession itself was an Oddly Moving Experience.

When I'd got to Leicester in the morning there didn't seem to be anything happening, but when I returned to the City Centre just after 2pm there were lots of people milling about. Temporary fencing had been put out, security people were wandering around in high vis jackets, and there was a Big Screen set up so that, I guess, people could watch the procession as it came towards them. The general idea, i GLEANED from speaking to the aforesaid security people, was that the coffin had left the University Of Leicester that morning for a TOUR of relevant parts of the county (including Bosworth Field) before coming back to the Cathedral where the body would lie in state before the proper funeral service on Thursday.

I lived in Leicester for about 14 years so was WELL aware of the Richard-related history in the area. I could hardly miss it really, especially spending most of that time living just off King Richard's Road and walking over Bow Bridge nearly every day - this is the bridge where "legend had it" that he banged his spurs on the way to Bosworth Field, banged his HEAD when his corpse was carried back afterwards, and where his body was thrown into the river and lost later on. There's a big PLAQUE saying all this, with a smaller one next to it now saying "Yeah, not actually that last bit."

My favourite part of the Finding His Body story though was when it turned out he totally DID have a spine condition. When we were taught the story at school my history teacher went on for AGES about how we should be aware that history is written by the victors and that the only evidence we have of a "hunchback king" was vile Tudor propaganda years later, so it was very unlikely that there was any truth in the rumour at all. HA! In your FACE, Mr Cook in 1982!

Anyway, I had a gig to do so DID it (see next blog for more!) then hung around in Cafe Bruxelles with The Family Whitaker waiting for something to happen. The procession was going to go right past us, so we sat around watching the crowds get bigger until there was Definite Flurrying and me and Mr M Whitaker RAN out to have a proper look.

It wasn't remotely what I was expecting - I thought there'd be POMP and GUARDS and OFFICIALNESS but it was all oddly homemade and low-key. Two police on horseback went by first, followed by TWO ACTUAL KNIGHTS IN ARMOUR! They were followed by an old-fashioned (NB not as old-fashioned as knights in armour, but still) horse drawn carriage with two people in full mourning sat up front and then a very very plain open cart behind with a very plain coffin on top. As it went by people weren't sure what to do - cheering a coffin doesn't seem hugely respectful, but it wasn't as if his death was a recent shock or anything, so instead we all made Remarks e.g. as the actual HEARSE went by more than one WAG was heard to ask if that was where his wife was etc etc.

And that was that - the procession rolled on and people wandered off. It was one of the most LEICESTER things I have ever seen, a massive historical and scientific event carried off very pleasantly with the minimum of fuss and the maximum of polite good humour and then everybody just going home without any trouble. THAT is Leicester!

I wandered off towards the station and found myself back on the route of the procession. On the other side of the city centre they hadn't even bothered with crowd barriers - people just stood on the pavement happily waiting to see the knights go past. When they did people smiled, said "Did you see the knights?" to any available children, and wandered off home again. It was lovely!

posted 24/3/2015 by MJ Hibbett

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