Richard III: Farewell to a King

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LEICESTER, England — Thousands of people are expected to line the streets in tribute to Richard III as the king’s long-lost remains are carried through the English city of Leicester on Sunday, ahead of his burial.

The body of Richard III, missing for centuries since his death in 1485, was found buried beneath a car parking lot in 2012.

Archaeologists and scientist have spent more than two years studying the bones, unearthing a host of clues to the medieval monarch’s life and times.

This week, after a long-running argument about where he should be buried, Richard III will be laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral, just a stone’s throw from the spot where it was exhumed, stunning historians around the world.

On Sunday, Richard III, the last King of England to be killed in battle, is to be taken back to the site of his death before being carried to Leicester in a ceremonial procession.

In 1485, the defeated king’s body was treated with little sense of occasion: it is said to have been slung naked over a horse and taken to Leicester, where it was put on display for three days before being hurriedly crammed into a too-small plot in the Grey Friars Church.

More than five centuries on, those involved in the search for Richard III’s remains have been determined to put right that ancient wrong by giving him a more fitting farewell.

Philippa Langley, who led the “Looking for Richard” project, said its aim was “to give Richard what he didn’t get in 1485 … to recognize what went on in the past, but not repeat it, to make peace with the past.”

To that end, the King’s skeleton has already been given what it did not have before: a coffin. In this case, a simple but elegant coffin of English oak and yew, made by one of his living descendants, cabinet maker Michael Ibsen, whose DNA proved the identity of the bones.

On Sunday that coffin will leave the University of Leicester, which has provided a temporary home for the bones, accompanied by Ibsen, Richard Buckley, who as the lead archaeologist on the project has been their custodian since August 2012, and others involved in the search.

From there, the remains will be carried to Fenn Lane Farm — believed to be the closest location to the spot where he died. Here, earth taken from key sites in Richard III’s life will be brought together and placed inside a casket which will be buried with him.

The cortege will then travel through the Leicestershire countryside, stopping at villages along the way, before arriving at Bosworth Battlefield, where 2,000 people are expected to attend a service led by the Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens.

The procession will then return to Leicester, where it will be greeted at the medieval boundaries of the city by the mayor, before the coffin is taken to the cathedral, where it will lie ahead of the reburial on Thursday.

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