The hunch paid off
Leicester does a better job of burying a Plantagenet king at the second attempt
Top this, Tudors
IT WAS reckoned to be Leicester's biggest turnout in decades—maybe since the footballer Gary Lineker was made a freeman of the unfashionable Midlands city in 1995. But the 35,000 people who lined its streets on March 22nd had not come to honour a living son of Leicester. They were honouring the bones of a medieval king, Richard III, dug up in a car park in 2012.
Wearing expressions of curiosity, respect, even grief, and in a few cases also doublet-and-hose, the mourners watched as the remains of a king who had ruled England over half a millennium ago were transported in splendour beyond the city to Bosworth Field; which was perhaps the last place Richard would have wanted to revisit. That was where, in 1485, he became the last English king to die in battle, thus ending his Plantagenet dynasty and ushering in the Tudor age. After a further three days of pageantry and public prayer in Leicester Cathedral—which 20,000 visited to see Richard's coffin lying in state—the bones were reinterred there on March 26th. The ceremony was televised live and attended by bishops, royals and celebrities, including the actor Benedict Cumberbatch, a second cousin of Richard's, 16 times removed.
The discovery of the bones was even weirder. The dig was partly instigated by a group of enthusiasts who consider Richard, depicted by Shakespeare as a nephew-killer and “poisonous bunch-backed toad”, to have been slandered by Tudor propagandists. They point to his achievements, including making courts use English. They also pointed, absurdly, of course, to a large letter “R”, randomly painted onto the tarmac of the car park, which was thought possibly to be the site of a Medieval abbey, in which Richard's corpse was thought possibly to have been buried. The king's skeleton—complete with a staggeringly telltale scoliosis—was discovered in the first exploratory trench, right under the letter “R”. It was authenticated by DNA testing, through a link to one of Richard's living relatives, a Canadian furniture-maker, who then made the king's coffin.
There followed a legal battle involving Leicester's authorities and another group of enthusiasts, The Plantagenet Alliance, who said the bones should be buried in Richard's ancestral city of York. “Over my dead body!” said the mayor of Leicester, Peter Soulsby, scenting a terrific tourism opportunity. Leicester does not have too many of those. One of its main historical attractions, hitherto, was a suit of clothes belonging to Daniel Lambert, an early-19th-century jailer, who was considered the fattest man in England and is still feted as “one of the city's most cherished icons”. Happily for Leicester, it got the nod. There is now hope that tourism will rekindle interest in Bosworth Field and other nearby historic places—including the battlefield at Naseby, in Northamptonshire, which marks one of the main clashes of the English Civil War, or the ruined castle of Lady Jane Grey, who ruled for nine days in 1553. More important for Leicester City Council, it reckons Richard has already made ￡45m ($67m) forthe local economy—and is advertising city breaks to discover the “dynasty, death and dramatic discovery of the king's remains”, for ￡129 for two.
这引起了涉及莱斯特市政官员，及某爱好者组织的法律官司，这个组织名为金雀花王朝联盟，他们认为国王的遗骸应该被葬于理查德三世的祖籍约克市。莱斯特市长彼得·索尔斯嗅到这将是吸引游客千载难逢的机会，他说：“除非从我的尸体上踩过去。”莱斯特市并没有很多旅游资源。目前为止，主要历史景点之一还是丹尼尔·兰博托的一套衣服，他是十九世纪早期的一个狱卒，被认为是英格兰最胖的人，而且现在还被供成“城里最珍贵的形象之一”。莱斯特市愉快的得到了批准。现在就希望游客能够重燃对博士沃斯原野的旅游兴趣，北安普敦郡的博士沃斯原野记录了英国内战的主要战役，或是简·格雷夫人废弃的城堡，她登基成为英女王仅仅九天就遭处决。对莱斯特市议会更为重要的是，据估计，理查德已经为当地创造了4500万英镑（约合6700万美元）的经济效益，并且宣传人们出城去探索“王朝，死亡以及国王遗骨戏剧化的发现历程”，双人票129英镑。译者 周雨晴 校对 王颖