Leicestershire 4 - Leicester , King Richard III/ the biggest fibs in history/the jewry wall and a £1 bus ride


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February 6th 2017
Published: February 7th 2017
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February has arrived and with it the first signs of Spring are in the air. The nights are gradually drawing out and it is now light when I leave work. The trees are dripping with the catkins which look like lambs tails swinging in the wind. The weather is still miserable with a mixture of mist, frost and rain but at least there are the first signs of snowdrops pushing their leaves through and their first flowers are prettily white. How these little delicate beauties push through the heavy clay soil beggars belief . Crocus bright yellow and pale mauve are beginning to show their faces. The first signs of daffodils are showing through. In the garden of the cathedral in Leicester were swathes of pure white Christmas Roses. Undeniably we are moving slowly from Winter to Spring but there is still a long way to go. As mum would tell me it takes more than one swallow to make a summer. But we are heading in the right direction .

On the Suzy front the ramp has been built but not tested . We have ordered two campervan tyres which will arrive tomorrow so she will be reshod and we will get the opportunity to try out the ramp. When the neighbours are out we will sneak out and see if it works. Her road tax reminder has arrived this morning. It will be put to one side until her habitation check is complete and her service and MOT undertaken. We need to order a low emission zone disc for France. New legislation has been creeping in to some FRench towns in 2016 and will be introduced to Paris by April 2017. Suzy is diesel a Euro 5 engine which is compliant so we will be able to apply for a disc, pay our 4 euros 70 and await its arrival. We said at first we would not bother with one but we did stray into Paris two years ago when we lost the satellite signal and guessed the wrong way in the tunnels beneath the city. We ended up on the Champs Elysses in the rushhour and would have been fined 117 euros if this law had been in force at that time. It is easy to wander aimlessly into these zones as they are being introduced everywhere . Easy to fall foul of the law. So being safe rather than sorry we must buy one. Also remember if under Paris again we must head for La Defence. Silly muppets that we are.

So today what did we decide to do. At first the smog and mist put us off doing anything but staying at home was not an option. There was nothing to be done in the garden. We are planning a decked area but need some fine weather to start the digging out of the area. Today was not going to be that day. The thoughts of the day from my calendar suggested that the future depends on what we do in the present . That brought much thought as the Brexit debate still rumbles on with the remainers having won the right through the High Court to make parliament agree to trigger Article 50. The leader of the Labour Party has told his MP's to toe the line and vote with the government. Some did , some resigned their posts but remained MP's and rebelled . The vote went through and now goes into the debate stage. Our political programmes are full of the doom of recessession then they report our economy is doing well. I doubt anyone has a clear idea any more about about the future. The new President of the USA has met our Prime Minister and MP's and the public complained. She invited him for a state visit. MP's and the public complained and finally she went to Europe to the EU parliament and MP's and the public complained . All happiness is in the mind it seems.

Our visit of the day actually fitted in well with the theme of a future depending on what happens in the present . Leicester was our destination. The cosmopolitan city lies on the River Soar and has a population of approximately 342,627 making it the most populous municipality in the East Midlands. Sally Sat Nag was given a second chance to prove her worth and the destination was set in . She pronounced cheerfully that it would take us over an hour and a half to get to Leicester. What ???? It is only an hour away down the M1. What on earth is going on in her head? As we drove she continually told us to turn around and start again at our local town. All down the M1 she tried to get us to exit as every junction she passed. It was mesmerising to see the time trickle away as we chose to ignore her protestations. We need a new Sat Nav but what to buy? The Tom Tom does not allow you to put in the height and length of Suzy. A truck version does not give you options for campsites, speed cameras or places of interest . Still she nagged on. Still we ignored her as best we could using the mental map in our heads of where we were heading for. OUr destination was a park and ride on the outskirts of the city. Plenty of parking but no way would a motorhome get in as the barriers were erected to stop us. Luckily we were in the car. The buses ran regularly and the fare £1 return for all day use for pensioners with consessionary cards . Whoooopppppeeeeee the joys of being old . If we paid full price it was £3 each. First bargain of the day.

The name of Leicester is recorded in the 9th-century History of the Britons as Cair Lerion with its Welsh equivalent of Caerlŷr. First thoughts good dropping off place , easy to find for the return bus trip and handy for the Jewry Wall and museum and the cathedral . Second thoughts not awfully busy. We walked over to the Jewry Wall. Around the baths complex were signs with potted history of the wall and the site . It seems that the Romans may have arrived in the area around AD 47. , A forum and baths complex was constructed . We have seen roman walls before some in Italy and some in this country but what remains here is impressive. It measures 23 metres (75 ft) long, 8 metres (26 ft) high and 2.5 metres (8 ft) thick.] It is among the largest pieces of surviving civil Roman architecture in Britain, and is comparable to the "Old Work" at Wroxeter which we visited some years ago. The structure comprises alternate bands of Roman brick and coursed masonry made up of local granite , limestone from the Peak Districk and Sandstone. In the centre of the wall are two large arched openings about 3 metres (10 ft) wide and 4 metres (13 ft) high; and there are further arched alcoves on the eastern side . Behind the structure is a church with part Saxon building work and much built with the stone from the forum and baths. Sadly it was closed .

We walked over to the free museum and were hit with a carcophany of sound as the local school kids were being taught to be Roman soldiers. Trying to find quiet spaces we stumbled upon Roman Leicester in all its glory. Mosaic floors worthy of any mediterranean villa. Peacocks made from tiny tesserae. Exquisite patterns from the pattern book of a master floor designer. Nothing had been spared here . Money had been available to beautify this villa belonging to a Roman nobleman. His walls were highly decorated and patterned using lurid reds and blues. A roman hoard had been found , jewellery, every day items of roman life . What a surprise and a good one at that. I had not expected much of Leicester but it was delivering on a new level .

Our next stop was to the cathedral , a gothic towering edifice . Not on a scale of the old abbeys and cathedrals of Britain more in keeping with a large parish church. What was our reason for going there. Initially to see the building but mainly to look at the tomb of King Richard III of England . Richard of the Battle of Bosworth, the Wars of the Roses and our hero Henry Tudor. We were biased of course being Welsh but looking back at history then what happened at this time had a profound effect on the future. Yet again the words of my calendar were ringing true . The future depends on what we do in the present. There has been much talk of Richard recently since his body was dug up in a Leicester car park and re-interred in the cathedral amidst much pomp and splender. You either like Richard or you hate him . There is no in between. History has made much of him and depending on what side of the fence you stand you interpret history in your own way. So what of him ? How did he and Henry Tudor change Britains history forever. So what of the biggest fibs in British history? A current TV programme is looking at three events in our history and trying to unravel the truths from the untruths. The week before last it was the turn of Richard III as they tried to work out if he were villain, fiend and all round evil guy or instead much maligned by the Henry Tudor who went on to unify the country and give us the two most enignmatic leaders we have ever had - Henry VIII and Elizabeth I.

So what of the story - we need to go back in time to the Wars of the Roses . That series of wars where the control of the throne of England was fought over by the supporters of the two rival branches of the royal house of Plantagenet - the House of Lancaster associated with the red rose and the House of York represented by the white rose . The conflict like all good conflicts lasted through many sporadic episodes between 1455 and 1487; however, there was fighting before and after this period between the houses. The power struggle ignited around social and financial troubles following the Hundred Years War combined with the mental infirmity and weak rule of Henry VI which revived interest in Richard Duke of Yorks claim to the English throne. This was never going to end well was it?

It sort of came to a head with Edward of York who had been born in Rouen in France. He was the second son of Richard 3rd Duke of York who had a strong genealogical claim to the throne of England and his wife Cecily Neville . He met his wife in a forest . I guess the sort of thing a king to be would do. He married her in secret as she had been widowed and would not have been considered a proper wife for him. This left his line suspect as the nobles would not accept her due to her lack of decent lineage. He did though unite the country and put it on a better footing than it had been in the past. The only other rival to his throne was Henry Tudor who had been sent off to France for his own safety by his mother the redoutable Margaret Beaufort - a religious woman who bestowed much to North Wales endowing churches in and around Mold in Flintshire. Edwards health eventually began to fail and he became subject to an increasing number of ailments. He fell fatally ill at Easter 1483, but survived long enough to add some codicils to his will, the most important being to name his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester as Protector after his death. He died on 9 April 1483. He was succeeded by his twelve-year-old son the would be Edward V of England who was never crowned. So why was he never crowned ? Richard III. When his brother King Edward died Richard met and escorted the new king at Ludlow and set off for his lodgings in the Tower of London . Edwards brother Richard joined him later . ARrangements were made for the coronation which never happened as in between the marriage between Elizabeth Woodville and Edward was declared invalid and they suddenly became illegitimate and ineligible for the throne. On 25 June, an assembly of Lords and commoners endorsed the claims. The following day, Richard III began his reign, and he was crowned on 6 July 1483. The young princes were not seen in public after August, and accusations circulated that the boys had been murdered on Richard's orders, giving rise to the legend of the Princes in the Tower. It has now been suggested that Margaret Beaufort might have had a hand in this but nothing has ever been proven. Her son Henry Tudor and his uncle Jasper led a rebellion after he landed in Wales at Pembrokeshire . To cut a long story short Richards army was defeated at Bosworth . Richard was struck down in the conflict, making him the last English king to die in battle on home soil and the first since Harold II at the Battle of Hastings . Richards body was buried in an abbey in Leicester which disappeared over time only to be rediscovered two years ago under an office car park.

Inside the cathedral was quite airy and bright . It was only consecrated as a cathedral in 1927, much of the stained glass had been installed in that year. There were a number of small chapels each pretty in their own way. It was not a grand building though. The main features I liked were the modern windows designed last year and installed last Easter. Bright and modern they made a change from old stained glass. They let in light in a completely different way. Richards tomb was just a slab of marble with a large cross cut into it. Not particularly impressive just large and bulky. The visitor centre opposite was overstated. It is advertised as a place that tells the story of Bosworth which it does . It tells the story of the battle from the side of both Richard and Henry . Richard though understandably is the main character and Henry a bit of an aside. it all felt a one sided story mainly designed for children. Upstairs were depictions of the various depictions of Shakespeares play from Garrick to the nazi version with John Hurt in the main character part. The excavations were well documented and the original grave can be seen under glass. The one thing that did catch our eye was the work of facial reconstruction. The university of Dundee had produced a likeness without actually knowing who the subject was and the result was uncanny.

LUnch in Leicester ended up as a pork Sunday dinner in a local cafe . Pork with all the trimmings and three vegetables. A different day out and one that made us remember that history is interpretative and you view it from which ever side you stand on .

73 days to our holiday and counting ............................................

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