I’ve been dying to see this since they found him, and watched the reinterment with fascination on TV, as well as the documentaries. (I know, I’m a republican but this is different. I’ve always had a soft spot for Richard III. Those were the days when royals knew how to be royals.)
We were greeted well and picked up a children’s trail on our way in (the ticket is valid for a year should you wish to return.) The ground floor is devoted to Richard’s short reign and reenacts his work as King, before getting to the Battle of Bosworth and the treacherous Stanleys. It’s quite evocative and well done, considering they have absolutely nothing to display. Very little survives from the time, he became well known (wrongly) as a tyrant and anything that does survive has not been shared from the places they are stored.E was well behaved, and I’m not sure how much she took in, though some parts she found interesting enough (the spears). It was upstairs where she was more engaged. Upstairs is all about the dig to find his body and there is more to display, including Philippa thingy’s wellies. We looked at the layout of the old buildings he had been buried before they were razed, then a digger bucket and watched some footage of the dig. Then we moved on to an old suit of armour, painted white to avoid rusting from exposure to fingers. E stood in front of it and asked “is it a Storm Trooper?” She climbed up to touch it and we were approached by a volunteer. Cue my immediate panic that he was about to reprimand us, but he just came to say hello and to talk about the chain mail, welcoming her to explore and touch all she liked.
They had a reproduction of the bones so you could see the spine curvature and the holes in the skull and then there was a brilliant computer display where you could try to reconstruct the face from the skull which we both enjoyed. Finally, they had the models of the face so we said hello and then photobombed the final face. In the photo Richard looks like he’s smiling, I like to think he knows I’m a loyal subject.Downstairs again we finished off over the dig site where you can see the hole they found him in, covered with a thick glass floor. A volunteer was giving a talk as we entered but stopped talking when E, having taken several tentative steps on the glass to find out if it was safe, wandered out into the middle of his display. It’s an incredible story really, especially when you think of the time and the amount of development on the site. At one point someone made off with (or probably crushed) his feet when they were digging.
Finishing off in the gift shop (bought: postcards, a magnet for Daddy, a badge for E and a bookmark for me, tried on: a medieval headdress) we then went across the road to the cathedral to see the tomb. It’s a lovely stone thing, with a cross carved on it and his name on the side.
I thought the whole experience was excellent and very much enjoyed it, while being unsure of E’s reaction. But some things must have sunk in. As we looked at the dig, she asked if the bones were made of dinosaur bones and I said no, they were the man. Later that evening she asked if we all have bones – this is a concept she’s not considered before, despite having seen skeletons. And then the following day, playing with her new space Lego, she made one of the figures pick up the spanner and told Daddy that the lady was digging to find Richard. How old does she have to be to join the Richard III Society?
In short: I award this 9 1/2 out of 10 (I never do full marks) – the displays were informative and interesting even for a three year old, the staff were lovely and friendly, really welcoming all the way through and tolerant of a small girl and the story is really fabulous and unlikely.
The King Richard III visitor centre is open seven days a week and costs £7.95 adults, £4.75 for children 5-15, younger are free.