LEICESTER, England (Reuters) - A cortege carrying the remains of King Richard III began a solemn tour on Sunday to the battlefield where he was slain 530 years ago.
Rediscovered under a car park in 2012, Richard’s remains will be re-interred at Leicester cathedral on Thursday in a ceremony led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, spiritual head of the Anglican Church, and members of the royal family.
Richard, the last English king to die in battle, was killed at Bosworth Field in 1485, at the end of the bloody Wars of the Roses.
After his death his body was taken to the Grey Friars Church in the nearby city of Leicester and buried in a hastily dug grave which was too small to house his body.
The location of his grave became a mystery until it was found under a municipal car park in a discovery which stunned archaeologists and captivated the world.
On Sunday, Richard’s coffin left the University of Leicester where it has been since the remarkable discovery, accompanied by the team who made the find, in a hearse to Fenn Lane Farm in the village of Dadlington, the site believed to be the closest to his death.
Richard fell fighting to hold onto his crown against the invading forces of Henry Tudor, later King Henry VII. William Shakespeare famously depicted him going down fighting shouting “A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!”
Philippa Langley, a screenwriter who led the search for Richard III, said it was the end of an “extraordinary journey”.
“It’s re-ignited our interest in this period of history,” she said in an interview.
“It’s got people talking and it’s got people debating and it’s got people reading widely about Richard III, and realising that there’s far more to this man than people ever knew.”
The procession is due to pass the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and a number of villages where short services will to be held before entering Leicester where a horse-drawn hearse will take the coffin to the cathedral.
A busy schedule of events is planned.
On Sunday, the most senior Roman Catholic churchman in Britain, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, will preach a sermon in Leicester cathedral.
On Monday, the cardinal archbishop will say a mass for Richard in the city’s Holy Cross Church.
The public will be able to view the coffin for the next few days before the remains will be re-interred at the cathedral on Thursday.
Writing by Michael Holden and Paul Sandle; Editing by Stephen Powell