Each day of Volunteers Week, we’re meeting one of our brilliant team. Today, it’s the turn of Jan:
I’ve had an interest in the life and times of Richard Plantagenet since my early teens, when I read the book “We Speak No Treason” by Rosemary Hawley Jarman.
Like many people, my idea of King Richard III was Olivier’s portrayal of Shakespeare’s Richard III, and by the time I studied the Shakespeare play for A-level I was able to argue my viewpoint with my English teacher, only to be marked down with “we are studying the play, not debating the real historical person”.
Having been working in close proximity to the dig site during the dig, and being lucky enough to be selected in the ballot to attend the Compline service when King Richard was received into the Cathedral, I was eager to apply for a volunteer role when a friend pointed it out to me.
After training and shadowing, I did my first solo shift in the Gravesite, and found the experience interesting, stimulating and quite good fun too.
I have met people from all over the world, discussed at length the aspects of Richard’s life and the dig itself, as well as learning a great deal myself about armour and weapons from the re-enactment chaps.
I have talked with an American rock musician and his wife (yes really) who were really knowledgeable and interested, apparently he collected books about King Richard and the Battle of Bosworth. He had been to the UK on tour twice since the discovery and said he had been “so dead keen to visit the site” that he’d arranged a special detour to Leicester!
Inevitably someone always asks about the “Princes in the Tower”, often putting their opinion forward before asking for mine. Trying to be relatively impartial is not always easy! Likewise when people still state that the King should have been buried in York. I find sticking to basic facts easier than being drawn into lengthier discussions.
The children are mostly interested in the lack of feet when the skeleton was uncovered, and there is always one who asks about the King “being stabbed in the bottom”.
My favourite of the questions I have been asked to date was from a group of Spanish students, many of whom did not speak or understand much English. Having explained about the battle and how the King’s body was brought back to Leicester, draped over the back of a horse, taken to be displayed at the Lancastrian church before being brought to the Greyfriars monks for burial, one girl looked upset and asked me “What happened to the horse?!” I could only tell her that as a Lancastrian horse, it would have been perfectly fine and gone back to the Lancastrian Lord who owned it!
Being a Volunteer at the Visitor Centre is interesting and different every day and I feel strangely proprietorial and protective of our King in the Car Park.