This morning, on my way into work, Facebook kindly reminded me that two years ago today, I entered the ballot to ‘win’ a place at one of the three services being held to commemorate Richard III’s re-interment. Having watched the proceedings with keen interest, and (to be honest) been amused by the shenanigans as to where he should be reburied (I always agreed Leicester, with Westminster as second-choice), I thought ‘why not?’
After all, how could I not at least try to be part of this. Furthermore, how many other writers get to physically be at the funeral service of their leading man? Especially historical fiction writers!
I’ll never forget the moment I found the gold-rimmed, pristine white envelope in the box on my way out. Or how my hands were shaking as I opened it and saw it was an invite to Compline! Granted, I didn’t have a clue what Compline was, but following research, it sounded fascinating. I would be there when they brought Richard into the cathedral, to await his burial a couple of days later.
The weekend itself was amazing, but Compline was the most bizarre experience of my life. I got there early, and managed to be assigned a front row seat! And directly in front of a television screen, so we could keep an eye on the procession winding its way back to the centre. A moment of shock as the two horses rode up to the cathedral door – certainly where we were sat, we were convinced they were going to come through and ride up the aisle! They did not.
And then he arrived. Most of us had been there for the unveiling first thing in the morning at the university, but by now, Richard’s coffin had made its way to/from Bosworth, across Bow Bridge, and back to the heart of the city. I remember noticing the scratches on the coffin, from all the roses which had been thrown at him. White, of course.
The service itself was beautiful, but the atmosphere inside the cathedral was strange. Sombre, of course, and respectful, but nobody had ever expected to find Richard alive, so nobody could really be sad about being at his funeral. It felt almost celebratory, and certainly everybody there felt a sense of being proud to have got the chance. I know I was.
Back in the hotel room that evening, I tried to write about it. I managed one poem, which I’ve posted previously, but was never totally happy with it. I’m still not. I tried to build the scene into a time-slip novel, which is still very much a work-in-progress, but that didn’t feel right either. Guess I’ll just have to keep trying! For now though, I’ll remember walking behind the hearse in the morning, filing past his coffin in the evening, and doing the same the next day. It was such a memorable weekend, and I feel so privileged to have been a tiny, teeny part of it.