Near to the Town of Leicester

“Near to the town of Leicester” (V.ii)

Medieval Leicester, Modern memorials. Blue Boar Inn, Richard’s Bed,Bow Bridge, other traditional connections; battlefield relics.

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Richard visited Leicester at least twice whilst he was king, but these were short stays at the castle. Before Bosworth, as this was in a state of disrepair, according to local tradition he chose to stay at an inn bearing the sign of the White Boar. After the battle the landloard hastily painted the sign blue — the Blue Boar was the emblem of the Earl of Oxford, Henry’s chief supporter.

1. Four illustrations:

  • Engraving of the exterior of the old Blue Boar from a drawing by John Flower, 1826.
  • The interior of ‘King Richard’s Chamber’, engraving by Thomas Featherstone, 1838.
  • The exterior, from C. J. Billson’s ‘Medieval Leicester’ 1920.
  • ‘Richard III at the Blue Boar’ modern illustration by Peter Jackson
Another legend associated with Richard III and Leicester is that the king took his own travelling bedstead with him on campaign and this was left behind at the inn. In 1605, Mrs. Clark, then the landlady of the inn, was murdered and robbed of £300 in gold coins of Richard’s reign, said to be part of the king’s treasure, hidden in the bed.
2. Three illustrations:

  • Pages from William Hutton’s ‘The Battle of Bosworth Field’ (1788) showing engravings of the Blue Boar (here called Richard III’s house) and the bedstead as it then existed.
  • Details of the wooden inlaid marquetry work from one of the back panels. Although the existing superstructure is undoubtedly Elizabethan or Jacobean, it is said to have been built onto the original traveling bed. The complete bed is now on display at Donnington-le-Heath Manor house, Leicestershire.
  • Fragment from the bed displayed at the Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester
The old Bow Bridge, Leicester. Richard’s spur is said to have struck the parapet when crossing, causing a bystander to predict that his head would later do the same. This prophecy is supposed to have come true two days later when his body was returned across a horse’s back. After public display in the Church of St. Mary of the Annunciation in the Newarke, he was eventually buried in the chapel of the Grey Friars. Some years later, Henry VII contributed £10 toward the cost of a tomb, but this was desecrated at the dissolution of the monasteries. The legend is that Richard’s bones were dug up and thrown over Bow Bridge, later to be buried on the banks of the Soar. A stone coffin, said to be Richard’s, was used as a horse trough at the White Horse Inn, Gallowtree Gate.
3. Two illustrations:

  • The old Bow Bridge. Engraving in the ‘Illustrated London News’ 9 February 1862.
  • The old Bow Bridge, the day before demolition in 1861. The Victorian plaque (upper right) survives today at the entrance to a nearby garage forecourt.
4. ‘King Richard leaving Leicester for Bosworth’ by C. L. Doughty.
5. Plaque on the present Bow Bridge. The ironwork also depicts the White Rose of York, Tudor Roses, Richard’s arms with boar supporters and motto ‘Loyaulte me lie’.
Although much of medieval Leicester and its associations with Richard III have been destroyed, a number of modern memorials, commissioned by the Richard III Society, serves to keep his memory green:
6. James Butler’s heroic statue erected in Castle Gardens in 1980.
7. Leicester Cathedral’s carved ledgerstone, installed in the choir in 1982.
8. Plaque marking the site of the Greyfriars, unveiled by the Duke of Gloucester 1990.
9. Relics of the Battle of Bosworth:

  • Fragment of painted silk banner
  • Silk fragment said to be part of Richard’s standard
  • Halberd head
  • Spear head
  • Hilt of a dagger
  • Cannonball (2″ diameter)

(All displayed at the Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester)

Gold seal ring, with white enamelled boar, inscribed ‘S ffrench’. Inside, the motto ‘Honeur et jye’. Found on Bosworth Field according to J. Nichols ‘History of Leicester’ (1795-1811). Duke of Devonshire – Chatsworth Settlement)

Background text from John Speed’s ‘History of Great Britain’ (1610)