Hero or Villain?
- Journey into the beautiful Yorkshire Dales in search of sites connected with a young Richard III
- Admire the interior of the legendary Westminster Abbey
- Take an all-encompassing tour of the Tower of London, discovering dark tales along the way
The dramatic discovery of the skeleton of Richard III – England’s most controversial King – beneath a Leicester council car park in 2012 was the most exciting archaeological find of the 21st century (so far!) and made news around the world.
This incredible find also reignited the great debate about Richard’s personal character: was he a murderer who slew his own nephews, the ‘little princes’, in the Tower of London, or an honourable man who did his duty in an age of unprecedented conflict and upheaval, known to us as the Wars of the Roses.
This wide-ranging tour of all the signifi cant surviving sites linked with Richard takes in battlefi elds, castles, cathedrals and churches – culminating with a visit to the King’s striking new tomb, and a public debate on the burning question: Richard III – Hero or Villain?
We meet at our hotel in York, Richard’s power-base, where he ruled as viceroy for his brother Edward IV and which mourned his ‘piteous murder’. After lunch, a walking tour of the city takes in the Richard III Museum and Micklegate Bar, where his father and brother’s decapitated heads were displayed by Lancastrian enemies.
After breakfast, we go to Sheriff Hutton to view its castle’s impressive ruins. Previously owned by Richard Neville, Earl Warwick ‘the Kingmaker’, it fell into Richard’s hands after Warwick’s death at the Battle of Barnet. We also visit the Grade I listed parish church where a cenotaph may possibly have been that of Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham. Before dinner in York, we visit the castle of Middleham, where Richard and his brother George spent their childhood under the guardianship of Warwick the Kingmaker, who imprisoned their elder brother, Edward IV, there.
This morning, visit the remains of Sandal Castle and the battlefield of Wakefield, where Richard’s father, the 3rd Duke of York, and his brother Edmund, the Earl of Rutland, were defeated and slaughtered in 1460. Nearby, we visit the grim battlefield of Towton, where Edward IV, avenging Wakefield, defeated the Lancastrians in March 1461 and cemented the House of York’s hold on the throne. Next, we head south, stopping for lunch en route. Later, we arrive at Fotheringhay, Richard’s birthplace in 1452. The fine Church is the mausoleum of the House of York, and the last resting place of Richard’s parents and his brother Edmund. Fotheringhay Castle was the scene of the trial and execution of Mary, Queen of Scots.
Today we travel into London, stopping on the way to visit Stony Stratford, where Richard took control of Edward V after the death of Edward IV, and at the two battlefields of St. Albans, where the Wars of the Roses began in 1455, and where Warwick the Kingmaker was defeated in 1461. After lunch, we visit Westminster Abbey, scene of the coronations of all the monarchs involved in the Wars of the Roses. Here too is the urn, designed by Christopher Wren, in which the bones believed to be those of the ‘little princes’, Edward V and his brother Richard, were interred after their discovery during the reign of Charles II. We also see the site of the Sanctuary where Elizabeth Woodville sought shelter after Richard III’s seizure of power, and where her son Richard was taken from her to the Tower.
Today is devoted to a tour of the Tower of London. This site has a central place in Richard’s story and that of the Wars of the Roses, for it was here in the Wakefield tower that King Henry VI was murdered in 1471 as he knelt in prayer - possibly by the hand of Richard himself. Here too, in the Bowyer tower, Richard’s brother George, Duke of Clarence, was drowned in a butt of Malmsey wine in 1478 on the orders of his brother Edward IV. It was also here that Richard ordered the execution of his former ally, William – Lord Hastings – in 1483. And here, finally, the ‘little princes’ were held in the infamous Bloody tower and disappeared from history. On our way back to the hotel, we see Crosby Hall, where Richard planned the coup that brought him the crown in 1483.
Today we drive to Tewkesbury, stopping to visit the impressive St George’s Chapel, Windsor castle and the tombs of the rival Roses kings Henry VI and Edward IV. We lunch in Salisbury, visiting the scene of the execution by Richard of his former henchman Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, in 1483, and viewing the Duke’s tomb. In Tewkesbury, we visit the nearby battlefield’s ‘bloody meadow’, where in 1471 Henry VI’s feisty queen, Margaret of Anjou, was crushed by Edward IV and Richard, and her son and heir, Edward of Lancaster, was killed. Our day ends at Tewkesbury Abbey, where Prince Edward and Richard’s brother George are buried.
We drive from Tewkesbury to Bosworth, where on August 22nd, 1485, Richard III was killed by the invading army of Henry Tudor. After touring the interactive Bosworth Battlefield Centre we visit the actual site of the battle. We then head to nearby Leicester, where we visit the superb Richard III centre, before paying our respects at his magnificent modern tomb in Leicester cathedral.
Before the tour ends, we visit the nearby atmospheric ruins of Kirby Muxloe castle, which local lad William, Lord Hastings, best friend of Edward IV, was building as his splendid residence when he was arrested and executed by Richard at the Tower. A return coach to York is included for those who prefer to end the tour there.
- Tour Manager & Guide Lecturer
- Meals - Most meals included
- Transport - Local travel and returning trains back to York if needed
- Hand-picked hotels throughout the tour
Shining light on the Dark Ages
The Medieval era was filled with breathtaking artistic achievement spurred on by tremendous religious faith. Alongside the beauty, life could be coarse and cruel; cut short by famine, disease or the religious zeal that spurred on wars that still echo today.
This era is one of the most intriguing yet misrepresented periods of history. Did people really think the world was flat? No, that enduring myth was created by a 19th-century American journalist. Were witches put on trial and burnt at the stake? Yes, but you’d have to wait for the refined Renaissance period to bear witness to that. Travel alongside an expert guide lecturer, and separate fact from fiction in this fascinating period.