Richard III: More than 5,000 people visit Leicester Cathedral coffin

Media caption,
Thousands of people have been paying their respects to Richard III

More than 5,000 people have visited Leicester Cathedral to view Richard III's coffin before his remains are reintered on Thursday.

The king's casket went on display on Monday morning and people waited up to four hours to see it.

Richard III's skeleton was found under a car park in Leicester in 2012.

A requiem mass was said at Holy Cross Church in Leicester earlier, led by Cardinal Vincent Nichols, leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England.

The reburial ceremony will be held at Leicester Cathedral later this week, led by the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.

Further viewing times are Tuesday 09:00-12:30 / 14:00-17:00 / 19:15-21:00 and Wednesday 09:00-12:30.

Liz Hudson from Leicester Cathedral said the amount of people visiting had been "remarkable".

"We would have liked for people not to have waited three to four hours but everybody has got through," she said.

"It is the only chance we will ever get to do this and we are expecting even more people on Tuesday with the longer opening times."

Richard, the last English king to die in battle, was killed at Bosworth Field in 1485, at the end of the Wars of the Roses.

Image caption,
Queues stretched right round the cathedral with people saying they had moved only metres in an hour
Image caption,
Members of the Royal British Legion held a vigil at the coffin as members of the public filed past

After his death his body was taken to the Greyfriars Church in Leicester and buried in a hastily dug grave.

In the centuries since, Richard gained notoriety as Shakespeare's villain and the possible killer of the princes in the tower.

His grave's location became a mystery until it was found under a municipal car park in a discovery that stunned archaeologists and drew worldwide attention.

Next to the coffin

BBC Today's Justin Webb reports from Leicester Cathedral: "A combination of solemnity... and a tourist attraction".

In the queue outside the cathedral Rebecca McCole, from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, USA, said: "I was one of the lucky ones to get an invite so how could I not come to see this all.

"I have always been interested in history, especially in the British monarchy.

"This visit has been really inspiring and everyone has been so helpful and delightful."

Richard III - Controversy King

Image source, Getty Images

Throughout Richard's turbulent upbringing - two periods of exile and the death in battle of his father - he proved himself a capable and loyal follower of his eldest brother, who became Edward IV.

However on Edward's death, Richard seized and imprisoned his young sons. They were then disinherited on the grounds Edward had a previously unheard-of marriage contract with another woman.

Richard passed a number of laws, including an early version of legal aid and making courts use English, which benefited the common man.

Despite this, his taking of the crown, the disappearance of Edward's sons and the execution of several leading nobles, lead to discontent and rebellions.

At Bosworth, Richard's larger army failed to crack Henry Tudor's troops while the king's reserves did not move to his aid.

The blackening of his reputation by Tudor historians started debate about his personality and legacy which is ongoing to this day.

John Wesseldine, from Barwell in Leicestershire, said he had taken sons Jayden and Jenson, aged 10, out of school to view the coffin.

Jayden said: "School wasn't going to do a trip to visit the cathedral so dad said he would bring us to see the King's coffin.

Mr Wesseldine said: "This is part of their history and is a chance to see a real King. It is a chance they will never get again so we made the effort to come down."

"The climax will come on Thursday when the Archbishop of Canterbury comes to join us - and the eyes of the world will be on us," the Bishop of Leicester, the Right Reverend Tim Stevens, said.

On Sunday, Richard's coffin left the University of Leicester where it had been kept since the discovery of his remains in 2012.

It was accompanied by the team who made the find to Fenn Lane Farm in the village of Dadlington, the site believed to be the closest to his death.

More than 35,000 people lined the route of the cortege as it travelled through Leicestershire and then back into the city for a service at the cathedral.

Image caption,
On Sunday army cadets pulled the coffin at Bosworth field where Richard III died 530 years ago
Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Thousands of people watched as the coffin was taken through Leicester accompanied by two knights

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