Ylva111's Blog

Fit for a king….in Leicester

April 26, 2017
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Hotfoot from Chelsea and the National Army Museum, your blogger headed straight for the battle of Bosworth. Or more correctly, for what was left of King Richard III after the bloody fight near Leicester which killed hundreds of soldiers.

Most of you will know the exciting story – not of the battle but of the search for Richard’s remains and the amazing discovery in 2014 in a small car park close to Leicester Cathedral. How did they know it was him?  That’s the obvious question, after all there were many bodies buried higgledy-piggledy after the battle.  This is where the Visitor Centre comes in.

The Queen visits the Cathedral

We explored the Cathedral first and by the entrance there was an exhibition of photographs of the recent visit by Queen Elizabeth II to present the Maundy money to local people. Did she take a look at the impressive tomb – a fossil stone sarcophagus on a dark marble plinth in the nearby Ambulatory?  Apparently, as Richard III is considered a usurper, the Queen could not attend his internment in 2015 herself, but sent the Duchess of Wessex.  But it would be hard for the Queen not have seen Richard’s resting place on her visit – this is not a large Cathedral – and surely she was shown the recently installed, wonderfully luminous stained glass windows by Thomas Denny, inspired by the story of Richard III and the battle.

Developing the £4m exhibition

The Visitor Centre stands nearby on the site of the original Greyfriars Priory where Richard was hastily buried after the battle in 1485. It’s been converted from its previous use by Leicester’s Grammar School.  The ground floor is about Richard’s rise to power and the battle, and recreates the kind of castle that Richard may have inhabited as well as the battlefield of Bosworth through new technology.  Upstairs the tone changes, becomes more scientific with great graphs, many interactives as well as a few objects.  This is about the discovery of Richard’s remains by Philippa Langley and her supporters, and the work done by the University of Leicester to establish that these remains were indeed those of the king’s.  Finally, back downstairs, Richard’s skeleton with its rounded spine hover as a hologram in a roughly dug elongated hole in the ground – quite moving.  That is where he was found – minus feet but that’s another story.

The odds on success in finding the remains in the first place and establishing their authenticity (through the DNA of a direct descendant of the king’s sister) can’t have been high.  So this is a great story well told through the dignity of the cathedral tomb and the recreation of  the bloody history of the time and the thrilling search and discovery in the Visitor Centre.  And surely Leicester is the right place for this memorial.

There are two cafes on the site worth visiting, and gift shops, of course.  http://www.kriii.com  http://www.visitleicester.info  http://www.le.ac.uk/richardiii/

Read more about my Swedish family history (no royal links I am afraid) and my other books including Finding Veronese and the newly launched The Go Around both available as E-books on Amazon at http://www.ylvafrench.co.uk

 

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War and peace at the National Army Museum

April 13, 2017
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Tucked away in Chelsea just beyond the Royal Hospital (where they hold the Chelsea Flower Show each May) lies London’s latest revamped museum, the National Army Museum.  It’s been three years in the re-make at a cost of some £24 million and no doubt time was spent considering the branding.  Could there be a more “catchy” name, after all other military museums have tried to raise their profile with some smart new brand? Fortunately this is not the case here.  It is still a national museum about the British army through war and peace, light and dark, and it is very good.

I can’t promise that everyone will enjoy themselves among the guns and the tanks but in fact there is not a lot of hardware on view.  This is more about the soldiers.  I remember the old museum but this time I looked with fresh eyes having recently found out that I come from several generations of soldiers going back to the 17th century and the Swedish King Karl XII, who fought bitter wars across northern Europe.  Many of the visitors to this museum will be former and current soldiers bringing friends and families.  And they will not be disappointed.

From the vast lobby

As you enter the new, vast lobby, your bags will be searched – a reminder of the uncertain times we live in.  To the right up a few steps is a large and welcoming café with ample room for children as well as adults.  And, of course, there is a shop with a range of specially commissioned souvenirs all themed to the museum and its content – look out for the gin and tonic kits!

From the lobby you get a good view of what else is on offer – four permanent galleries featuring “Battle”, “Army”, “Soldier” and “Society”, as well as a temporary exhibition space – at the moment housing “War Paint” – pictures by amateur and professional artist reflecting battles and conflicts. The displays are well thought-out, dense and multi-layered with objects, facts and figures as well as questions. Most of us will respond to something here and try out some of the excellent interactives. And there are some iconic exhibits including Lawrence of Arabia’s desert robes, the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse and a 1918 original trench coat – a Burberry – designed for officers only.  The Museum now has an accessible resource centre and a lecture theatre, as well as a full complement of lifts and lavatories.

www.nam.ac.uk

Don’t miss these treats

There is so much more to enjoy this spring in London. Until 14 May you can find out more about the multi-talented Eduardo Paolozzi at the Whitechapel Gallery, David Hockney of course at Tate Britain – until 29 May, while Michelangelo and Sebastiano continues at the National Gallery and nearby at the National Portrait Gallery don’t miss the stunning portraits by Howard Hodgkin, until 18 June.

www.npg.org.uk  www.whitechapelgallery.org  www.tate.org.uk http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk

Read more about my Swedish family history and my other books including Finding Veronese and the newly launched The Go Around both available as E-books on Amazon at http://www.ylvafrench.co.uk