Shakespeare's 'toad' Richard is Leicester's star draw

Fri Aug 7, 2015 1:34pm EDT
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By Michael Roddy

LEICESTER, England (Reuters) - Shakespeare portrayed King Richard III as a "poisonous bunch-backed toad" who was reduced to offering his kingdom for a horse before he was killed by the forces of Henry Tudor, crowned Henry VII soon after, at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Little could Shakespeare, who wrote in Tudor times, have known that Richard would become a posthumous global celebrity and Britain's latest phenomenon in royal tourism.

Remains suspected to be those of the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty were discovered in 2012 in an unmarked grave beneath a car park in the east midlands city of Leicester. The grave was within the precincts of a Greyfriars monastery destroyed in Tudor times.

DNA testing confirmed their identity, while inspection showed Richard had not been a hunchback, though his spine was abnormally curved. In March his remains were reburied in an elegant limestone-and-marble tomb in Leicester Cathedral in a major public ceremony.

The cathedral, which prior to Richard's entombment would get a handful of visitors daily, had almost 2,000 people visit one day last spring, church officials said.

"We're getting used to being the place that hosts King Richard III," said David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester.

The cathedral charges no admission and relies on volunteers to deal with the stream of visitors. The modestly priced souvenirs on offer include Richard III teacups and fridge magnets.

Colombian Lilian Pantoja drove from Liverpool, where she lives, to see the tomb and the nearby battlefield.   Continued...

Members of the public line up to view the coffin of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral, central England, in this March 25, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Darren Staples/Files