On Thursday 14th November, Mrs Whawell, Mr Crichlow, Miss Murphy and Mr Mace took an enthusiastic group of Year 7 and 8 historians to Leicester. They were off to examine bones, books and battlefield weapons in order to decide whether Richard III has deserved his appalling historical reputation as an evil villain. On the way the children watched Shakespeare’s interpretation of Richard III as a wicked uncle whose mind and body was distorted. However, after looking at a wide variety of medieval documents, bones and artefacts, the children began to see that this interpretation was perhaps the product of propagandists who were intent on defaming Richard in order to glorify the winners.
The Visitors’ Centre, Leicester Cathedral and the Medieval Guildhall were brilliant sites that ensured every child was inspired by the history around them. The children stood above Richard’s shallow grave and walked in the very corridors and rooms that Richard himself would have known.
In the Guildhall, the children put Richard on trial and examined evidence that seemed to show that he was a complex character who was as pious as he was intent on achieving power. During a mock trial they carefully manipulated evidence to both defend and prosecute the king and they spoke with great confidence and skill. What a fabulous opportunity for the children to play history detectives and become aware of the complex nature of history, where very little is black or white!
The final part of the day was a visit to Leicester Cathedral to see the final resting where the last of the Plantagenet Kings was reinterred in 2015.
Perhaps the most moving part of the day was when Marlow traced his great grandfather’s plaque in the Royal Leicestershire Regiment’s section of Leicester Cathedral. His name was John William Burton Marshall. He was seconded to the parachute regiment when it was formed in WW2 and became a prisoner of war in France. He also fought in the Korean War. Most of his military career was spent teaching officer cadets and he was awarded an OBE. The children held a moment’s silence in recognition of the soldiers commemorated in the cathedral and Marlow lit a candle in his great grandfather’s honour.