Richard III reburial at cathedral
Final preparations are under way for the reburial of Richard III more than 500 years after his death in battle.
The last of the Plantagenet kings will be laid to rest at Leicester Cathedral on Thursday, March 26, but not before a symbolic procession of his remains near the place where he met his end.
Richard will be transported by a cortege in a lead-lined oak coffin taking in Bosworth field before he arrives at the cathedral for a service attended by Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, on Sunday, March 22.
Rt Rev Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester, said Sunday's service of Compline would be "intimate, thoughtful, and an emotional moment".
"It happens at dusk as the sun sets and as the thoughts of people always turns to the night and to the possibility of death," the bishop said.
The service of compline itself, where the king's coffin will lie in repose inside the cathedral, traces its roots "back to the pre-Reformation church" and had been chosen because of its links to Richard's Catholic faith.
Bishop Stevens said it would be an emotional moment when the coffin was borne into the cathedral, not only for its symbolism but in remembrance of Richard the man.
"We're looking forward to the opportunity to remind people of the extraordinary moment in English history the death of Richard III marks," he said.
"It was a change of dynasty, an end of a period of violent civil war, the beginning of the period in which Shakespeare was to write his great tragedies, including Richard III, and a different way of governing the country.
"That's an important point for all of us, whether we happen to be Christian observers or not."
The king's grave site had been thought lost to history until archaeologists discovered his crook-backed skeleton in the remains of an old monastery beneath a Leicester City Council car park.
Campaigner Philippa Langley battled for years for a dig on the site, despite rumours Richard's body had been dumped in the city river after his death.
Before reaching the cathedral Sunday's cortege will visit landmarks connected to Richard's fateful final journey to Bosworth battlefield.
It was there, near Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, where in August 1485 he fell while fighting Lancastrian forces under the command of Henry Tudor - later Henry VII, bringing a decisive end to the Wars of the Roses.
Sunday also marks the moment Richard is formally transferred to the cathedral from the custody of University of Leicester, whose archaeologists and scientists identified the king's remains.
The Dean of Leicester Cathedral, the Very Rev David Monteith, said while Sunday's service would be a solemn occasion it would not be a funeral.
"There are no people immediately affected by this death in the way a close family member dying would have an impact upon you," said the Dean.
"That's not to say there isn't sadness about it and certainly for some a great sense of injustice.
He added: "There's a sense of trying to put some things right from the past.
"But I'm aware you can't undo history, you have to live with history as it is and try to understand it.
"There's an opportunity for us to make history and I hope that becomes vivid and clear."
The Dean added the "theme of reconciling differences" was one which was "as real today, as it would have been in Richard's time".
Contemporary accounts after the battle told of how Richard's remains were buried "without pompe or solemne funeral" in the Greyfriars monastery.
When archaeologists uncovered his skeleton in August 2012, they found evidence of a hasty burial, with a grave so short the king's head was propped up against its side.
He had suffered eight wounds to his head, among them a brutal slash to the base of skull which cleaved away a large portion of bone.
Another piercing blow, possibly from a sword, had been driven 10.5cm (4ins) through his skull.
In contrast to his violent end, Richard's coffin will lie in repose following Sunday's service, where it can be viewed by the general public from Monday.
Then on March 26, his remains will be lowered into a purpose-built tomb made of Yorkshire Swaledale stone, before visitors are allowed back inside the cathedral to see the completed memorial the following day.
His final rest has been delayed by months after distant relatives brought a legal challenge through the courts arguing he should be reburied in York.
However, judges ruled in favour of Leicester, paving the way for a week of events marking the king's life and death, starting with the cortège on Sunday.