For almost two years our Branch Committee worked on the idea of a service to honour King Richard and give thanks for his life in a place he would have known and loved well, his “Faire Citie of York”. The aim was to celebrate his life, not to concentrate on his death. The service was arranged for 25 June in Holy Trinity, Micklegate, York.
On a beautiful sunny day nearly ninety members of the Branch and the Society from Lancashire, London, County Durham, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Staffordshire, Kent, Cheshire and Northumberland, along with members from Scotland and Wales, gathered in this beautiful mediaeval church, the only former monastic church in York now in parish use, to honour King Richard.
The service began with organist Max Elliott playing Sir William Walton's incidental music to Laurence Olivier’s film of “Richard III”. This was followed by the Last Post, played by Nick Garrett of the Harrogate Band, a tribute to King Richard as a soldier, which proved extremely emotional for many of those present. Next, Elgar's “Nimrod” was played on the organ as Scowen Sykes walked down the aisle carrying a large arrangement of flowers, mostly white roses, arranged round King Richard’s portrait and his motto Loyaulte me Lie which were then placed on the altar. We were formally welcomed by the Reverend Eric Robinson (assistant priest of Holy Trinity), and by our Chairman Angela Moreton. Rev. Robinson pointed out the church's links with the guild of Corpus Christi, of which Richard and his wife Anne Neville became members in 1477, and that Richard would certainly have known the church and often been present there.
All the hymns had been chosen by our members. The first one, “He who would valiant be,” was followed by three short readings by members about King Richard in his lifetime. The first was written following Edward IV’s recovery of the throne after the battle of Barnet and was on Richard’s character at the time. The second was from Richard's Chantry endowment of 1484 whereby he set up a chantry to pray for those men killed in his service. The third was a short excerpt from Edward IV’s letter to the Pope praising his brother’s virtues after the Scottish campaign in 1482.
The hymn “I vow to thee, my country” was followed by Rev Robinson reading 1 Chronicles 17 vv 1-15, and his well thought-out sermon. Two more readings by members followed: the opinion of the Scottish Ambassador, Archbishop Whitelaw, on King Richard in 1484, and that of Lord Chancellor Campbell in the nineteenth century on Richard’s Parliament and his care for his people. There followed an excellent address by our Chairman Angela Moreton on Richard and his connection with his “Faire Citie of York”. The final readings of the afternoon followed: the letter from Richard’s secretary John Kendall to York City Council before his visit in 1483, and finally the entry in the York City Records recording the city’s sorrow at Richard’s death. The hymn “Abide with me” was followed by concluding words from Rev Robinson and Angela, before the final hymn, "Jerusalem". All in all it was a lovely and thought- provoking service in Richard’s honour.
Many of our members then went to Jacob’s Well, the mediaeval parish hall, for a lively and enjoyable Strawberry Tea, at which they could share their thoughts on the day and at which King Richard’s health was drunk with great enthusiasm.
We are all extremely grateful for the help, expertise and kindness of Rev Robinson, Nick Garrett and Max Elliott. The Committee can’t thank the members, some of whom travelled great distances, enough, for attending and making the day such a success and being kind enough to tell us afterwards how much they had enjoyed it. It proved to be an emotional day, full of affection and admiration for our King. If Richard’s spirit was around in the church, I hope he felt the love and approved of our tribute.
Pauline Harrison Pogmore: “The Branch were delighted and humbled to receive from various persons attending praise for the service.”
David Johnson wrote: “The Richard III service at Holy Trinity was a wonderful occasion, particularly Eric Robinsons sermon, the Last Post, the choice of hymns and the large congregation. Richard would have been very proud.”
Marjorie and John Smith: “The service in the church was perfect, the readings were all interesting, and I am sure there were very few dry eyes in the building when the last reading took place. I am sure Richard himself would be surprised and moved to realise the care with which we keep his memory. I was very glad to have the opportunity to take part in a church service in Remembrance of Richard. Thank you, Yorkshire Branch, and well done!”
Irene Halkyard: ”I was very glad I went to York for the service. I found it very moving, and felt the love we all feel for Richard. The people who organised the service got it just right. I applaud them.”
Senga Neilson: “I found the service held in York absolutely beautiful. This is the first time I have heard something dedicated purely to King Richard and I found it quite emotional.”
Philippa Langley: “It sounds perhaps a little strange to say that the kings reinterment didn’t move me. Throughout there wasn’t much sense of the man we were reburying; other than the beautiful and evocative poem by Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate. In York it was a very different story. It was hard to find something that did not reflect the man who had died fighting bravely on the field of battle defending crown and country. As a result, it was incredibly powerful and moving for all those privileged to be there.”