The storyteller of King Richard: Being a librarian at the Folger Shakespeare Library

Many things special about the Folger Shakespeare Library. It’s known for its world-class resources and early modern studies. That’s also one of the three great libraries of early modern books. The Folger for example has a Gutenberg Bible, It has Shakespeare first folios. That’s the world’s largest collection of Shakespeare, the riches that are held, they are just stunning. The Folger Shakespeare Library and the George Washington University have always had an intimate relationship. Being…

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A general rite

The title of the manuscript I found is ‘The Order of Service and Observance for the removal of the body of the foresaid late earl’ (Ordinacio servicij & observancie pro remocione corporis dicti nuper Comitis). ‘Richard earl of Warwick, time Henry VI’ (Richard’ Com Warrwic. temp H.6) follows in brackets, indicating this earl was Richard Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (1382-1439). Beauchamp was a close ally to Henry V and a key player in the Hundred…

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Reconstructing the music of a medieval reburial service

People often ask me, what was one of the biggest surprises about finding the medieval order of reburial? There are a few things and I have written about the seventeenth-century copyist and physically, unassuming manuscript in previous posts. Another thing that surprised me, as a musicologist, was that there was not any musical notation. However, this does not mean there is not any music involved in a medieval service of reinterment – just that, whoever…

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Podcast on Richard III

I recorded a podcast earlier this week, which is now available to listen to on the website, BBC History Extra. It is the ‘Richard III Reburial Special’. In this, I talk about the manuscript I found, medieval reburials and the difficulties we faced planning the service and the week of events. I am on at 29.30 so please have a listen. I have also written a piece, aptly called, ‘How to rebury a King’ in…

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The musical items in a medieval reburial service

The medieval reburial document calls for six antiphons and seven psalms. Antiphons are short, elaborate musical items that come before and after a psalm. The antiphons in the medieval order of reburial are paired with psalms that have a similar theme. So, for example, the antiphon, Omnis Spiritus (‘Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord’) draws on verse six of the popular praise psalm, Psalm 150, with which it is paired. Similarly, the antiphon,…

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Guest blog: Christopher Ouvry Johns, Director of Music at Leicester Cathedral, discusses some of the music being used in the Reinterment of Richard III

An anthem by York composer, Dr Philip Moore, will be sung at the service of Reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral next Thursday, 26 March. Philip was Organist and Master of the Music at York Minster from 1983-2008 and is now Organist Emeritus of the Minster. His setting of Psalm 150 ‘O praise God in his holiness’ is an adaptation of a much longer work written in 2007 for the Exultate Singers of…

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Reception Repose Reinterment Reveal for Richard III

One of the most difficult things we discussed in the Liturgical Team meetings was how to provide a narrative for the week of services at Leicester Cathedral to reinter King Richard III. There are many different units responsible for the remains of Richard III and we were charged with creating services for the moment Richard III’s remains were passed from the University and Council into the hands of Leicester Cathedral. In our earliest meetings, we…

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A modern day Compline

Earlier today, an article in The Guardian read ‘Leicester deserves better than the bones of Richard III’. In this, David Priestland writes that, ‘The hullabaloo over the king’s reburial suggests an unhealthy nostalgia for our royal past and does not well serve a youthful, multi-ethnic city’. Just a few hours later, the same paper reported that ‘Thousands line Leicester streets for glimpse of Richard III’s coffin’. These two accounts do not seem to fit –…

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Order of Service for the Reinterment of King Richard III

You can download a copy of the Order of Service for the Reinterment of King Richard III here. In this, you will find an introductory note by me and Canon Precentor, Johannes Arens. You can also read the prayers in full. I shall be writing about various aspects of the service, now that it is in the public domain, over the next few days. Needless to say, I was delighted with how it went yesterday.

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A unique prayer for King Richard III

The place I would like to start in my closer discussion of the reburial rite is with the unique prayer I found in the medieval rite of reburial, a prayer not known to exist in any other liturgy. This is a moving prayer, which draws on the valley of dry bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14) and was clearly included in the medieval rite to justify a reburial. This prayer was read by The Archbishop of Canterbury yesterday,…

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