We know that Richard III made his way to Leicester just weeks after being crowned King of England in July 1483. Remarkably a letter from the period dated 18 August 1483 has survived providing us with evidence that the new king stayed here. The letter was signed “from my castle of Leicester”.
Richard III would probably have visited his castle on several occasions. Leicester Castle was crown property during this time and held great importance as an estate office for the Duchy of Lancaster´s Leicestershire estates. The Great Hall was also a place for holding the courts of assize, criminal courts that would only have heard the most serious cases of the day. On the occasions when the king visited, the castle would have seen great pageantry and entertainment.
What would Leicester Castle´s Great Hall have looked like during the reign of Richard III?
Today a late 17th century brick entrance conceals the 12th century structure that Richard III would have been familiar with. The Great Hall, built in 1150, would have been a large open space with timber aisle posts (some of which still remain) but its medieval character is now largely hidden by two 19th century court rooms built in 1821. Adjacent to the Great Hall is a medieval vaulted cellar known as John of Gaunt´s cellar.
Leicester Castle in medieval times
In the 14th and 15th centuries we believe Parliament met in the Great Hall. We also know royalty stayed here including Edward I, Edward II and Henry IV.
King Richard’s letter from Leicester Castle 18th August 1483
“According to the right of the said truces. Upon which matter, in order that my said subjects and merchants be not deceived under the shadow of the same. I pray you that by my servant, this bearer, one of the grooms of my stable, you will let me know by writing your full intention, and at the same time if you desire anything that I can do for you, that I may do it with good will. And farewell, my lord my cousin.
Written in my castle of Leicester, the 18th day of August 1483”
Download an information sheet about Leicester Castle at the bottom of this page.