LANCASTER AND YORK
Day 1: Thursday 16th May
At 6.30pm, we meet for welcome drinks at the Kingsway Hall Hotel in London, where we will stay for two nights.
Kingsway Hall Hotel is a four-star deluxe hotel situated in the heart of London’s vibrant Covent Garden, only a stone’s throw away from Theatreland, the Royal Opera House and the British Museum, and the convenient location offers easy access to the City of London too.
Each of the 170 spacious bedrooms is classically designed and offers all the comfort and high class facilities you would expect from a 4* deluxe hotel. Independently air-conditioned, each room has broadband internet access, a flat-screen TV featuring 400 free satellite channels, a private electronic safe, a mini bar and tea & coffee making facilities. Guests can relax in the hotel's whirlpool after a long day, enjoy an energetic workout in the gym or unwind in the steam rooms. The Harlequin Restaurant and the lounge bar offer classic International-style cuisine, delicious cocktails or traditional English afternoon tea. (More images below, under Day 8)
The reception is followed by an included welcome dinner (details to come shortly) and an after-dinner talk by Alison Weir: Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses.
Day 2: Friday 17th May
In the morning, we depart by coach for a scenic tour of historic London sites connected with the Royal Houses of Lancaster and York, including Crosby Hall, once the residence of Richard III; the site of John of Gaunt’s Savoy Palace; the site of Baynard's Castle, where Edward IV and Richard III were both offered the crown, and the London residence of their mother, Cecily Neville, Duchess of York; St Paul's Cathedral and its Churchyard; the site of the monastery of St Martin le Grand, where Anne Neville, Richard III’s future Queen, was taken by Richard after he rescued her from the kitchens where his brother, the Duke of Clarence, had hidden her; the site of the Minoresses Convent in Aldgate, which may have held the solution to the mystery of the Princes in the Tower; and the site of Bermondsey Abbey, where two queens died in enforced retirement. Guests should note that some of these are just sites and that little or nothing remains above ground; but they are important to our understanding of the period, and you will be visiting spots where history was actually made.
Around noon, we arrive at the Tower of London for an independent lunch, after which Alison Weir will guide the group around the Tower of London.
Her Majesty's Palace and Fortress of The Tower of London, founded by William the Conquerer in 1066-7, was the scene of some of the most remarkable events in England's history. It has long enjoyed a grim reputation as a place of torture and death: the ancient stones reverberate with dark secrets, the priceless Crown Jewels glint in fortified vaults, and ravens strut the grounds. The Tower held many famous prisoners, from the highest levels of society; some in astonishing comfort and others less so...
Henry VI, last sovereign of the House of Lancaster, was imprisoned in the Tower for several years, and was murdered here in 1471. The royal palace (of which only some ruins remain) was a favourite residence of the Yorkist King, Edward IV. His sons, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York - the famous 'Princes in the Tower' - were imprisoned here by their uncle, Richard III, and never seen again. Their fate is one of the most debated mysteries in history, and we will be visiting the sites in the Tower associated with it.
We will visit the Bowyer Tower (above, left), where Edward IV's treacherous brother, George Duke of Clarence, is said to have been executed by being drowned in a butt of Malmsey in 1478, and the Royal Chapel of St Peter ad Vincula, where, in the chancel - buried beside two decapitated queens (Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard) - lie the remains of Charence's daughter, Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury (above centre), whose closeness in blood to the throne was the reason why Henry VIII had her summarily executed in 1541. Tower Green is the site of the brutal executions of William, Lord Hastings (1483) and Margaret Pole (1541).
At the Tower we will be joined by historian Nigel Jones, author of the book Tower, who will tell us about some of the great escapes from the fortress, including those of Ranulf Flambard, Roger Mortimer, John Gerard and Lord Nithsdale, as well as Colonel Blood, who stile the Crown Jewels, and the poisoning of Sir Thomas Overbury.
Dinner is independent tonight.
Day 3: Saturday 18th May
After checking out of our London hotel, we visit Westminster Abbey, where all the Lancastrian and Yorkist kings, except Edward V, were crowned.
Westminster Abbey is steeped in more than a thousand years of history. It is famous as the burial place of kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes, villains and some of the most significant people in Britain's history are buried or commemorated - a living pageant of British history. The Abbey has been the coronation church since 1066 and is the final resting place of seventeen monarchs. In more recent times it has witnessed several royal weddings. The present church, begun by Henry III in 1245, is one of the most important Gothic buildings in the country, with the medieval shrine of St Edward the Confessor, an Anglo-Saxon royal saint, still at its heart. It is a treasure house of paintings, stained glass, pavements, textiles and other artefacte. The tombs and memorials comprise the most significant single collection of monumental sculpture anywhere in the United Kingdom.
In Westminster Abbey you will see the tombs of Henry V and Katherine of Valois, and the magnificent monument of Elizabeth of York and her husband, Henry VII, the first Tudor King. Here too is the urn that is believed to contain the bones of the Princes in the Tower, and in the Norman Undercroft Museum, you can see the wooden funeral effigies of Elizabeth of York and Katherine of Valois, as well as many other historical curiosities.
Next to the Abbey is the site of the Sanctuary, where Edward IV's widow, Elizabeth Wydeville, sought refuge and protection with her children after his death.
Here too is Cheyneygates, the fourteenth-century Abbot’s House, where Elizabeth Wydeville and her children lived during their sojourns in sanctuary in 1470-1 and 1483-4. It was here that, on the orders of the future Richard III, her younger son was forcibly taken from her and sent to join his brother, Edward V, in the Tower. Cheyneygates was leased to Elizabeth Wydeville in 1486. Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, died there in 1509.
After our visit to the Abbey, there will be time for an independent lunch at Westminster. There is the new Cellarium Café in historic Dean’s Yard within the Abbey precincts, a coffee bar in the cloisters, and a Pizza Express and various coffee bars nearby in Victoria Street.
Our coach then leaves Westminster for Stratford-upon-Avon, famous as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, who wrote a cycle of plays about the Wars of the Roses.
At Stratford, we will check into the historic, centrally located 4* Mercure Shakespeare Hotel, where we will stay for two nights.
The Shakespeare Hotel Stratford, with its attractive and striking exterior, is set in an excellent location right at the heart of Stratford-upon-Avon. The early seventeenth-century building blends in well with the traditions of the town thanks to its unique Grade I listing, which awards it the highest standard: 'outstanding'. From the open fire in the lobby reception area, through to the classy individually decorated bedrooms, The Mercure Shakespeare offers only the best in quality and service.
Guests are advised that, due to the historic nature of this hotel, no two rooms are alike in size, décor or character, but each has the same standard of comfort.
The hotel is just around the corner from historic Sheep Street, where you will find several excellent and reasonably priced restaurants, including The Opposition (below, right) and Lamb's. You may also wish to take in a performance by the world-famous Royal Shakespeare Company (advance online booking essential), whose three theatres are just a short walk from the hotel.
Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, is steeped in culture and history. Set in the beautiful rural Warwickshire countryside, on the banks of the river Avon, it is one of the most important tourist destinations in the U.K., a market town with more than 800 years of history containing many ancient buildings that would have been familiar to Shakespeare himself. One of them, sixteenth-century Harvard House, was the birthplace of John Harvard, whose bequest provided funds for the foundation of Harvard University at Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Later in the afternoon we visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, where Alison Weir will accompany the group around the house.
Shakespeare's Birthplace (above and below) has been welcoming visitors for over 250 years. William Shakespeare grew up here. He also spent the first five years of married life in this house with his wife, Anne Hathaway. For millions of Shakespeare enthusiasts worldwide, the house is a shrine. Discover the world that shaped the man, this man whose cycle of plays on the Wars of the Roses has been so influential. The Birthplace is a fascinating house that offers a tantalising glimpse into Shakespeare's early world. It's a special place that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
After leaving the Birthplace, Alison Weir will go on an orientation walk through Stratford for those who wish to accompany her to see the other Shakespeare properties and Holy Trinity Church, where the Bard is buried. For those who wish to go on their own, Shakespeare's Birthplace, Nash's House & New Place and Hall's Croft are located in Stratford town centre. All three properties are within easy walking distance. Shakespeare's Birthplace is in Henley Street in the town centre. Nash's House & New Place and Hall's Croft are respectively five- and ten-minute walks away. A little further on is Holy Trinity Church, where visitors can see Shakespeare’s grave. Please note that we will not have time to go into the other properties, as last entry is at 5pm and the church closes at 5pm. We have decided to make the most of our time by arranging an included visit to the Birthplace.
Nash's House was named after Thomas Nash, a wealthy local property owner who married Shakespeare's granddaughter. It is a well preserved Tudor building and the ground floor is furnished as it would have been in Nash's day. Next door are the foundations of New Place, the house bought by William Shakespeare in 1597. By then, he was an established playwright and had amassed enough wealth to afford a new family home. New Place was the second biggest house in Stratford at the time and it was where Shakespeare lived when he was not in London. He is believed to have written some of his later works here, including The Tempest. He died here in 1616. Hall’s Croft was the home of Shakespeare’s daughter Susanna and her husband, Dr John Hall. Enjoy the luxurious rooms and beautiful decoration of this fascinating house, befitting a wealthy physician of Dr John Hall's status. Examine the intriguing collection of apothecary's equipment and books in the doctor's consulting room along with a first edition of his medical notes published in 1657. In the beautiful gardens, breathe in the fragrant herbs as used by Dr Hall in his remedies.
At 6.15pm, in a private room at the Mercure Shakespeare, historian David Baldwin will give a talk on 'The Rediscovery of Richard III'. This will last an hour.
Dinner is independent tonight.
Day 4: Sunday 19th May
After breakfast, our coach takes us to the historic town of Ludlow, where we will enjoy a guided tour of Ludlow Castle.
The picturesque old town of Ludlow is dominated by the massive ruins of its ancient castle, once a stronghold of the Mortimers, one of England's most prominent noble families, and the ancestors of the House of York. The Castle, firstly a Norman fortress then extended over the centuries to become a fortified royal palace, has ensured Ludlow's place in English history. Originally built to hold back the unconquered Welsh, it passed through generations of the de Lacy and Mortimer families to Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. It became Crown property in 1461 and remained a royal castle for the next 350 years, during which time the Council of the Marches was formed, with responsibility for the Government of Wales and the border counties. Abandoned in 1689 the castle quickly fell into a ruin, described as 'the very perfection of decay' by Daniel Defoe. Here, the future Edward V was sent with his tutors and household to learn the art of governing his principality of Wales. It was here that he learned of his father's early death, whereupon he set off on his fateful journey to London.
Afterwards, there will be free time in Ludlow for exploring this ancient, picturesque market town - an architectural gem in a beautiful setting. It is surrounded by the unspoilt and beautiful hilly countryside of south Shropshire and the Welsh border country, known as the Welsh Marches. In recent years, Ludlow has acquired an international reputation for the quality of its food and drink. Some of the best restaurants in Britain can be found here, supported by the area's abundance of top-quality food and drink producers and suppliers. There will be free time for an independent lunch, to enable you to sample its many restaurants and cafes.
After lunch, our coach takes us to Tewkesbury Abbey, and on the way, we will pass the site where the Battle of Tewkesbury was fought in 1471. It was a decisive victory for Edward IV, who finally overcame the Lancastrian forces of Henry VI and Margaret of Anjou. It was at Tewkesbury that Henry's heir, Edward, Prince of Wales, was killed, possibly murdered.
Tewkesbury Abbey, where we will have a guided tour, is situated on the confluence of the rivers Severn and Avon, and is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in the U.K.. It has survived through centuries almost untouched. It is the second largest parish church in England, larger than many cathedrals. The 12th century tower of the Abbey is the tallest in England at 148ft. It was here that many fleeing Lancastrians sought sanctuary after the Battle of Tewkesbury, only to be dragged away and executed. The bloodshed caused the building to be closed for a month until it could be purified and re-consecrated. In the centre of the choir, Edward of Lancaster, Prince of Wales, the only son of Henry VI, was buried. George, Duke of Clarence, the brother of Edward IV and Richard III, and father of Margaret Pole, is buried here with his wife, Isabella Neville; he was executed in the Tower of London in 1478 - probably, at his own request, drowned in a barrel of Malmsey wine.
At 6.15pm, in a private room at the Mercure Shakespeare, historian Joanna Laynesmith will give a talk: 'Elizabeth Wydeville: Poor, Painted Queen'. This will last an hour.
Dinner is independent tonight.
Day 5: Monday 20th May
After checking out of the Shakespeare Hotel, we leave Stratford for Kenilworth Castle.
The vast medieval fortress of Kenilworth is the largest castle ruin in England – and one of the most spectacular. Immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his ninteenth- century novel, this mighty castle was once the residence of John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster (below), father of Henry IV and one of the greatest magnates of medieval England. Alison Weir will guide the group around the ruins.
John of Gaunt's ruined great hall at Kenilworth (below, left) has been described as one of the most beautiful rooms in England. Here he brought his celebrated mistress, Katherine Swynford, whose story you will hear at the castle. Here also Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, created an ornate palace to impress his beloved Queen Elizabeth I in 1575. The newly re-created Elizabethan Garden, lost for 400 years, is now open to visitors once more.
We then drive to Leicester, where guests will be able to visit the car park where Richard III’s skeleton was found in 2012, and nearby Leicester Cathedral, where there is a memorial tablet to him and where his remains are expected to be reinterred early next year. It will not be possible to see the skeleton at Leicester University, but there will be time to tour the new Richard III museum at Leicester Guildhall
Richard III: Leicester’s Search for a King: The exhibition has been developed by Leicester Arts & Museum Service to introduce the remarkable story behind this excavation, narrated by those working on the project. The exhibition will allow visitors the chance to explore the historical and scientific evidence that has been gathered from the Greyfriars’ site.
Please note: Because we have added Leicester to the itinerary (a must after the discovery of Richard III's bones), and we know you will want to make the most of your time there (from 11.45am to 1.30pm), we are arranging for the Mercure Shakespeare Hotel to provide everyone with complimentary packed lunches (each consisting of sandwiches, a soft drink, crisps, fruit and a chocolate bar) to eat on the coach.
In the afternoon we visit Market Bosworth, Leicestershire, where we will visit the Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre and Country Park.
Bosworth is a site of national historic significance, being the location of one of the most important battles fought on British soil. It is the site where the Battle of Bosworth took place in 1485, and the place where the last Plantagenet King, Richard III, lost his life and crown to Henry Tudor and the Tudor dynasty was born. Shakespeare immortalised Richard III as a king betrayed, surrounded by his enemies and crying out, “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
We will visit the interactive exhibition, where you can relive the famous battle, a major turning point in British history. Journey through Medieval England and witness the horrors of warfare in the Battle Room. The BFI gallery, which opened in 2010, tells the amazing story of how archaeologists found the true location of the Battle of Bosworth Field.
If you wish, you can walk the Battlefield Trail. It is well signposted. The full trail is just under 2km (1¼ miles) long across rolling countryside and therefore appropriate footwear and weather-proof clothing is recommended.
After our visit, we continue north to Middlethorpe Hall Hotel and Spa near York, where we will stay for three nights.
Middlethorpe Hall is a stunning William and Mary country house, built in 1699 of mellow red brick. It was bought in the 1980s and reopened as a luxury hotel, restaurant and spa in 1984, rescued from decay, and lovingly restored by Historic House Hotels. In September 2008 Middlethorpe Hall became the property of the National Trust by donation, with all profits benefiting the houses and the charity.
The restoration, conservation and conversion of the mansion into a country house hotel has been carried out to exacting and historically accurate standards. It has been elegantly decorated in the manner of the eighteenth century and furnished with antiques and fine paintings, so that its look and ambiance is that of a well-kept, well-furnished private manor house rather than a hotel. It has been called an 'idyllic retreat'.
It has 29 rooms - ten in the house, and nineteen in the adjacent eighteenth-century courtyard (above, left).
The 20 acres of manicured gardens and parkland which surround Middlethorpe Hall are also the result of a transformation - from a rose bed to a parterre that includes a fragrant rose garden, an intriguing walled garden and a romantic meadow that leads to a lake surrounded by beautiful specimen trees. There is also a ha-ha.
Middlethorpe Hall is renowned for its imaginative cuisine and its panelled dining rooms which overlook the manicured gardens. It also boasts a health and fitness spa built behind the handsome façade of two listed Edwardian cottages. This offers guests a range of facilities from Decléor, ESPA and Jessica treatments with trained therapists to a splendid swimming pool, sauna and gymnasium.
In the evening, there will be a drinks reception in the yellow drawing room (see pictures above), followed by an included dinner at the hotel, after which Alison Weir and Sarah Gristwood will host a debate bout The Princes in the Tower, in which audience participation is invited (no arrows, please). Historian Josephine Wilkinson, author of Richard, The Young King To Be, joins us for the evening and the debate.
Day 6: Tuesday 21st May
In the morning, we leave Middlethorpe Hall for Middleham Castle, Wensleydale, the seat of Richard of Gloucester, the future Richard III, and his wife, Anne Neville, daughter of Warwick the Kingmaker.
Middleham is celebrated for its connection with Richard III, who lived in its magnificent Castle, which boasts the largest keep in the north of England, which provided palatial domestic ranges in its heyday. One of the most powerful previous owners of the Castle was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, also known as `the Kingmaker`; during the Wars of the Roses, he held both Edward IV and Henry VI prisoner at Middleham. It was in 1462 that a young Richard, then Duke of Gloucester came here to learn the skills of war in the charge of Warwick. It was here that Richard met his future wife Anne Neville, Warwick's daughter, whom he married in 1472. Middleham became Richard’s power base while he administered the North on behalf of his brother, Edward 1V. Richard’s only son, Edward of Middleham, died at Middleham Castle on the 9th April 1484. An annual requiem mass is still said in Middleham Church on the anniversary of Richard III’s death.
Josephine Wilkinson will guide us around the castle and historic church. Afterwards we depart for the ancient City of York, where there will be free time for an independent lunch, perhaps visiting Betty’s famous tea room, dating from 1936, where you can enjoy unique Swiss-Yorkshire cuisine!
In the afternoon, we visit Barley Hall, where we will be served a glass of mead on arrival, in the great hall, followed by a guided tour. Josephine Wilkinson will stay with the group for the tour.
Barley Hall is a stunning medieval house, once home to the Priors of Nostell and the Mayor of York. Until the 1980s the house was hidden under the facade of a derelict office block and shops, and it was only when the building was about to be destroyed that this amazing medieval residence and its history were uncovered. Barley Hall has now been lovingly restored to its original splendour with a magnificent great hall, stunning ceilings, beautiful exposed timber frames, and possibly the only horn window in England. It has been decorated to replicate what it would have looked like around 1483. Visitors to Barley Hall can make themselves at home, sit on the chairs, handle the objects and experience how daily life was lived in a well-to-do household at the time of the Wars of the Roses.
Afterwards there will be free time to explore York and be inspired by two thousand years of history. Renowned for its exquisite architecture, tangle of quaint cobbled streets and the iconic York Minster (above left), York is a city of contrasts and exciting discoveries, a place where the old encompasses the new. There is much to see, including the Micklegate Bar (above centre), the Castle Museum, Clifford’s Tower (above right), the Richard III Museum on the ancient city walls, the medieval Merchant Adventurers’ Hall and the famous Shambles, a 900-year-old street with 15th-century buildings (see below right, showing the street lit at night).
There will be time too to enjoy an independent dinner at one of York’s many restaurants before we meet at 8pm at the foot of medieval Clifford's Tower for the Original Ghost Walk of York, offering a night of History and Mystery. The walk aims to be accurate, authentic and genuine, and guides (who are all City, County, Blue Badge or Equity qualified) do not stage-manage tricks or gimmicks.
The Original Ghost Walk of York is a guided tour (lasting 75-90 minutes) giving visitors insights into some of the spectral activity reported in England’s most haunted of cities. For non-believers, it’s a chance to see the city transformed by an enthusiastic, knowledgable guide, who conveys a history one would otherwise miss. And for those who want to see a real ghost, try and catch a glimpse of the white-faced, madly laughing lady of Barley Hall before she spots you…
At 9.45pm, our coach leaves York for Middlethorpe Hall, returning at 10.30pm.
Day 7: Wednesday 22nd May
In the morning, we drive to Gainsborough Old Hall in Lincolnshire, where we will enjoy a guided tour.
Gainsborough Old Hall is an impressive 15th-century house. This magnificent medieval manor is one of the best in the country and is an evocative reminder of the era of the Wars of the Roses. It has welcomed several illustrious royal visitors. Richard III (below left) and Henry VIII were guests of the Burgh family, who originally built and lived in the building
Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s sixth wife, lived here during her first marriage. The Mayflower Pilgrims and John Wesley worshipped within these walls. The Great Hall with its splendid, arched, wooden roof and oriel window remains at the core of the building and continues to inspire visitors. The kitchens remain virtually unchanged since they were built and those who climb to the top of the brick built tower can enjoy the magnificent vista of both the manor lands and the river Trent.
We then visit Kettlethorpe (above), a village closely associated with Katherine Swynford. Here guests will have privileged access to the grounds, the gatehouse, the gardens and the line of the moat (there is nothing to see inside the rebuilt house) at Kettlethorpe Hall (by kind permission of the Rt Hon Douglas Hogg, QC, Viscount Hailsham), where Katherine, 'the Lady of Kettlethorpe', lived for much of her adult life. We will also be visiting Kettlethorpe Church, where there are displays on Katherine.
Around mid-day, we continue to the medieval city of Lincoln, where there will be free time for an independent lunch
As you approach the City of Lincoln, from any direction, you are drawn to the magnificent silhouette of the Cathedral on its high hill. As one of the finest Gothic buildings in Europe, Lincoln Cathedral towers above the city as a prominent landmark visible up to 25 miles away. Adorned with an awe-inspiring Romanesque West Front, the Cathedral has been a place of worship for almost 1000 years and it provides an area of peace and contemplation for all. The Cathedral has a rich and varied history, and monuments to a famous royal love story. Here you will see the chantry chapel housing the tombs of John of Gaunt's mistress and later wife, Katherine Swynford, and their daughter, Joan Beaufort (below right), who was the grandmother of Edward IV and Richard III. The brass shown below is a replica of Katherine's, which was destroyed during the Civil War.
In the afternoon, we visit Lincoln Cathedral
On leaving the cathedral, Alison Weir will lead a guided walk around sites in Lincoln associated with Katherine Swynford, including her former homes in the Cathedral Close, the Deanery (the former Chancery, below), the Priory, where she died, and the house of her daughter, Joan Beaufort, in historic Pottergate. We have arranged privileged access to the Deanery, which Katherine leased in the 1380s (by kind permission of the Dean of Lincoln); here you will see her chapel, her screens passage and the site of her great hall (below).
Afterwards, there will be free time in Lincoln for sight-seeing.
Lincoln is one of England’s most beautiful and vibrant cathedral cities. Steeped in heritage, it has been witness to over 2,000 years of history. The magnificent cathedral, situated at the heart of the city’s many visitor attractions, towers over the ancient Bailgate, the well-preserved medieval town, with its quant shops and restaurants, and opposite are the impressive castle ruins. See also the medieval Bishop's Palace (above, left) and venture down Steep Hill to see two rare survivals of Norman houses dating from the twelfth century (above, right). Lincoln has stood as a centre for trade and commerce since Roman times, when the invaders established the town of Lindum Colonia. You can see Roman remains in the Bailgate.
We then return to Middlethorpe Hall.
Dinner is independent tonight.
Day 8: Thursday 23rd May
After checking out of Middlethorpe Hall, we head south for Fotheringhay, the Northamptonshire seat of the House of York.
Although only a small village, Fotheringhay boasts strong historic connections with the House of York. We will visit the mound and fragments of masonry that are all that is left of the palatial Yorkist residence of Fotheringhay Castle. Here, Richard III was born in 1452, and Mary, Queen of Scots was executed in 1587. Despite the castle’s size and importance, it was allowed to fall into disrepair during the Elizabethan period. Today there is little to be seen apart from earthworks and some masonry remains.
We then visit the beautiful collegiate church of Fotheringhay, of which only half now remains. The magnificent church of St.Mary and All Saints dates from the 15th century. A college was founded here in 1411 by Edward of York before his death at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. Here lie buried (in Elizabethan tombs) Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York (below centre), the father of Edward IV and Richard III; his wife, Cecily Neville; their son, Edmund, Earl of Rutland, killed with York at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460; and Edward, Duke of York, grandson of Edward III, who was killed at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. The pulpit given by Edward IV can still be seen.
We will then enjoy an included three-course lunch with wine at the award-winning Falcon Inn, which nestles at the heart of the village of Fotheringhay. It was named after the House of York, whose heraldic shield depicts a falcon and fetterlock. A traditional English pub with a great reputation for serving good food, it was named Dining Pub of the Year 2011 and 2012.
Lunch is booked in the conservatory (below), which affords views of historic Fotheringhay Church.
After lunch, our coach takes us further south to the historic town of St Albans (Roman Verulamium), the site of two battles of the Wars of the Roses (1455 and 1461).
St Albans has been welcoming visitors for 2,000 years. First built as Verulamium by the Romans, the city was renamed St Albans after the first British Christian martyr, who was executed for his beliefs in the third century AD. Today, the Roman heritage and imposing medieval cathedral attract many visitors throughout the year. After the Romans left, St Albans grew up around the precincts of the monastery founded in the 10th century. The magnificent Abbey Church dominates the city's skyline. A blend of many periods, the bricks used by the Romans in the building of Verulamium are included in the tower. The Abbey Gateway built in 1365, used for many years as a prison, now forms part of St Albans School. St Albans was the site of two battles during the Wars of the Roses.
In St Albans, we are booked for an official guided walk (lasting approximately 75 minutes) around the battlefields sites, in and around the market place and town.
Later that afternoon, we continue south to London, passing on the way the site of the Battle of Barnet (1471) at Hadley Green, Monken Hadley. This battle saw Warwick the Kingmaker defeated and killed by Edward IV. An obelisk, Hadley Highstone, marks the spot where the Kingmaker is said to have died.
We then return to the Kingsway Hall Hotel in London.
This evening, there will be an included farewell dinner at historic Bleeding Heart Yard in the City of London.
Bleeding Heart Yard is a cobbled courtyard in Farringdon, adjacent to Ely Place, the site of John of Gaunt's palace, his London residence after the Savoy Palace was destroyed. Here he lived with Katherine Swynford in the 1390s. The chapel and cellars remain. The courtyard is probably named after a Tudor inn sign dating back to the Reformation that was displayed on a pub called the Bleeding Heart in nearby Charles Street. The sign showed the heart of the Virgin Mary pierced by five swords. But a darker legend connects it to the murder of Lady Elizabeth Hatton, whose family formerly owned the area around Hatton Garden. It is said that her body was found here on 27 January 1626, "torn limb from limb, but with her heart still pumping blood." It was believed she had been stolen away by the Devil.
Bleeding Heart Restaurant offers modern French food, ‘impeccable service’, an award-winning ‘encyclopaedic’ wine list and above all a uniquely welcoming ambience in a wonderfully historic setting.
Historian and Member of Parliament Chris Skidmore joins us for dinner, and afterwards will provide a fitting end to the tour with a talk based on his new book, Bosworth, which is published this very day.
Day 9: Friday 24th May
After checking out of the Kingsway Hall Hotel (guests’ luggage can be stored there for the day), we depart for Windsor, where we will enjoy a tour of Windsor Castle and its magnificent state apartments.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and the Official Residence of Her Majesty The Queen. Its rich history spans almost 1000 years. The Castle covers an area of 13 acres and contains magnificent State Apartments furnished with priceless treasures from the Royal Collection; St George's Chapel, rebuilt by Edward IV, one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England and the burial place of ten monarchs; Queen Mary's Dolls House, a masterpiece in miniature; and the Drawings Gallery featuring an annual exhibition of pictures and artefacts from the Royal Collection..
This will be followed by free time for an independent lunch before we meet outside the Henry VIII Gate for a visit to St George’s Chapel, Windsor, guided by Alison Weir.
St George's Chapel, within the precincts of Windsor Castle, is one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England. The present building was begun by Edward IV in 1475 and took fifty years to construct. It is the Chapel of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain's highest order of chivalry founded by Edward III in 1348. Members are selected by The Sovereign and include foreign monarchs and previous Prime Ministers. Here you can see the tomb of Edward IV, and that of his rival, Henry VI. Elizabeth Wydeville, Edward's queen, is also buried in the chapel. Here too is the beautifully decorated chantry chapel of William, Lord Hastings, Edward IV's loyal friend, who was summarily executed by Richard of Gloucester (later Richard III) in 1483.
Afterwards, there will be free time for visiting other attractions, such as Queen Mary's Doll's House and old masters from the Royal Collection in the Drawings Gallery (admission ticket included).
At 4pm, we leave Windsor for the Kingsway Hall Hotel, London, returning around 5.30pm, when the tour ends.
The itinerary includes a full enrichment programme of talks by Alison Weir and other guest historians (further details to come).
Please note that the final itinerary may be subject to minor changes, and that there are still some interesting additions to be made.