Thursday, April 10, 2014

Old Richard III Museum at Monk Bar, York

The old Richard III Museum in York was located inside one of the city's medieval gates, Monk Bar.

View of Monk Bar from outside the city walls

View from inside the city walls

The gate has three floors and plenty of room inside. The portcullis still works though I don't think they actually use it.

The shaft to raise and lower the portcullis

In the 16th century the gate was used as a prison. Visitors can still see two of the cells and read about some of the prisoners held there.

The little-ease prison, pretty much a bare room

Mary Ward and Margaret Clitherow--two Catholic women jailed under Elizabeth I for their faith

Alice Bowman, another prisoner here for her faith

Deluxe prison cell, with a toilet

Garderobe or medieval toilet

Upstairs is an execution chamber but we weren't allowed to visit it, presumably due to repairs.

No admittance!

The main attraction in the tower is the Richard III Museum. He was king of England for little over two years (1483-1485), dying at the Battle of Bosworth Field. His death meant the end of the Plantagenets and the end of the Wars of the Roses. After him, the Tudors ruled in England beginning with Henry VII. Memory of Richard is almost wholly dominated by Shakespeare's vilification of him in his play Richard III. The museum presents arguments for and against Richard from historical facts. Especially interesting is a display on the discovery of Richard's remains in Leicester.

King Richard in the dock!

Popular images and information from history

An analysis of his skeleton


Family crest for the house of York

There are fun bits of the museum too, like voting on whether Richard murdered his nephews in the Tower of London or not. They also present some tabloid headlines as if from Richard's time and a display on how English were the kings of England.

Vote early and often!

Scandal sheets about Richard's reign

Some English monarchs who may or may not have been able to speak the local language

Overall, I found the museum to lean slightly in favor of Richard III, which isn't too surprising since York is his home town. A new museum is opening in Easter 2014 with the same theme and staff but as part of the Jorvik set of museums. They also plan to make a Henry VII Museum at Micklegate Bar! As I publish this post, they are not open yet. Look for them in the future!

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