The man with the job of protecting the most famous parking lot in the world was having a busy day a couple of weeks ago. "Sorry, guys," Jake Jones said as the latest in a steady stream of onlookers tried to walk through the gates. "You'll have to wait for the guided tour."
Local parking lots like this one on New Street in Leicester rarely receive such attention. But then, no others can claim to have been the resting place of a king of England for the past 527 years.
Since Feb. 4, when researchers from the University of Leicester announced that a skeleton found during an archaeological dig at the parking lot in September 2012 was indeed that of Richard III, a monarch immortalized by Shakespeare, Mr. Jones has been fending off hundreds of curious visitors hoping to catch a glimpse of the deep trench where the skeleton was found. (It is just visible from the gates, toward the far end of the parking lot and is covered with a white tent.)
While Mr. Jones may have been caught off guard by the crowds, Leicester, a former manufacturing town of red brick terraced houses and hosiery factories about two hours from London, is welcoming the onslaught, hoping that after taking in a guided tour that stops at the parking lot, people will stick around for other tourist attractions that have swiftly sprung up.
The 14th-century Guildhall building (44-116-253-2569) has become the center of activity. In addition to selling tickets for the tour, it also opened an exhibition called "Leicester's Search for a King" four days after the announcement of the bones' origins. The small but impressive show provides a step-by-step guide to both the archaeology and the science behind the identification of the skeleton, using videos featuring scientists involved in the discovery, and displays replicas of the remains.
"The world's gaze is drawn to Leicester at the moment," said Laura Hadland, senior curator of the show. She should know. More than 1,000 people showed up for the exhibition on its opening day, she said, and the weekend afterward, locals, visitors from other parts of Britain and journalists, all buzzing with excited chatter about the find, stood in a line that never seemed to shrink.
Visitors seeking a primer on Richard III (and slightly shorter lines) can venture out to a field just outside town that was the site of the Battle of Bosworth, where Richard III was killed. A visitors' center there (Sutton Cheney; 44-1455-290429; £7.95, or $12 at $1.52 to the pound; bosworthbattlefield.com) was restored in 2009, after archaeologists uncovered finds that at the time seemed earth-shattering, including a white boar livery badge that would have been worn by a member of Richard's close circle in the battle.
In language less soaring than Shakespeare's, the center recounts the story of the fight for the throne: The two houses of the Plantagenet Dynasty -- Richard III's House of York and Henry Tudor's House of Lancaster -- had been engaged in the War of the Roses for nearly 30 years when Richard III ascended the throne in 1483. Two years later, he was killed in battle, the last king of England to meet such a fate, and after his death, Henry united the two houses by marrying Richard's niece, ushering in the reign of the Tudors. The visitors' center, which was recently full of families learning about the skeleton's back story, has added a section to the exhibition on the discovery of the remains.
Within the town of Leicester itself, plans are under way for a permanent center devoted to Richard. But for now, the tourist board has created a self-guided walking tour (pdf) around sites connected to Richard. At the Visit Leicester tourist information center (51 Gallowtree Gate; 44-116-299-4444; visitleicester.info), an employee handed out maps indicating a route that tourists interested in the king can follow.
The tour starts at a pub that stands at the site of the White Boar Inn, an establishment where the ruler spent his last night before battle. It then goes past the Roman-era Jewry Wall to the Bow Bridge, where a plaque dating from 1856 commemorates the spot where his body was once thought to have been unceremoniously tossed into the River Soar. It also goes to Leicester Cathedral, where the body may be reinterred. But before that, it visits a commemorative site: Castle Gardens, where a statue of the king stands, sword and crown aloft. A bouquet of white flowers was left at the base days after the announcement about the remains of the king, with a card inside. "The people of Leicester will take good care of you," it read.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.