Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Colin's Little Known Facts: King Lear and Leicester

One of William Shakespeare’s best known plays is the tragedy “King Lear”. What is not generally known is that the play has connections with the ancient city of Leicester.

Shakespeare did not invent Lear. This tragic king was either real or, more likely, had been regarded for many years as real. Perhaps here he has similarities with King Arthur and Robin Hood.

Geoffrey of Monmouth, writing in the 12th century, included Lear in his “history”, naming no fewer than 99 Kings of Britain.

According to Geoffrey, Lear was the founder of Leicester, to which he gave his name, calling it Learcester. When he died, it is said, he was buried in a tomb beneath the River Soar.

It is believed that Shakespeare came to know the Lear story while performing at the Guildhall in Leicester.

On King Lear’s Lake in Watermead Park, near Syston, is a tableau in statue form, featuring some of the protagonists in the story.