Richard the Third, the last York King of England and Wales, led a colourful life that has been the subject of much public speculation. Shakespeare himself fuelled the intrigue by portraying the man as deformed, conspiring and hunched – such is the way for those that lose the battle. His story did not end with his death though and the latest chapter in his long saga began in February 2013, when the last Plantagenet King was found beneath Greyfriars car park, in Leicester.
Six months on, the embattled king is still causing division.
The licence granted by the Ministry of Justice to Leicester University to carry out the dig and excavate the King left the right to choose the appropriate site for reburial to the University. Naturally, they chose Leicester and, indeed, the Council has already embarked on construction of a visitor centre and a Leicester Cathedral tomb for what they hope will be a substantial tourist draw.
The Plantagenet Alliance, however, has appealed against this action and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave has given them permission for a Judicial Review to determine whether Richard should be reburied in Leicester Cathedral or in York Minster.
“In my judgement, it is plainly arguable that there was a duty at common law to consult widely as to how and where Richard III’s remains should appropriately be reinterred.
“I grant permission to the claimant to bring judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Justice and the University of Leicester on all grounds.”
With 15 descendants of the King in the Plantagenet Alliance, does the Right of Burial belong to the Nation or belong to those descendants? Have the dead King’s wishes, purportedly to be buried in York Minster, yet been considered by statutory authority and can any modern man really claim to have known the dead King’s wishes, unless written proof survives?
A fierce debate has erupted on the subject and, although it is widely believed that Richard would have preferred York Minster as his final resting place, the benefit to Leicester of such an attraction cannot be ignored. Unlike York, which already has one of the most impressive religious buildings in the country, a number of entombed Kings and Archbishops and a level of history befitting its status as capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, Leicester is not, as yet, a major tourist destination.
Whatever the final choice, there will be dissatisfaction with the result from some corners. Regardless of the outcome, at least Richard III’s final entombment will be a little more grandiose than a Leicester car park.
SJ / LCB 19/08/2013