The Bones of Richard III – Leicester, York, or Worksop?

The discovery in Leicester of bones that might prove to be those of Richard III was discussed in an earlier post.  Whilst Leicester Cathedral has been working with the Royal Household and the Richard III Society ‘to ensure that his remains are treated with dignity and respect and are reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church’, it has also been suggested that a Roman Catholic reburial might be more appropriate, here.  The debate has now received the attention of the House of Commons where on 25th October, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Tony Baldry MP, the Second Church Estates Commissioner responded to the following questions from two MPs, here, on the likely place of reburial:

*5 John Mann (Bassetlaw): To ask the honourable Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the potential church sites available for the reburying of King Richard III. (124678)

*10 Jonathan Ashworth (Leicester South): To ask the honourable Member for Banbury, representing the Church Commissioners, what discussions the Church Commissioners have had on laying to rest the remains of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral. (124683)

John Mann suggested that if the bones were proven to be the remains of Richard III, they should be buried in Worksop, Nottinghamshire.  Worksop is approximately in the centre of the kingdom of Richard III, half-way between York and Leicester, and is the site of a former priory.  Jon Ashworth expressed a preference for Leicester Cathedral, which is in his constituency.  The Grey friars buried the body of Richard in what was then the Greyfriars church, close to Leicester cathedral.  The Hon. Member for York Central, Hugh Bayley confirmed that Richard III is still very well regarded in York, but

‘to argue on the Floor of this place over his mortal remains is more like medieval cathedrals fighting over saints’ relics.’

Sir Tony noted that the bones have yet to be identified as Richard III, but should this prove to be the case, it would follow tradition if these were to be reinterred “in the nearest Christian church or Cathedral” and he was hoping to arrange a meeting with the Dean of Leicester and others “so see how that could happen”.

He further noted that he had sought to ascertain the burial sites of other former English monarchs. In the case of Charles, King and Martyr, although his head was still separated from his body, Sir Tony reported that these are both in St George’s Chapel, Windsor. The only monarch whose exact whereabouts are unknown is Henry I.

[According to the Museum of Reading, here, Henry I was buried in front of the High Altar in Reading Abbey, although the tomb did not survive the destruction of the Abbey after its Dissolution in 1539. During recent archaeological investigations a piece of carved stone was discovered which may be part of a twelfth century sarcophagus that might originally have formed part of Henry’s tomb].

The present status of the remains is that

‘[t]hey are at present with Leicester city council’s museums department and the University of Leicester’s archaeological department, which are carrying out tests to see whether it can be demonstrated that the remains are indeed those of Richard III. Once those tests are concluded, the nature, place and marking of any re-interment will need seriously to be considered’.

As noted in the earlier post, having been excavated under a section 25 licence, in law the University has ‘custody and possession’ of the bones, and were it not for the unique circumstances, it would decide where they are to be reburied unless someone with a better claim comes forward.

Since   our first post on Richard III “The   Bones of Richard III – Leicester, York, or Worksop?” we have followed   developments on the associated legislation.    Although comment is now closed, for those with interests in   this area the relevant articles are listed below.

5 thoughts on “The Bones of Richard III – Leicester, York, or Worksop?

  1. Leicester, York or Worksop? The answer seems to be “Leicester”. The BBC reports that Helen Grant, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice, has made the following announcement in a Written Answer (not yet available on the Commons website) in reply to a Question tabled by Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley:

    “My Department issued a licence to exhume human remains which could be those of Richard III. Remains have now been exhumed and archaeologists are currently carrying out tests to determine the identity of the remains. Should they be found to be those of Richard III, the current plan is for them to be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.”

    So that looks to be definitive – assuming, of course, that the skeleton is that of Richard III.

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