THE remains of King Richard III, "a child of God" and "a
representative figure with a mixture of high, honourable ideals and
more fallen nature", would be buried at Leicester Cathedral, the
Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, said on Wednesday, as
campaigns for alternative final resting places gathered momentum (
Comment, 4 January;
Letters, 18 January and
The news that the skeleton found at the site of Greyfriars
Church in Leicester (
News, 14 September) was indeed that of the last Plantaganet
king was delivered by experts from the University of Leicester on
Monday. A "wealth of evidence", including DNA analysis, radiocarbon
dating, and skeletal examination was produced to support the
Dr Jo Appleby of the University's School of Archeology and
Ancient History said that the skeleton's "unusual features: its
slender build, the scoliosis and the battle-related trauma"
provided a "highly convincing case".
DNA from the skeleton matches two of the king's maternal-line
relatives, including Michael Ibsen, a Canadian furniture-maker
living in London, who was traced through wills, baptism registers,
and the passenger list for the RMS Mauretania, which
carried Mr Ibsen's mother to Canada in 1948.
The request from the City Council and the University for the
remains, buried beneath a council car park for 500 years, to be
interred in Leicester Cathedral, was welcomed by Canon David
Monteith, who said that preparations were under way to provide the
king with a "lasting and dignified sanctuary". Bishop Stevens said
that it was hoped that a service would take place in the spring of
2014 to coincide with the opening of a new visitors' centre, which
would tell the story of Richard III and the discovery of his
On Tuesday, Kersten England, chief executive of York City
Council, confirmed that she would write a letter to the Queen to
put forward the case for reburial in York. She said that it had
been "inferred down the centuries that that is absolutely where he
wished to be buried and remembered". An e-petition for reburial in
York Minster had gathered 4359 signatures on Wednesday.
On Monday, The Times argued in a leader that "we are
still a monarchy and this man was once our King. . . he must be
reburied in Westminster Abbey." Meanwhile, the deputy editor of
The Tablet, Elena Curti, argued that "the appropriate
rites would surely be a Catholic funeral with a full Requiem Mass,
and only a Catholic church will do for Richard's tomb." She argued
that, had Richard III prevailed at the Battle of Bosworth, "there
would have been no Henry VII, therefore no Henry VIII, and no
Reformation. England today might still be a Catholic country."
The RC Bishop of Nottingham, the Rt Revd Malcolm McMahon OP,
said that the decision lay with the Government and the Church of
England. A statement on Leicester Cathedral's website argues that,
although Richard III died before the Reformation, he was a "devout
member of the Church of which the Church of England is the
The licence to exhume the remains was issued by the Ministry of
Justice to the University of Leicester, which made the request for
re-interment to the Cathedral.
On Thursday, the Chapter of York issued a statement to support
the terms of the license and the wish of the Chapter of Leicester.
The statement said that it "commends Richard to Leicester's care
and to the cathedral community's prayers".
Monday's announcement followed, the Chapter of York said, "a
significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a
sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death." Leicester
Franciscans had buried Richard III and the cathedral had a major
memorial to his memory "at its heart".
Addressing concerns that Richard III was not "good", Bishop
Stevens said on Wednesday: "He won't be buried as a saint but . . .
as a king, a reigning monarch at the time, who represents a
significant part of our national story and who, in the eyes of the
Church, is a child of God."
Although there are rumours that Richard III killed Edward V and
his brother Richard ("the Princes in the Tower"), there is no
conclusive evidence. Psychologists at the University of Leicester
have argued that "the expedient execution of relatives was
commonplace in medieval times and certainly not indicative of a
murderous mania." A facial reconstruction of the king, funded by
the Richard III Society and released on Tuesday, revealed, the
Society said, "a warm face, young, earnest, and rather