From the Revd Peter
Sir, - As someone who is not part of Leicester Cathedral, but
works closely alongside it, in charge of St Martins House, next
door, I would like to challenge misapprehensions in recent
correspondence about the plans for the reinterment of King Richard
III, most recently from the Revd Peter Blackman and the Revd Dr
Nicholas Cranfield (
Letters, 22 February).
I am not sufficiently versed
in medieval history to take direct issue with Mr Blackman's account
of Richard's misdeeds on his way to the throne, but I am informed
enough to know that the verdict of history is almost always both
contested and ultimately unprovable. What is beyond doubt, to me,
is that burial in consecrated ground with prayer is not a reward
for virtue, but a recognition of the fact that we all stand
ultimately before the judgement of God. It should be denied to
neither Christian pauper nor prince, whatever their alleged
As for the suggestion from
both writers that what motivates those responsible for
decision-making in Leicester Cathedral is merely some form of
competitive tourism, the kindest thing that I can say about that is
that it is unworthy of them to suggest that of fellow-clerics. Of
course the reinterment, with appropriate prayers, of Richard will
be a very significant occasion; and of course his ultimate
resting-place will attract significant interest into the future. To
imagine anything other would be disingenuous. But it has to happen
somewhere, and, wherever that is, these questions will arise.
I know, from close
acquaintance with those involved, that foremost among their
concerns is managing this unique opportunity to enable those
visiting to experience the qualities of life of a working cathedral
as a place of prayer; to reflect on the historic ties between
Church and monarchy as they are mediated in a fast-changing present
context; and to be given food for thought on questions of ultimate
meaning in the face of life and death.
Cathedrals are also
frequently able to be closer to the heart of the life of their
cities and communities than other parts of the Church. Leicester's
is certainly widely seen as achieving all of that in one of
Britain's most culturally and faith-diverse cities. Laying Richard
to rest there has been widely welcomed locally by those of all
faiths and none.
To do all this in and
through buildings, of course, requires resourcing - as every parish
church, let alone cathedral, in the land is aware. If thought is
also given to enabling that resource to be found in part by
contribution from the many visitors, then is that so surprising?
The important question is: how is that to be done?
Suggestions from outside
that it is being contemplated without proper thought for all these
important matters are disappointing. I live and work here, and I
think that we are working hard on getting it right.
St Martins House, 7 Peacock Lane
Leicester LE1 5PZX
From Mr Christopher
Sir, - While I would not want to go so far in King Richard
III's exoneration as some of the enthusiasts of the Richard III
Society, I think that the Revd Peter Blackman is a little unfair in
suggesting that to give Richard a last resting-place in consecrated
ground is "inappropriate".
Yes, Richard was a ruthless
political operator who, like all politicians down to Tony Blair and
David Cameron, had opponents who are inclined to interpret every
piece of evidence in the worst possible way - and one of them did
so in a hugely memorable work of literature.
Richard (probably) disposed
of his nephews, having seen in the last generation the difficult
position of a Lord Protector whose thankless protégé was able to
take up his place in his own right. But the matter can never be
finally resolved, and, as Christians, we should surely give him the
benefit of the doubt.
If we are going to refuse
Christian burial to those whose policies, for better or worse,
involved the massacre of hundreds and thousands, many of whom were
innocents who were little threat anyway, we should perhaps start by
asking the Dean of Windsor whether we can dig up King Henry
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