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Reburial of Richard III: resting-place and rites

22 February 2013


From Revd Peter Blackman
Sir, - When I was Vicar of Groby, about five miles west of Leicester, a second county primary school was opened in the parish, and called The Elizabeth Woodville School. Elizabeth was associated with Groby because her first husband was John Grey, and his home was The Old Hall in Groby. After they had had two sons, Thomas and Richard, John was killed fighting for the Lancastrians against the Yorkists in the Wars of the Roses. Shortly afterwards, the Yorkists won, and Edward IV replaced Henry VI as King. Edward married the widowed Elizabeth.

The Earl of Warwick (the King-maker) and other leading supporters of Edward disapproved of this marriage for three reasons. Elizabeth was only the daughter of a knight. Her family were Lancastrians, not Yorkists. She was one of a very large family who gained promotion through the Queen.

Until about ten years ago, when Professor Arlene Okerland published her biography Elizabeth Wydeville: The slandered queen, the history of this Queen Elizabeth was based on the opinions of her critics, and was quite slanderous. Elizabeth was a devout and active Christian. She insisted that she would not be Edward's mistress: either he married her or they would have no intercourse. There was an earlier occasion when she had given a lead to help a farmer whose home was burnt. She refounded Queens' College, Cambridge. At the end of her life, she lived in Bermondsey Abbey.

When Edward IV died, his young son succeeded as King Edward V. His uncle, then Duke of Gloucester, became his regent. He immediately became the chief adversary of dowager Queen Elizabeth, whom he hated. Having taken control of the boy king, he had his former carers, Elizabeth's brother Earl Rivers, and her second son, Richard Grey, put to death at Pontefract. Then he impeached and killed Lord Hastings, a leading friend and adviser of Edward IV; and later had the Duke of Buckingham executed at Salisbury, despite both these peers' having supported his regency.

It is beyond reasonable doubt that, guilty of these four murders, Richard III, as he became, was also responsible for the murder of the boy King Edward and his younger brother in the Tower of London.

So Richard III murdered at least six people in order to steal the sovereignty of our country. To give him a last resting-place in any consecrated church or churchyard is inappropriate. To suggest that this might be a means of attracting visitors to that place is disgraceful. The Christian Church does not further its mission of love by making evil attractive.

25 Turnbull Road
West Sussex PO19 7LY

From the Revd Dr Nicholas W. S. Cranfield
Sir, - I have been surprised by the alacrity with which some ecclesiastics have showered the last Yorkist king with claims for his reburial as if this were part of a competition being run by the heritage industry.

The grant of the exhumation licence does not need to settle the matter, as it is open to appeal, and it may be possible to show that the Ministry of Justice has exceeded its remit in the unusual case of handling royal remains. Unless the the Ministry can cite precedent, it would be appropriate for the Minister to advise the Crown and establish the Crown's wish in this unique matter.

But, wherever the king's last mortal remains are re-interred, there can be no funeral service. It is unthinkable that Richard III was buried in the choir of a monastic foundation without appropriate rites, no matter how hurried and how discreetly performed these may have been. There can therefore be no reason to duplicate them now. I suspect also that enough requiems have already been said over the years.

10 Duke Humphrey Road
London SE3 0TY

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