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Richard III burial row hots up

22 March 2013

by a staff reporter


"Simple dignity": a computer-generated image of a possible design for the tomb of King Richard III, in Leicester Cathedral

"Simple dignity": a computer-generated image of a possible design for the tomb of King Richard III, in Leicester Cathedral

THE dispute over the burial of the remains of Richard III, recently uncovered in a car park in Leicester, has become so heated that the Dean of York, the Very Revd Vivienne Faull, has received hate mail.

The MP for York Central, Hugh Bayley, told fellow MPs that Dean Faull has received such "extreme" correspondence that she has referred it to the Minster's own police force.

At a debate at Westminster Hall, on Tuesday of last week, on the reburial of the King's remains, Mr Bayley said: "I would say to everybody: calm down. Let's all respect the memory of a former king of our country. Let's discuss where his remains should be put to rest in a dignified and sober way. We don't want to reignite the Wars of the Roses."

York Minster confirmed that the Dean had received some "abusive" letters, which had been passed to the Minster's police force.

The MP for York Outer, Julian Sturdy, told MPs that the discussion over the reburial had descended into a "finders keepers" argument.

A petition calling for the return of Richard's remains to York has been signed by more than 25,000 people; another petition, calling for him to remain in Leicester, has been signed by more than 7000; and a further petition is calling for him to be given a Roman Catholic funeral.

The licence granted by the Ministry of Justice to the University of Leicester - which carried out the original dig that uncovered the remains - specified that the remains should be reinterred in the nearest consecrated site, Leicester Cathedral, which is 100 yards from the car park where the remains were found.

The MP for Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, Edward Leigh, has also urged that there "be some aspect of Catholicism to represent his life's work" in the memorial service.

Other bids to house the remains of the King have also inspired e-petitions, including at Westminster Abbey, Gloucester Cathedral, and the RC cathedrals of Northampton and Arundel, among others. And a resident of Wingfield, Suffolk, where Richard's niece, Elizabeth of York, is buried, has suggested that the remains should go there.

But Leicester Cathedral appeared confident that it would emerge as the keeper of the King's remains. It published its plans last week for the burial, suggesting that a simple slab would cover the grave.

The architect's brief states: "The Cathedral Chapter wish to create a place of simple dignity for Richard that sits within a wider scheme, enabling visitors to appreciate the place of the cathedral in the life of the diocese, and the character of Christian belief, life, and worship.

"They will be reluctant to site a large memorial in the cathedral which would assume disproportionate significance in a modest building, and cannot easily be located in any position in which it would not restrict the capacity of the building on major occasions.

"While the remains of an English king are of historical significance - and experience from the royal visit for the Diamond Jubilee demonstrated how people are attracted to the mystery of royalty - it should not be forgotten that Richard demonstrated both the honourable and dishonourable characteristics of human beings."

The ledger stone would be inset in the floor, near the high altar.

The Richard III Society has called for a larger, more traditional tomb to be erected.

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