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Richard III burial to be a family affair

20 June 2014


Medieval and modern: the Bishop and Dean of Leicester describing the new plans in Leicester on Monday

Medieval and modern: the Bishop and Dean of Leicester describing the new plans in Leicester on Monday

THE oak coffin in which the remains of King Richard III will be buried in Leicester Cathedral next spring will be made by his 17th- generation nephew.

The commission has gone to Michael Ibsen, a cabinet maker from London, a direct descendant of King Richard's sister, Anne.

The plans for the interment were announced this week by the cathedral in the wake of last month's judicial review, which rejected efforts by the Plantagenet Alliance to switch the burial site to his power base in York (News, 30 May).

Leicester Cathedral confirmed that no appeal against the judgment has been lodged. It disclosed that the bill for the reordering of the cathedral to accommodate the tomb will be £2.5 million. The diocese of Leicester will contribute £500,000.

A fund-raising project will be launched to attract cash from private sources. The statement said that more than £10,000 had already been donated.

A revised design for the tomb has been accepted by the Cathedral Fabrics Commission for England. It is broadly similar to the original concept first revealed last year (News, 27 September, 2013). It comprises a large, shaped block of Swaledale stone with a deeply incised cross, above a plinth of dark Kilkenny stone, carved with King Richard's name, dates, motto, and coat of arms.

The Dean of Leicester, the Very Revd David Monteith, said: "This is a tomb which reflects the era in which it is designed, as well as the solemn purpose for which it is commissioned. To do anything else would be a pastiche of a medieval tomb, and would ignore the fact he is being reburied in the 21st century. That is part of King Richard's story now."

The reburial plans will involve a series of particular "moments", spread out over several days. The King's remains will be placed in a lead ossuary inside his coffin at Leicester University, where they have lodged since their recovery from under a car park in the city.

They will then travel to the cathedral on a route that will reflect the movements of his final days.

At the cathedral, the coffin will be formally received during a service of compline, before lying under a specially commissioned pall, which will illustrate part of Richard's personal story, for the public to view.

After a period of days, the reburial service will be held, drawing on medieval reinterment rites. It will involve prayers in memory of Richard and of all who died at Bosworth and in warfare, and will commend his soul afresh to God's judgement.

The coffin will then be placed in a brick-lined vault below the floor of the cathedral. The massive stone top will be lowered into place overnight before a service the next day.

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