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Judges bemused by Richard III row

21 March 2014


Impression: a model of Ricard III's face, reconstructed from 3D-scans of his skull, made after the skeleton was discovered 

Impression: a model of Ricard III's face, reconstructed from 3D-scans of his skull, made after the skeleton was discovered 

OPPOSING camps in the battle for Richard III's bones (News, 29 November 2013) must wait a little longer before a decision is made to settle where he is buried.

Three High Court judges last week reserved their judgment on a claim by descendants of the last Plantagenet king that proper consultation was not carried out before the Ministry of Justice granted a licence for Richard's burial in a tomb in Leicester Cathedral. A decision is expected in six weeks.

King Richard was originally buried in the Greyfriars Friary, in Leicester, soon after his defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth, 15 miles away, in 1485. The Plantagenet Alliance, however, says that the Yorkist King's roots and power-base were in the north, and wants his remains interred in York Minster.

For the present, the monarch's remains will stay in a secure location controlled by archaeologists from Leicester University who first unearthed them under a council car-park on the friary site (News, 14 September 2012).

During the two-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, James Eadie QC, for the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, said that there was no reason to treat the King's remains any differently to any other remains that might be exhumed, and the Secretary of State had "no duty" to consult people who were not close relatives.

Anya Proops, for Leicester University, described the dispute as a "very undignified squabble" that should now come to an end. "His remains should be laid to rest in the majestic setting of Leicester Cathedral," she said.

But Gerard Clarke, counsel for the Plantagenet Alliance, said that the university's claim was little more than "finders keepers". "It would be fanciful and absurd that, if the Queen died on a visit to a primary school in Lowestoft, she should be buried there."

He rejected suggestions that the Alliance's application was "a costly, silly argument about nothing", saying that it mattered because of the importance of the history of the monarchy to the country.

The Alliance would be satisfied with a wide-ranging public consultation on the King's final resting place, with views from the Crown, and groups including English Heritage, relevant churches, other public bodies, "and those who claim a family relationship with the late King". He suggested that Leicester, York, and Westminster could be among the choices.

Lord Justice Ouseley said: "Richard III would have raised an eyebrow if he'd been told there would be public consultation on his reburial, 500 years on. Kings of that era weren't democrats."

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