LEICESTER Cathedral has effectively been given the green light
to press on with its £1-million plans for the reburial of the bones
of Richard III in a specially created tomb in its chancel.
On Friday, three High Court judges rejected a legal challenge by
distant relatives of the King who had wanted his remains interred
in York Minster, the centre of his medieval power-base.
The Plantagenet Alliance had claimed that the Justice Secretary,
Chris Grayling, had failed to consult properly when he granted
permission to archaeologists to search for Richard's grave under a
Leicester city-centre park, and then for his reburial in Leicester
Cathedral (News, 21 March).
But Lady Justice Hallett, sitting in the Divisional Court with
Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, ruled that there
were no public law grounds for interfering with the decision.
The judgement was welcomed by the Dean of Leicester, the Very
Revd David Monteith. "The delays are over," he said. "The law is
clear, and unequivocally set forth in today's judgement. Richard
III fought here, fell here, died here, has lain here, and was
rediscovered here. He will now be finally laid to rest with the
prayers of God's people in a manner fitting to his story, and with
dignity, as befits a child of God and an anointed King of
"I want to say to everyone, whatever viewpoint you take, that
everyone is welcome here. Bosworth was a bitter battle, with
different branches of the same family at war. Five hundred years
on, we can learn a little, and my prayer is that we might travel
now, together, to finally lay King Richard to rest."
In their 40-page judgment, the three judges said: "Issues
relating to his life and death and place of re-interment have been
exhaustively examined and debated. We agree that it is time for
Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to
Richard was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, ending the
Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet dynasty. His body was taken
to Leicester by supporters of the victorious Henry VII, and buried
in Greyfriars church, now the site of the council car-park.
He body was exhumed on 5 September 2012, and the judges observed
that, since then, "passions have been roused, and much ink has been
spilt. . .
"This case undoubtedly has unique and exceptional features which
arguably call for special consideration. It is why the claim has
reached this court. The archaeological discovery of the mortal
remains of a king of England after 500 years may fairly be
described as 'unprecedented'.
"The discovery touches on Sovereign, State, and the Church. To
the extent that these unique features call for special
consideration, it may well be that the decision-maker is required
by law to ascertain, at least, the views of Sovereign, State, and
"In our view, however, at all material times in this case the
Secretary of State was sufficiently aware of the views of
Sovereign, State, and the Church to be able to make an informed
A suggestion that Richard III was to have endowed a chancery at
York with 100 chaplains "falls short of any definitive or
overriding expression of where he wished to be buried."
The judges also rejected a suggestion that the Secretary of
State's refusal to revisit the licence decision after the discovery
of the bones was irrational. "He would have been aware of the rival
historical, geographical, and tribal arguments; the variety of
competing claims to entitlement; and the importance of the issue
for local pride, tourism, and standing.
"Much of this was, or would have been, predictable. It is
difficult to see what more the Secretary of State needed, save
perhaps for some flesh on the bones of the rival arguments.
"The fact that some sort of consultation, or further inquiries,
might have been possible or desirable, does not mean that no
reasonable or rational decision-maker could have been satisfied on
the basis of the information already to hand."
They continued: "In truth, the 'public' consultation regarded by
the claimant is entirely open-ended, and not capable of sensible
limit or specificity, in the context of potentially millions of
collateral descendants of Richard III." To devise such a complex
consultation would probably require legislation, they said.
"There is no sensible basis for imposing a requirement for a
general public consultation, with leaflets, online petitions,
publicity campaigns, nor for advertisements trying to ascertain who
is a relative, and then weighing their views against the general
public, when there are, in reality, only two possible contenders -
Leicester and York - and the rival arguments are clear, and known
to the decision-maker."
Mr Grayling angrily condemned the Alliance legal action, saying
that he was "frustrated and angry that the Plantagenet Alliance - a
group with tenuous claims to being relatives of Richard III - have
taken up so much time and public money.
He said: "I have been very clear from the start that the
decision to grant an exhumation licence for Richard III was taken
correctly, and in line with the law.
"This case, brought by a 'shell' company set up by the Alliance
to avoid paying legal costs, is an example of exactly why the
Government is bringing forward a package of reforms to the judicial
There was applause at Leicester Cathedral as the Bishop of
Leicester, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens, read out the result at 10 a.m.
to a crowd of supporters and media. "We are, of course, delighted,"
he said. "Here in the cathedral, in the diocese, in the city, in
the county, we've waited a long time for this."
The deputy chair of the Richard III Society, Wendy Moorhen,
said: "This judgment will be a disappointment to some -
particularly the Plantagenet Alliance and their supporters - and we
acknowledge the sincerity of their case.
"However, we hope that now a clear ruling has been given, we can
all focus on ensuring that King Richard III receives an honourable
and dignified reburial. Consideration should also now be given to
the need for his remains to be removed to an appropriate place of
sanctity before their final reinterment.
"Further arguments over the location of the King's final
resting-place can only be counter-productive to the solemnity of
the reburial, and will not help efforts to secure a reassessment of
his life and character."
The leader of Leicestershire County Council, Nick Rushton, said:
"I'm glad the waiting is over and the issue is finally settled. It
has been a very undignified time; as you must remember, this is the
body of a man - and a king of England. He deserves to be buried
with dignity and honour in Leicester Cathedral."
In a statement, the Plantagenet Alliance said that it was
"naturally disappointed" at the decision: "This was a case that had
unique and exceptional features, and which, in the words of the
judgment, arguably called for special consideration, which is why
it reached the court.
"Unfortunately, the court did not agree with our assertion that,
because of its exceptional nature, there was a legal requirement
which should have forced such special consideration.
"We obviously respect the judgment, but are disappointed for the
thousands of people who, like us, felt that they have not had the
opportunity to have their legitimately held views heard and
considered as to the appropriate venue for the interment of King
The Alliance declined to make any further comment until after
full consideration of the judgment.