Battle for king's burial seems won
Published 07/02/2013 | 14:47
The battle for the final resting place of King Richard III seems already won, with the decision solely in the hands of the university experts.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) confirmed that it was the University of Leicester's decision to make as they had been granted permission to exhume the monarch's body. It comes after York Council confirmed it was writing to the Queen and the MoJ to lay claim to the remains of the last Plantagenet king.
In a statement the Ministry of Justice said: "When applying for an archaeological exhumation licence, the applicant must state that the remains will be laid to rest at a suitable location. The licence we issued states that the applicant (the University of Leicester) would, no later than August 31, 2014, deposit the remains at Jewry Wall Museum or have them interred at St Martin's Cathedral or in a burial ground in which interments may legally take place. The precise location of reburial is now for the University of Leicester."
However city leaders in York have confirmed they are writing to the Queen and the Ministry of Justice in a bid to get the Yorkist king's remained to his "spiritual home". Kersten England, chief executive of City of York Council said: "Richard III had - as now - very strong support in the city."
She added: "His self-identification with the north and York is reflected in his plans for a chantry of 100 priests in York Minster where he wished to be buried. That the burial site of this Yorkist king was determined by where he died from battle wounds makes the importance of adhering to his own wishes for his final resting place most important."
The mayor of Leicester Sir Peter Soulsby said he could understand York's challenge but that the decision had already been made. He said plans are in the early stages for the re-interment ceremony at Leicester Cathedral next year, which is just yards from the social services car park where the king's body was exhumed by a team from the University of Leicester during a dig last year.
Speaking at the launch of a new exhibition chronicling the excavation of Richard III's body at Leicester's Guildhall, he said: "The remains will be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral and we're working with the cathedral authorities to prepare for an appropriate ceremony for that probably about 12 months from now."
The University of Leicester said a decision will be made on whether the remains go on display ahead of the ceremony. Richard Taylor, deputy register at the university, said: "A decision still has to be made on whether the remains will go on show to the public. An assessment has to be made on whether it's appropriate or not. If they did go on show obviously there would be no photography or filming allowed."
York Minster said on Thursday that it believed the King's remains should be commended "to Leicester's care". In a statement on the Minster's website, the Chapter of York said: "The Chapter of York understands the strong feeling of some people in York and Yorkshire that Richard III is significant to the history of the county and that therefore his body ought to be returned. York Minster itself has a window in his memory and many reminders of Richard's place in our story.
"However, the recent verification of the identity of his remains follows a significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death. It was Leicester Franciscans who gave him burial, and the cathedral has a major memorial to his memory at its heart. When the possibility of an excavation of the Greyfriars site began, it was agreed from the start that any remains found would be re-interred in Leicester."