Richard III: Where to rebury him? And How?
There is little doubt that Richard III planned to be buried in York Minster together with his wife and probably his son (who might even already be buried there, although this is contested). It is well known that Richard endowed York with a college for a hundred priests in York; or rather an extension of a college, which had been founded by his in-laws, George and Richard Neville. Information about the project is rather limited as it was work in progress, when he died. At the time of Richard’s death, however, six altars had been raised within the minster for the king’s chaplains, the building of their collegiate house had begun and he had given the Minster money, precious relics as well as a magnificent jewelled altar cross. As it is obvious that the burial of his wife, Anne of Neville, in Westminster was a preliminary affair, it is a fair assumption that at least she and her son were due to be reburies at York. However, another possibility was of course that he might have planned a burial in Windsor, where his brother was laid to rest; or even Westminster Abbey. We shall probably never know. Although Richard must have written a testament before the engagement at Bosworth, it has never surfaced.
What is known is that after the battle, he was loaded naked onto a packhorse and carried to Leicester, where the friars after a few days exhibition were given the task of burying him in their church, which is currently being excavated.
This has occasioned Leicester Cathedral unequivocally to “claim” the corpse, as it was found within the precinct of its parish. In a press release the Dean is thus quoted to the extent that “If the identity of the remains is confirmed, Leicester Cathedral will continue to work with the Royal Household, and with the Richard III Society, to ensure that his remains are treated with dignity and respect and are reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church.” Which in plain speak means that the Bishop, the Dean and representatives of the Royal Household currently are in consultations about what to be done.”
Meanwhile unconfirmed rumours has it, that Richard III society a year ago commissioned some artists and designers to sketch a tomb or memorial, to be placed in the Cathedral. Exactly who has been involved in this project has unfortunately not been disclosed. However, it is fair to say that a later disclosure of this project probably will not be well received by artists and sculptors in the realm, who might already dream of winning the grand prize.
Further, whether York ( or London for that matter) will back off that easily remains to be seen. Already officials from Leicester have been salivating about the income, which presumably might be garnered from the recent Richard III-fever, which has reached global proportions on Twitter, Facebook and elsewhere in the past few days. Yesterday the local newspaper “this is Leicester” quoted Jon Asworth, who is MP for Leicester South, when he addressed the Leader of the House of Commons and called for a debate on the ramifications of this “potentially exciting discovery”, which could “hugely benefit” Leicester tourism. The leader naturally sidestepped the issues, but it allowed Jon Asworth afterwards to twitter his opinions, thus feeding the busy debate on the internet of the “where”.
Even more interesting is however the question of “how”, that is: should he be reburied in accordance with Anglican or Catholic rituals? And if a Catholic ritual should be used, what would be the appropriate one: The current “post-tridentine” (as has been practiced since the Reformation) or that, which was in common use in the 15th century? Naturally this debate is as yet only lurking in The Telegraph and in the shadows of the greater one of “where”; but it will surely arise!
Which will it be? It is fair to say that only (long) time will tell!