Richard III to be buried in Leicester, High Court rules

By Ben Miller | 23 May 2014

Richard III will be laid to rest at Leicester Cathedral following a government ruling

Receiving a High Court decision in an “eerily silent” press conference room, officials in Leicester expressed their relief and joy at winning permission to reinter the body of King Richard III, found beneath a local car park and announced to the world more than a year ago, in the city.

Feelings have been running high during a challenge by a group in York, including the Plantagenet Alliance and the King’s 16th great niece, to overturn the Ministry of Justice licence granted to the University of Leicester and lay the King to rest in Yorkshire. A three-week appeal window is now open.

“From the outset of the project, I have always stressed the importance of maintaining the strong historical association of King Richard with Leicester,” said Richard Buckley, the archaeologist who led the Grey Friars dig which captured the imagination of history enthusiasts.

“We followed best archaeological practice in recommending that his remains be transferred to the nearest place of interment: the cathedral of St Martin, less than a hundred metres away.

“I am absolutely delighted that the High Court has ruled that our exhumation licence is valid.

“We may now make arrangements for the transfer of Richard III’s remains from the University of Leicester to Leicester Cathedral where they may be reinterred with dignity and honour as befitting the last Plantagenet King of England.

“Ultimately a King of England by right of conquest – Henry VII – decided in August 1485 to hand over the vanquished King Richard’s remains to the Franciscan Friars in Leicester for burial.

“There they have lain for over half a millennium and have become part of Leicester’s history. Long may this association continue.”

Speaking at the press conference, The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester, said the burial could happen in spring 2015, adding that the doors of the city’s cathedral were “open to all” during the process.

A tomb design has already been approved and is expected to be revealed within weeks.

A spokesperson for the university called the decision “a victory for common sense and justice”.

“It upholds the norms and agreed practice for archaeological excavations,” they added.

“King Richard III received a Christian burial in Leicester over 500 years ago and it is only right, now that the Church where he was buried has been destroyed, that he is reinterred in the Cathedral in the same parish with honour and dignity.

“The fact that the University of Leicester discovered the King through the expertise of its archaeological work and subsequent scientific investigation is undisputed.

"What the Plantagenet Alliance did was to challenge the legal licence the University was granted by the Ministry of Justice permitting reinterment at Leicester Cathedral.

“That challenge has been thrown out and the Leicester case has been vindicated.

“It is important to remember there would have been no discovery at all without a combination of factors that focussed on Leicester – Philippa Langley’s Looking for Richard initiative, the university’s plan for the dig and the fact that Leicester City Council had granted permission for us to excavate their land.

“The university was the principal funder of the dig and conducted the exhumation on the basis of a legally issued licence that permitted reinterment at Leicester Cathedral. We remain committed to that original purpose.”

Sir Robert Burgess, the university’s Vice-Chancellor, credited the institution’s experts with “world-class research.”

“Right from the outset, it was made clear that the university planned for a reinterment in Leicester Cathedral,” he reflected.

“This was publicly announced before work even started and was reiterated throughout the process of the dig.

“However, it was only when we confirmed we had found Richard III that a legal challenge derailed the process to reinter Richard at Leicester Cathedral.

“Now that this legal challenge has been overturned, we will continue to work with our partners to ensure King Richard III is reinterred in Leicester with dignity and honour.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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Richard III: Archaeologist Claire Calver on the search for the King's body in Leicester

Richard III body infected with roundworms, say University of Leicester archaeologists

Richard III DNA tests to reveal hair, eyes and diseases of the King

The DNA of a King: Dr Turi King on the genome sequencing of Richard III

Uncertainty over reburial of Richard III as Leicester and York await judicial review

University of Leicester archaeologists bid farewell to Grey Friars site of Richard III body
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