So, archaeologists from the University of Leicester think they may have found Richard III’s earthly remains under a council car park in Leicester, although the DNA tests they’re conducting won’t be finished for another 3 months.
This is a subject rather close to my heart: I even used to be a member of the Richard III Society and everything. If those remains do turn out to be Richard III’s, I will probably have to have a private moment. Ten years ago, when I was first studying all this, it was a source of pain to all Ricardians everywhere that, to the best of everyone’s knowledge, Richard’s bones were sleeping with the fishes in the river Soar thanks to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries. Now that might change, and Richard III will get the site of cultic worship his supporters have always wanted.
That site might be, of all places, in the Anglican cathedral in Leicester. Which—really? This deeply Catholic man is going to have his final resting place in the Anglican cathedral of the city where he was freaking bludgeoned to death? And all because the University of Leicester, who dug him up, and Leicester City Council, whose car park he was found in, would like to reap the benefits of Ricardian tourism?
I’m not going to claim I can read the mind of a man who’s been dead since 1485, but there are probably a lot of better alternatives which might have been more palatable to the man himself. It’s not his fault he didn’t have the luxury of specifying his wishes about a final resting place, so I’m not sure it’s particularly tasteful to be treating the poor man’s bones like the private property of the institution that dug them up.
If the royal family themselves don’t get involved—I mean, come on, if those bones are really Richard III’s, he’s basically their cousin forty times removed or something—it really ought to be up to whoever’s paying for the interment, which I suspect will be the Richard III Society, to decide where the burial is located.
If I were still a member of that society, I’d certainly be arguing for some alternative place that had something to do with Richard III other than being the place where he was done to death by his own allies. York, maybe, which bravely paid tribute to him in their city annals after the battle of Bosworth, or one of the castles where he actually lived, or even Berwick-upon-Tweed, which he won back from the Scots.
I mean, of all the places the dude probably would have hated to be buried, the only place worse than the Anglican cathedral in Leicester would be in Henry VII’s lap at Westminster Abbey. Geez.
UPDATE: @Fat_Jacques points out that Leicester Cathedral was Catholic in 1485, as indeed were all of the lovely ecclesiastical buildings at the time that the Church of England later stole. Which is a good point, but of course it’s not the building that’s the problem, it’s the funeral rite itself. What medieval Catholic would want an Anglican funeral service?
There’s also the political point to think about; Richard III isn’t any medieval Catholic, he’s a medieval Catholic who was snuffed by the father of the man who founded the Anglican church. Which is kind of why the title of this blog post is “Give the poor man a break”—he’s suffered enough indignities without piling this one on, too.