Richard III reburial: Row unresolved one year on

Inside Out looks at the battle for King Richard III's bones and the controversy over whether they should be buried in Leicester or York.

One year after the bones under a Leicester car park were revealed to be those of Richard III the row over where he should be reburied continues.

Richard is due to be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral but distant relatives want him buried in York.

The row centres on how a licence to undertake the dig was issued to the University of Leicester.

Those connected to Richard said they should have been consulted when the remains were confirmed as him.

In 2012, the government granted a licence to the university to excavate the site and decide where the remains of the last Plantagenet king should be reburied, if he were to be found.

For and against: York v Leicester

  • Born in 1452, Richard was the fourth son of Richard, Duke of York
  • Though born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, he spent much of his youth in Yorkshire
  • Richard governed the north for his brother Edward IV
  • There are claims he planned to build a chapel at York Minister where he intended to be buried
  • While a member of the House of York, his title from the age of eight was Richard of Gloucester
  • He was buried in Leicester after his death at the nearby Battle of Bosworth in 1485
  • His opponent, Henry VII, paid for the grave to be marked
  • Burial in the nearest consecrated ground in Leicester would be in keeping with archaeological practice

Before every dig where human remains are likely to be discovered archaeologists have to apply to the Ministry of Justice for a licence to exhume any that might be unearthed along the way.

But the king's 16th great niece Vanessa Row, of the Plantagenet Alliance, said: "Once someone becomes named it doesn't matter how old they are - if they do have descendants they should be consulted on the final resting place."

She added: "They don't actually have a case to keep him there in my opinion. He is basically buried somewhere he was murdered and left and forgotten."

Verna Campbell, a member of the Richard III Society, also believes the king's remains should be buried in York.

She said: "He was brought up in Middleham and he was at Middleham when he heard his brother had died. Basically he made the north his own."

Last year, about 100 people took part in a march through York in support of the city's claims to the king.

However, Richard Buckley, who led the team that found his remains, said: "I do feel quite unhappy that people think the university did something incorrectly.

"We followed the same practice we have done for many years."

He said: "At the time we applied we didn't know we'd find Richard III but the application made it clear from the start that if we did find him he would be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral."

Richard's bones being examined at the University of Leicester Richard's bones are currently stored in a secret location at the University of Leicester campus

Richard, who reigned from 1483, was killed in the final battle of the Wars of the Roses at Bosworth field in Leicestershire in 1485.

More than 500 years after his death, the two proud cities continue their own battle in his name.

Wars of the Roses

Picture of King Richard III being killed during the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August, 1485
  • In 1453, King Henry VI had a mental breakdown and Richard, Duke of York, was made protector
  • The king recovered in 1455, but civil war broke out between the Yorkist and Lancastrian factions. The ensuing struggle came to be known as the Wars of the Roses
  • The period was seen as a time of moral, military and political turmoil in Britain
  • The death of Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 effectively ended the Wars of the Roses

Source: BBC History

A judicial review will now decide whether the procedure that led to his bones being excavated in Leicester and the decision to reinter them at the city's cathedral, was conducted correctly.

While in Leicester, plans for a visitor centre, revamp of the Cathedral Quarter and preparations for Richard's reburial continue at a pace.

The cathedral is set to launch a new website detailing its plans and stating its case to be the king's final resting place.

The Right Reverend Tim Stevens said "I think that as the court concentrates on the central question, which is 'where do human remains that have been disinterred belong?', the answer is in the nearest consecrated ground to the place of discovery.

"I'm sure that's the decision that we will obtain, we just have to wait for it."

Leicester's mayor Sir Peter Soulsby also questioned why the Plantagenet Alliance had any say in the matter when "basic maths" showed Richard, who had five siblings, could have many "collateral" descendants.

He added the king was born at Fotheringhay, in Northamptonshire, and brought up in Middleham, in north Yorkshire, and his title prior to becoming king was the Duke of Gloucester.

Sir Peter said all of these places could mount a claim to be the burial place of Richard III.

Artist's impression of plans to revamp Leicester's Cathedral Quarter Work is taking place to revamp Leicester's Cathedral Quarter as part of plans for his reburial in the city

However, the king's supporters in York maintain: "It was his city and he wanted to be buried here."

York, which has had its own Richard III visitor centre since the 1990s, claims an exhibition about the king helped the city achieve record visitor numbers last year.

The judicial review will take place at the High Court in London on 13 March.

Inside Out East Midlands is broadcast on Monday, 3 February at 19:30 GMT on BBC One. It is available nationwide for seven days thereafter on the iPlayer.

More on This Story

Richard III: Return of the King

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