Funds withdrawn in Richard III Leicester tomb row

Artist's impression of tomb
Image caption The limestone tomb is tilted slightly to the east as a symbol of resurrection

Members of the Richard III Society have withdrawn funding meant for the king's tomb at Leicester Cathedral because they are unhappy with the design.

The cathedral's plans were unveiled last week with the chairman of the society describing them as "inspired".

However, Philippa Langley, who sparked the search for the remains, said it was unfit for a "medieval warrior king".

The cathedral said it understood the group's concerns but "could not be held hostage" for the money.

Members of the society had pledged about £40,000 to go towards the tomb but Ms Langley said some large donors had contacted her to ask for their money back.

'Very difficult'

The remains of the king, who died in battle in 1485, were discovered by archaeologists under a Leicester car park in September 2012.

Church authorities originally wanted a flat slab to mark the burial site but changed the plans because of feedback, revealing the raised tomb on Friday.

Ms Langley said unhappy international members of the society had contacted her.

"They think it is a very difficult design," she said.

"The feeling is that it is too modern and stylised, and designed with a cathedral in mind - not a medieval warrior king.

"I pretty much agree with them."

She said she hoped the group could continue talks with the cathedral.

On Friday, when the new design was unveiled, the society chairman Dr Phil Stone said it was "beautiful".

"I think it is inspired," he said.

"I was surprised at the depth of the cross but have been reassured by the thinking behind it."

'Not at any price'

Canon Peter Hobson said it appeared some of the "Richard III devotees" were only approaching the design from their own perspective whereas the cathedral had to consider all aspects.

That included planning restrictions placed by the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England as well as keeping it as a place of worship, he said.

"Philippa, and those writing to her, bring just a particular perspective. We understand it but we don't think it can be the last word," he said.

"We would [rather have the support of the Richard III Society] but I suppose if you put it that way I would have to say not at any price."

He said the cathedral had never relied on the offer of money from the society to pay for the tomb .

The reinterment of Richard is further overshadowed by a legal challenge by a small group of distant relatives who want him in York.

The Plantagenet Alliance has secured a judicial review of the licence to keep the bones in Leicester but the Ministry of Justice has said it will challenge that ruling.

Originally planned for May 2014, church officials have confirmed the ceremony to lay Richard to rest will now happen "by the end of August" when the two-year licence expires.

The cathedral's proposals will now go before the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, a national planning body, with a final decision expected in late October.

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