UK Politics

Richard III burial 'should not be finders keepers'

Richard III
Image caption Campaigners in Yorkshire are lobbying for King Richard III to be buried at York Minster

The reburial of remains of Richard III should not be the subject of a "finders, keepers agreement", York Outer MP Julian Sturdy has argued.

York MPs are unhappy the University of Leicester, which excavated the remains, will decide where the King is re-interred, and not the government.

They argue that the King wanted to be buried in York Minster, not Leicester Cathedral - the university's choice.

Ministers said it was up to the university to decide.

The terms of the exhumation licence granted to the university before it carried out the archaeological excavation pass the responsibility of reburying of the King's remains to the university.

But campaigners have argued that this favours burial in Leicester Cathedral, while York Minster was the place the King himself had identified for his burial.

'Where he was loved'

More than 7,500 people have signed an online petition in favour of keeping the King's remains in Leicester, but nearly 25,000 have signed up to support re-interring his remains in York Minster.

Mr Sturdy said: "The call is strong from the great county of Yorkshire that Richard III did want to be buried where he was loved. That was the key thing. He was loved and supported in the great county of Yorkshire.

"The decision to allow the University of Leicester to have a free rein over King Richard's final resting place flies in the face of not only the tens of thousands of people who have added their support to the campaign to see him buried in York, but also his remaining descendants."

Mr Study said the Minster, Leicester Cathedral and Westminster Abbey all had some claim as a suitable resting place for the King.

But, he added, "instead of allowing campaigners and all three sites to debate this issue in a democratic fashion, the government and the University of Leicester appear to have hashed out an important decision behind closed doors and concluded in some kind of finders and keepers agreement".

Leicester MP Jon Ashworth argued that there was "no evidence" that Richard III wanted to be buried in York Minster.

York MP Hugh Bayley called for an independent committee to be established to "examine the historical record, the scientific analysis arising out of this dig, good archaeological practice and the ethical and religious issues concerned".

'Outrageous '

The committee should then advise ministers on where, how and when reburial should take place.

"The decision should be taken on independent national advice and not delegated to archaeologists from Leicester, who clearly support the Leicester cause.

Image caption The remains of Richard III were found under a council car park in Leicester

"They would find it outrageous if a decision was delegated to a group of people from York. We need the decision to be taken nationally, in the national interest by people who are independent of the vested interests of either York or Leicester."

Mr Bayley said he didn't want to "reignite the war of the roses", but public opinion was clearly split.

Minister Jeremy Wright said the conditions of the exhumation licence were "widely drawn" and would allow the University of Leicester to re-inter the remains wherever they wanted to "with due regard to decency and the dignity of the deceased".

But he insisted it was a matter for the university and not the government.

He said Leicester University were happy to receive representations and said the points raised by MPs "deserved further consideration".

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