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The Burial of Richard III

As you all probably know, the body of the (very) late King Richard III (1452-85) was recently discovered beneath a car park in the English city of Leicester. That’s raised the question as to where he should be buried.

 The Guardian reports:

Work has started on designing a new tomb in [Leicester] cathedral, only 100 yards from the excavation site, and Canon David Monteith said a solemn multifaith ceremony would be held to lay him into his new grave there, probably next year. Leicester’s museums service is working on plans for a new visitor centre in an old school building overlooking the site.

I have no idea what a “solemn multifaith ceremony” might actually look like, but that pompous selection of words is not encouraging. Medieval beliefs were such that Richard will almost certainly have had some sort of religious burial, however cursory, but a brief (presumably Roman Catholic, as that’s what Richard was) blessing would seem to be in order. 

But some Catholics are also grumbling about the choice of venue.

 Writing in the Daily Telegraph, Cristina Odone argues:

 Richard III may have been a murderer, or he may have been a much-maligned monarch. He was certainly one of the most controversial kings in English history, the last Plantagenet, and afflicted by scoliosis. He was also a Catholic. Now that his remains have been disinterred, he should be buried in a Catholic church with Catholic funeral rites.

 Andrew Sullivan feels pretty much the same way:

Bury Richard III In A Catholic Church Dammit… I mean, he was one, wasn’t he?  I have a bias here. I still think of many of the great cathedrals in Britain as essentially stolen from my church (and their own rich, English Catholic history) in an act of monarchical larceny.

Hmmm, that reveals an interesting view of Henry VIII, an unlikely and accidental liberator, who established once and for all (at least until the unwelcome emergence of the EU and other supranational authorities) the vital principle that English law should prevail in England, and, eventually, the notion that the national religion could also benefit from being run from home.

In any event, forget the sectarian pleas. Richard was, first and foremost, a king, and would, first and foremost, have wanted to be remembered as a king. That leaves only two serious choices, Westminster Abbey, the resting place of so many an English monarch, whether Roman Catholic or Church of England (and, for that matter, of Richard’s wife), or York Minster, a logical final destination for the last Yorkist monarch (which comes with the added bonus that no pesky Tudors are buried there), and which was the place he had reportedly chosen for himself.

Those who run York Minster have, however, rejected the idea, supporting Leicester’s claim on the grounds that there had been “a significant period in which Leicester and Leicestershire gained a sense of Richard belonging there, at least in death.” Quite how Leicester was meant to have gained this “sense” (in that the body had been missing for half a millennium) was not explained. There’s also the question of whether Richard would really have preferred to remain in perpetuity in the county where he was killed, posthumously chopped about, and otherwise degraded.

The Minster is, quite clearly, run by imbeciles these days. I doubt if Richard would wish to be under their care.

That leaves only one sensible answer. To Westminster with the hunchback!

  1. 9thDistrictNeighbor

    Richard III ended up in a car park because of Henry VIII ordering the destruction of monasteries. He’s not the only monarch who was disinterred and dumped somewhere during the Reformation. Give the man a Latin mass and bury him next to his wife. The Lord has had many centuries to deal with his eternal soul.

  2. Whiskey Sam

    There’s a joke in there about paving Camelot and putting up a parking lot or something.  This whole story fascinates me.  I had always assumed royalty would have been buried in one standard place.  Is Richard unique in having been buried alone (and even lost)?

  3. Dave Roy

    The fact that they would do some kind of “multi-faith” ceremony in burying his remains just shows the lack of seriousness they apply towards any idea of religion.

    I could see it if people have no idea of the religious faith of the person in question, but when the person was quite obviously a Catholic, why would you do anything other than a Catholic ceremony?

    Anything else would be sacrilege. But of course, they don’t care about that. Must bow down to the God of Inclusiveness.

  4. KC Mulville

    Gonna be hard for Americans to comment here; it strikes me as a British in-house thing. But it will be interesting to see how the multifaith ceremony plays out.

    • That could send a message that there aren’t any real distinctions between religions, and that they’re all equally entitled to be represented. 

    • More likely, though, it sends a message that no one is willing to say no to any group or anyone, in the name of equality.

    Or, it could have absolutely no meaning or significance to anyone, so who cares?  (Which for me, would signal the worst result.)

  5. Nick Stuart

    In England you have monarchs buried under your parking lots. Here in the States we only have labor leaders.

  6. Peter Robinson
    C

    Richard, “first and foremost, a king”?  Andrew, I must demur–as indeed I believe Richard himself would have demurred.

    Note the 1989 burial rites for Zita, the last of the empresses of Austria.  To wit:

    The 8,000 mourners filed out of Vienna…and fell in line behind the catafalque drawn by six black horses. Two hours later the procession ended at the Capuchin Church, where, in keeping with tradition, a member of the funeral party knocked on the door and a priest asked, “Who goes there?” 

    The titles were read aloud: “Queen of Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia. Queen of Jerusalem. Grand Duchess of Tuscany and Cracow…”

    “I do not know her,” said the father.

    A second knock and “Who goes there?” brought the response, “Zita, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.” Again the reply, “I do not know her.”

    When the inevitable question was put a third time, the answer was simply, “Zita, a sinner.”

    “Come in,” said the priest, opening wide the door.

    Richard was first and foremost a mortal.  Give him the burial rites of the Church in which he was baptized and of which he was a member all his life.

  7. EJHill

    I can not comment on Richard III as I have not seen the original Richard or its sequel, Richard II: Revenge of the Black Prince.

  8. Patrickb63

    He deserves a Roman Catholic burial. While Russia may not be a model for much, the Romanovs were given a Russian orthodox burial when their remains were recovered. Surely Great Britain will not want to be thought of as somehow less reverent of their Royals. Or will QEII be given a”solemn multifaith ceremony” when she shuffles off this mortal coil?

  9. Steven Jones

    Well put, Mister Robinson.

  10. Eric Jablow

    They could always inter the body in a barrel of Malmsey wine.

  11. Skyler

    I find it hard to justify why he should get anything more than to be returned to some other trash heap.

    One, I hold no monarch in any high regard. I don’t think birth is a moral right for rule.

    This is just as true for Richard III as it is for Queen Liz or any of her progeny.

    Second, he was a merciless murderer by most accounts. The history is interesting, but the man deserves no special respect.

    Third, I’m not a Brit and I only feel pity for them living under the vestige of a class system. I wish they could free themselves of it entirely.

  12. Joseph Paquette

    Interestingly, it’s up to the Queen to decide where he is buried and under what mass (english, catholic or multi-faith.)    She tends to be pretty wise, and well versed in English history and tradition, I think most can trust her decision. 

  13. Stephen Bishop

    On the scrap heap. Now that isn’t nice.

    It wasn’t about right it was about power. Read some Shakespeare.

    Queen Liz rules because the UK government and others want her to.

    Yes he did kill a lot of people. He was a man of his times.

    On to modern times. You seem to be a class warrior inside an egalitarian armor.

    Skyler: I find it hard to justify why he should get anything more than to be returned to some other trash heap.

    One, I hold no monarch in any high regard. I don’t think birth is a moral right for rule.

    This is just as true for Richard III as it is for Queen Liz or any of her progeny.

    Second, he was a merciless murderer by most accounts. The history is interesting, but the man deserves no special respect.

    Third, I’m not a Brit and I only feel pity for them living under the vestige of a class system. I wish they could free themselves of it entirely. · 53 minutes ago

  14. Andrew Stuttaford
    C
    Peter Robinson: Richard, “first and foremost, a king”?  Andrew, I must demur–as indeed I believe Richard himself would have demurred….Richard was first and foremost a mortal.  Give him the burial rites of the Church in which he was baptized and of which he was a member all his life. · 2 hours ago

    Edited 2 hours ago

    I agree that some sort of RC ceremony (without, I hope, any moments of ostentatious abnegation like the one that marked the Empress Zita’s funeral) is appropriate, but he should be buried in the Abbey.

    Zita, of course, was famously pious in a time and a place where this was already a rarity. That was an act of conscious will. We can never know how Richard saw himself, but as a ruthless power-player who lived in a country where almost everyone–from peasant to king–was a religious believer of some sort or another, he is more likely to have focused on what set him apart from his subjects, and that was that very uncertain crown.  

  15. Skyler

    Mr. Bishop, what times, pray tell, was a man allowed to murder children placed in his care?

  16. Whiskey Sam
    She

    Whiskey Sam: Is Richard unique in having been buried alone (and even lost)? · 2 hours ago

    Here’s a BBC article on the ones that were actually lost. · 2 hours ago

    Fascinating!  Thank you for this.

  17. Edward Smith

    My only quibble with what will happen with the remains is this Interfaith Ceremony.

    People object to Mormons baptizing people who have died.  As they should.  One is Baptized while alive, or not.  And one is Baptized into the faith of one’s choice or heritage.

    People object (or would, if they did not genuinely feel – not just the formulaically expressed kind they trot out to condemn Christians – fear of the more radical followers of Islam and their  IED’s) to the Moslem insistence that even Abraham was a Moslem (when Moses could not strictly be called a Jew for the first half of his life, when there was in fact no Covenant).  That is, if people could be bothered to know anything about Moslems other than the fact that some of them wear “do rags”.

    Yet the people of Britain think nothing of not giving a man who lived his life as a Christian, and a Catholic, and was by his own and many other people’s – including the King who killed him in battle – reckoning a Catholic an “Interfaith” burial.

    Burial is for the one being buried.  Not for the living.  Atheists attend their parents’  Christian funerals.

  18. Stephen Bishop

    There is no proof that he did but if he did it still fitted in with the times. Even after that Henry VIII had two of his wives beheaded. After that Mary I had one protestant a week, on average, burned at the stake.

    Those were tough times.

    Skyler: Mr. Bishop, what times, pray tell, was a man allowed to murder children placed in his care? · 1 hour ago

  19. Eric Jablow
    Skyler: Mr. Bishop, what times, pray tell, was a man allowed to murder children placed in his care? · 4 hours ago

    Look at the history of the Emperors of the Byzantine Empire.  They did much worse to political rivals and to children who could grow up to be political rivals. Blindings, amputations, and castrations were quite common. Since an Emperor had to be un-mutilated, this took people completely out of dynastic battles.

  20. jonsouth
    Skyler: I find it hard to justify why he should get anything more than to be returned to some other trash heap.

    One, I hold no monarch in any high regard. I don’t think birth is a moral right for rule.

    Apparently neither did Richard III’s opponents, since they chopped him up and installed a dynasty who were very distant relatives at best. They certainly didn’t need any DNA from the current royal family to help prove the identity of the skeleton they found.

    Which makes me wonder how much more interesting the monarchy would be these days if contenders had to win their power in gladiatorial battles. I certainly wouldn’t mind watching it.