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!