Controversy has ensued following confirmation that a skeleton found beneath a public parking lot in Leicestershire, England, are indeed the mortal remains of the much-maligned King Richard III. Questions have arisen as to the appropriate ritual to be used for the monarch’s re-burial.
Archaeologists have conclude that "beyond reasonable doubt" that the skeleton, which showed evidence of an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, belongs to Richard III. Researchers at the University of Leicestershire are thrilled. Jo Appleby, a bone analyst, said a study of the remains provided "a highly convincing case for identification of Richard III.” She said that the skeleton was of an unusually slender adult male, which is in keeping with contemporary accounts that Richard III was of a slim, almost feminine, build.
(Car park and site of the Richard III dig)
Further proof was lent by DNA samples taken from Canadian Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richard’s sister, Anne of York. Dr. Turi King, the project geneticist, said of the proof that there is a DNA match between the maternal DNA from the descendants of the family of Richard III and the skeletal remains found at the Greyfriars dig. Greyfriars was a Catholic monastery in Leicester that was obliterated after centuries, then later paved over.
Richard’s skeleton was found with an arrow head in the back and severe trauma to the skull. The historical record shows that the long-lost church was the unlucky king’s burial site, following his brutal death in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485. His brief reign is now considered to have been liberalizing: during his reign, the right to bail and a lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses were introduced. He was the last of the Plantagenet kings, being supplanted by the Tudors of Wales and thus ending the bloody and fractious War of the Roses over supremacy of England and Wales.
Plans are afoot for the the remains to be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, which is an Anglican place of worship.
A blog by an English Catholic, A Reluctant Sinner
, is calling for Richard’s re-burial according to the rites of the Roman Catholic Church, of which the king was a member. The Church of England, or Anglican Church, had yet to be established at the time of his death. This would not take place until the latter 1500s
when a Tudor king – Henry VIII – broke with the Catholic communion to establish a new sect.
The blog said of the possibility of re-burial of King Richard in an Anglican church according to Anglican rites, “Needless to say, such a thing would, at best, be distasteful or disrespectful – especially seeing that Richard himself was a devout Catholic, especially towards the end of his life -- despite any grave wrongs he may have been responsible for.”
It added, “It is also well worth nothing that Richard III was defeated on Bosworth Field (1485) by the man who then became Henry VII (Henry Tudor), father of Henry VIII – the one who ‘broke with Rome’ and effectively began the process that saw England become Protestant.”
There is an official petition at a British government website
where British subjects and residents of the United Kingdom can voice their desire to have King Richard reinterred according to the rites and customs of the Roman Catholic Church. Thomas McLean, who initiated the petition, wrote of the issue, “…it seems wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to bury the former Monarch in the grounds of a church of which he was never a member and which was created by the son of the man responsible for his death and ignominious burial. I am not petitioning on religious or sectarian grounds but I believe the dead of any persuasion have a right to be interred in a place appropriate to their beliefs.”
Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.