Tuesday, 26 March 2013

When The Captains And Kings Depart

Once again avoiding the political and financial turmoil for the sake of another debate on what is right and what is not right it seems that members of the Plantagenet Alliance are thinking of mounting a legal action with the intention of having the remains of King Richard III reburied at York Minster.

They are all people who claim to have members of his close family in their ancestry, although not direct descendants.  There are none known but you never know if some dedicated antiquarian may not come up with one after long hard go at records, much as Patrick Montague-Smith stumbled on proof of ancestry of the Carew of Beddington family in an obscure entry in The Pipe Rolls.

The University of Leicester, responsible for both the archaeology and the DNA testing are bound by the terms of the license and agreement made with the authorities, which was to have any remains reburied at Leicester Cathedral, only yards away from the original resting place. 

This apparently is in line with established practice in archaeology where the original site may have major disadvantages or just be impractical, like having an office block built on top of it.  But if it were not to be Leicester, then there are other potential options for various reasons.

Then if the Plantagenet Alliance is making its legal claim on the basis of the need for the family to be consulted before licences are given and agreements made there are some serious basic problems.  One is that the Plantagenet Alliance, however scholarly or praiseworthy its activities are represents a small lobby group in this matter.

The total number of potential family who are around at present is very large indeed.  The University of Leicester suggests a figure of tens of thousands from the siblings alone.  Should wider family be taken into account, cousins etc. then the figures are huge.  If the benchmark were descent from Lionel of Antwerp, son of King Edward III and direct forebear of King Richard III then they would be even larger.

Consultation on this basis would be international and vast.  With the internet it might be possible to have a shot, but then verification of the right to claim would add too greatly in terms of cost and time. 

Another matter is that it is York Minster that is suggested on the grounds that he grew up in and was identified as a Yorkshire magnate.  The Minster is a major religious centre but not a Royal burial place. 

Richard was born at Fotheringhay Castle.  It is now a ruin but the local Parish Church of St. Mary and All Saints does have the tombs of his immediate family and it would certainly be appropriate for him to be laid to his final rest there.  However if a Cathedral is necessary then Peterborough Cathedral is the closest. 

This is where Catharine of Aragon, firstly wife of Prince Arthur and secondly on his death the first wife and Queen of King Henry VIII is buried.  However it would be a twisted logic for King Richard III being buried adjacent to the daughter-in-law of the man who defeated him at Bosworth, King Henry VII.

For many the major alternative is Westminster Abbey with it many Kings and Queens or perhaps St. Georges Chapel at Windsor.  But there are Roman Catholics who suggest that an Anglican Church is not appropriate and a suitable Roman Catholic one be sought, although where is another question.

In that case in Leicester the obvious choice, quite near to the old Greyfriars where he was originally buried, would be the Holy Cross Priory Church, which is a Priory of the Dominican Order.  A catafalque, as above at Roskilde, would make an excellent shrine for the faithful.  Any other Catholic church, including Westminster Cathedral does not seem quite right.

But this may not be the only King seeking a final resting place.  Faversham Abbey is another long gone religious establishment.  It was the burial place of King Stephen, and his wife Matilda.  Above it there are playing fields and now moves to start a major dig there.

Where’s the spade?

1 comment:

  1. I wonder what Stephen would make of the modern world? Too chaotic for him I suppose.