- 27 Mar 2013
- The Guardian
- Maev Kennedy and Owen Bowcott
Fifteen living relatives of Richard III, whose body was exhumed from a Leicester car park last year, are threatening to launch a legal challenge seeking the monarch’s reburial in York Minster.
Although the last English king to die in battle perished almost 500 years before the European convention on human rights came into force, his distant relatives are claiming they were not consulted and that their rights have been breached.
An application for judicial review is to be lodged by lawyers in Leeds on behalf of the Plantagenet Alliance. They are bringing the action against the Ministry of Justice, which granted the archaeological excavation licence to Leicester University.
The licence stipulated that the king’s remains should be “deposited in [Leicester’s] Jewry Wall museum or else be reinterred at [the city’s] St Martin’s Cathedral or a burial ground in which interments may legally take place”. That latitude of interpretation has stirred up debate over the location of Richard III’s final resting place. Any site is likely to attract significant tourist business.
The Richard III Society – which promotes research into the 15th- century ruler and largely funded the search for his remains – says its proposed tomb will be inside Leicester Cathedral. And Leicester city council is planning a permanent exhibition centre overlooking the car park that covers the foundations of the medieval Greyfriars church, where Richard was buried uncoffined after his body was brought back naked from the battle of Bosworth in 1485.
But the Yorkists are determined to claim his remains and have launched their campaign under the banner of article 8 of the European convention, which guarantees the right to a private and family life.
Richard died without any known surviving children. The closest traced relative, Michael Ibsen, a direct descendant of Richard’s sister and whose DNA helped identify the bones, has supported the plans for burial in Leicester.
The Plantagenet Alliance, which claims 15 descendants of relatives of the king as members, insists York is the most appropriate place, pointing out that although he was born in Fotheringhay, Northamptonshire, he grew up in Middleham in Yorkshire, was known as Richard of York before he claimed the throne, and visited York several times during his reign.
A University of Leicester spokesman said: “As the licence holder, the university is responsible for the location of reinterment. Our decision was, and remains, that Richard III should be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral.
“Reinterment on the nearest consecrated ground is in keeping with good archaeological practice. Richard has lain in the shadow of St Martin’s Cathedral, Leicester, for over 500 years.
“Richard III is believed to have no living descendants. Any distant relations are therefore descended from his siblings. Statistically speaking, many tens of thousands of individuals alive today are descended in this way. There is no obligation to consult living relatives where remains are older than 100 years.”