Last battle for Richard III as burial plans disputed in court

Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:21am EDT
 
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By Estelle Shirbon

LONDON (Reuters) - Descendants of Richard III won a court battle on Friday over where to bury the medieval monarch, whose bones were found under a car park last year, but were urged not to embark on a legal version of the Wars of the Roses in which the king died.

In one of the most remarkable archaeological finds in English history, a skeleton with a cleaved skull and a curved spine was formally identified as Richard's remains by DNA testing in February this year.

Depicted by William Shakespeare as a deformed tyrant who murdered his two young nephews to strengthen his grip on power, Richard was killed in 1485 at the Battle of Bosworth, the last king of England to perish on a battlefield.

The University of Leicester, which led the quest to find, exhume and identify Richard's remains, obtained permission from the Ministry of Justice to reinter the king at the cathedral in Leicester, which is close to Bosworth in central England.

But descendants of the monarch, who was the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty, went to court arguing that Richard should instead be laid to rest in the cathedral in York, the northern English city with which he had close links during his life.

In a ruling delivered on Friday, High Court Judge Charles Haddon-Cave said the ministry had been wrong to give the green light to the Leicester burial plan without engaging in wider consultation on a matter of wide public interest.

"The archaeological discovery of the mortal remains of a former king of England after 500 years is without precedent," the judge wrote, granting permission to the pro-York Plantagenet Alliance, a group of descendants and enthusiasts, to initiate a judicial review into the issue.

"I would, however, urge the parties to avoid embarking on the (legal) Wars of the Roses Part 2," he wrote. "In my view, it would be unseemly, undignified and unedifying to have a legal tussle over these royal remains."   Continued...

 
A facial reconstruction of King Richard III is displayed at a news conference in central London February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning