March 26, 2013 / 1:52 PM / 6 years ago

Battle rages over bones of England's Richard III

LONDON (Reuters) - King Richard III is at the center of a new fight over the location of his final resting place, just weeks after the remains of the last English king to die in battle were found underneath a council car park.

A floral tribute lies below a statue of King Richard III in Leicester, central England, February 5, 2013. REUTERS/Darren Staples

Archaeologists announced one of the most remarkable finds in recent English history last month when they confirmed the discovery of the body of Richard, who was slain at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, during excavations in Leicester.

The discovery generated massive interest internationally as the monarch was famously cast by William Shakespeare as a deformed tyrant who murdered his two nephews, known as the princes, in the Tower of London.

He has long been one of the most controversial characters in English history, with passionate supporters claiming he was wrongly maligned after his death and was in fact an enlightened ruler. Now, more than 500 years after his death, he is still generating division.

The University of Leicester, which led the project to find and exhume Richard, was given permission to reinter the king’s remains 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, are seeking a legal challenge to have his body laid to rest instead in York, the northern English city with which he had close links during his life.

“We have now written officially to the Ministry of Justice and University of Leicester, notifying them that we plan to issue these claims,” said Matthew Howarth, the lawyer representing the Plantagenet Alliance which is spearheaded by 15 of Richard’s descendants.

“We will follow up by issuing the judicial review and other proceedings as soon as possible, but certainly within the next few weeks.”

They will argue that the Ministry of Justice failed to consult them over the exhumation and the license allowing the university to re-bury the king, and this failure breached the European Convention on Human Rights.

“We have every hope that Matthew and his colleagues will succeed in these cases and help us significantly in our quest to have Richard’s remains buried at the most appropriate site, York Minster,” said Stephen Nicolay, a 16th great-nephew of the monarch.

Reporting by Michael Holden, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith

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