Please: Richard of Gloucester, not York!

Descendants of King Richard III have just won a fight to have the vexed question of where his remains should be reburied (Leicester or York) examined in a full judicial review.

I’m happy about this – it means the issue will be examined in great depth, both sides will have chance to state their case, and at some point a decision will be made (although whichever way it goes, one thing’s for sure – the outcome won’t please everyone. I’ll be pleased, though, either way; I’m just glad that the last great Plantagenet warrior king has been found, and can finally be buried with appropriate honour).

What I’m hopping mad about is a silly item on BBC Look North last night. ‘He was Richard of York in life,’ blithered the reporter introducing the King’s descendants’ passionate campaign to have him buried in York Minster. No, he wasn’t – he was Richard of Gloucester – Richard, Duke of York, was his father.

Then Vanessa Roe, one of the descendants, claimed that ‘his wife came from here’. No, she didn’t – Anne Neville was born at Warwick Castle. And ‘his son was born and died here and is buried in York’. Pah! Nonsense like this makes me spit. Richard’s son Edward was invested as Prince of Wales in York, but he was born and died at Middleham Castle in North Yorkshire; (his common title, ‘Edward of Middleham’, is a bit of a give-away on this one); and as far as I’m aware, his burial site is not certainly known, although many people believe (probably incorrectly) that his tomb is in the church at Sheriff Hutton.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d be delighted if King Richard was buried in York – if partly from pure selfishness, because it’s closer for me to visit – but I’d like it to be for real, concrete reasons rather than spurious ones. I’m not convinced that there’s conclusive proof of his intention to be buried in the Minster, despite his plans to found a major chantry chapel there; he may have envisaged it at the start of his reign, but after Queen Anne’s burial at Westminster Abbey in 1485, I’d be surprised if he didn’t expect to lie beside her, and many fellow monarchs, one day. However, I can accept the descendants’ argument that Yorkshire was Richard’s spiritual as well as his physical home; he unquestionably spent much of his life in these parts, as a youth at Middleham, as Lord of the North and as King, and carried out many acts of patronage and other works in the area. These include the founding of a college at the Church of St Mary and St Akelda in Middleham; paying for repairs to the lost Chapel of St Mary at Towton, along with masses to be said in perpetuity for the souls of the battle dead and his own family; and having improvements made at Sandal Castle near Wakefield, (close to the sites where his father and brother Edmund, Earl of Rutland, were killed in battle in 1460), which he may have intended to use as a political base.

So leaving the fallacies aside, there is a good case for bringing Richard III back to Yorkshire, a county where he had many demonstrable links. But there is no good case for people, however committed to the cause they might be, to make inaccurate claims in the media – it just looks hysterical, ignorant and over-emotional, and undermines the credibility of their arguments. I trust that none of this tosh will make it into the judicial review… and in the meantime, I wish the campaigners to bring King Richard ‘home’ would get their facts straight before they go on TV.

11 thoughts on “Please: Richard of Gloucester, not York!

  1. Thank you, excellent article! There is another claim that makes me cringe every time I read it: to “return” his remains to York. It defies all logic. To return something, it has to have been there in the first place. But his remains were not, as we all know. It suggests in some underhanded way that it is dishonorable not to agree with their claim.

  2. Great post. Couldn’t agree more. Initially I thought York for similar reasons. But dislike the idea of having it thrust on us for spurious and personal reasons of a few fanatics. Especially when their claim is based on nothing more then conjecture. They are rewriting history much the same as did the Tudors!

  3. Yes Helen I saw that on TV and missed the rest of the interview because I was muttering to myself in anger. You are quite right, it makes the PA look quite amateurish – especially when they are prancing around in fancy dress and getting their facts wrong – most BASIC facts too. BUT, I am thrilled with the result ….. now I am looking forward to seeing where that M…r will lie down for Richard to pass over him as he leaves Leicester.

  4. Dianne- that ‘prancing around in fancy dress’ was us making an effort to raise awareness of the campaign! We were actually trying to do something constructive. I, personally, spent a lot of time, effort and money organising the ‘prancing’ around York.

  5. Thanks, all, for your kind comments. I’m not anti- the campaign, or (as an enthusiastic re-enactor!) anti- prancing around in fancy dress… but I do find it very worrying and upsetting when inaccurate and/or misleading items appear in the media. It’s an insult to our true history, and to the individuals concerned… and repetition leads to belief in the minds of people less interested in/informed about this period than those of you who’ve taken the trouble to respond here. As a friend pointed out on Facebook (and I thought myself, in retrospect), it’s possible that Vanessa Roe meant ‘Yorkshire’ rather than ‘York’ in some instances… but having her interviewed in York about burying Richard III in York did make it sound as though when she said, ‘here’ she literally meant in the city. A bad piece of reporting, altogether.

  6. Pingback: KRA Week 2013-1: The Beginning – Quiz-Prize & Historical Literature – Author Isolde Martyn | King Richard Armitage

  7. These are not the descendents of Richard III: his only living descendent died when he was 10 years old and was actually buried in Sherrif Hutton but even then his body may not be there! Edward of Middleham did not have any children and his two illegitimate children did not have any either! So there are no descendents of Richard III and if these morons cannot even get their basic facts straight as you ave correctly pointed out several errors in the TV show: then the judge will be well impressed I am sure.

    • Good point! Richard did have at least two illegitimate children (I’m not sure whether either of them reproduced – maybe someone can enlighten me) – but I suspect these ‘descendants’ spring from other members of Richard’s family rather than his direct line.

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