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.