Hands off Richard III - Leicester's anger at campaign to bury King's remains in York
A campaign has been launched to take the remains of King Richard III away from Leicester to be buried in York.
Council bosses in York said they would be writing to the Queen to state the city's case, and an e-petition to the Government has attracted nearly 7,000 signatures.
The move has angered politicians, academics and religious leaders in Leicester, who have warned: "Hands off."
The City of York Council began its campaign yesterday after it was announced to the world on Monday that the remains found buried under the Grey friars car park, in Leicester, were those of the king.
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Kersten England, the council's chief executive, congratulated Leicester academics on the find, but said she would be writing to the Crown and the Ministry of Justice to ask them to consider interring the remains at York Minster.
"Based at the King's Manor as first Lord President of the Council of the North and as king, Richard III had – as now – very strong support in the city," she said. "His self-identification with the north and York is reflected in his plans for a chantry of 100 priests in York Minster, where he wished to be buried.
"That the burial site of this Yorkist king was determined by where he died from battle wounds makes the importance of adhering to his own wishes for his final resting place most important."
King Richard III was born in Northamptonshire, but spent much of his youth at Middleham Castle, in North Yorkshire. He was married in York and was the last king of the House of York, visiting the city a number of times during his life.
He was buried in Grey Friars Church, in Leicester, following his death during the Battle of Bosworth, which marked the end of the War of the Roses in 1485. Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire has also joined the bid for his remains to be taken to York.
Chief executive Gary Verity said: "He has been described as the country's only northern king and we think it would be appropriate for him to rest in peace in the north."
However, Leicester leaders remained united against the move – all citing the exhumation licence issued by the Ministry of Justice, which allowed the search to begin and stated the remains must be buried at Leicester Cathedral.
"This is not a battle we are going to enter and there is no competition with York," said Liz Hudson-Oliff, from the Diocese of Leicester.
"Under the terms of the exhumation licence issued by the Ministry of Justice, the remains should be reburied in Leicester.
"It would require a legal challenge to alter this. We would like the remains to come to us and the presumption is that they will come to us."
Ms Hudson-Oliff said she had spoken to former Dean of Leicester, Vivienne Faull, who is now Dean of York, who had expressed no support for a move to York.
"She is quite adamant that he stays here," she said. "He does not belong to anyone – these are the remains of a person we are talking about here."
City mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said York's claims were "absurd".
"It's a complete non-starter," he said. "It may generate some column inches for the local paper in York, but this matter has already been decided.
"The terms of the licence for the archeological dig were clear that if the bones proved to be Richard's, as they have, they should be interred in Leicester, not York, or anywhere else."
Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth raised the topic of Richard III's burial in the House of Commons yesterday.
He asked Chris Grayling, who answers questions for the Ministry of Justice, to confirm the remains would be placed at Leicester Cathedral.
Mr Grayling congratulated everyone involved in the search and said: "I hope everyone will come together for a proper service to mark the occasion, and for a formal internment in the cathedral."
Speaking to the Mercury, Mr Ashworth said: "He's been here for 500 years, and it was the University of Leicester who found him. We are not going to let York take him away – the message is: Hands off, York."
Richard Taylor, director of corporate affairs at the University of Leicester, said: "We said in our application that if Richard III was discovered that he would be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral. The Ministry of Justice wrote back and confirmed that.
"Apart from that, it is good archeological practice.
"I'm from Yorkshire so I understand why they would feel that they would want this but, you know, the decision has already been made."
An e-petition has also been set up in favour of the remains being re-interred in Leicester.
See the Leicester e-petition here.
See the York e-petition here.