Richard III: Yorkshire MPs defeated in new battle over king
Two Yorkshire MPs who raised a debate about the reburial of Richard III have been told that the remains of the king are in Leicester’s hands.
Members Hugh Bayley and his northern colleague Julian Sturdy spoke at Westminster Hall yesterday, calling for the Government to establish an independent body which would decide the final resting place of the 15th century Plantagenet king.
The legal standing is that the bones are reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, and the Yorkist pair were told in no uncertain terms that the skeleton was staying in Leicester and would be interred in line with the wishes of the University of Leicester, which holds the exhumation licence.
Addressing them at the Common’s debate, Jeremy Wright, Parliamentary under-secretary of state for justice, said: “The conditions attached to the licence were very broad, envisaging both that the remains might be those of Richard but also, as was thought last summer, that they might not be.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Sunday, May 26 2013
“Now that the exhumation has been completed, it is the University of Leicester’s responsibility as holder of the licence to decide where the remains are finally laid to rest. That is the law.”
The two Yorkshire MPs argued that an independent panel would be able to objectively weigh up all the claims for the location of burial and then alter the exhumation licence accordingly.
Mr Wright said that the conditions of the licence could be altered – although it would be “unusual” to do so – but only by the University of Leicester.
The university is legally entitled to reinter the remains “where it wants,” said Mr Wright.
Bristol MP Chris Skidmore, a Richard III Society member, asked whether York would consider a compromise – to keep the body at York Minster for a week before it was reburied at Leicester Cathedral.
said it was too early to start looking for compromises.
Mr Bayley, the York Central MP, said a number of Richard’s “descendants” were backing York’s claim to the king.
Julian Sturdy, MP for York Outer, joined Mr Bayley’s argument and claimed that Richard had requested to be buried in York during his life.
But this was questioned by Leicester South MP Jon Ashworth, who fought Leicester’s corner.
Speaking after the session, Mr Ashworth said: “The MPs from York were mounting a last-ditch effort to get the decision looked at. Their argument is not saying that he should be buried in York – although that’s what they eventually want, no doubt – but that an independent body should be set up to make a final decision on where he should be buried.
“I was very clear and said that the licence states he should be buried in Leicester.
“Archaeological good practice and canon law agree that he should be buried in the nearest consecrated ground to where he was discovered. This is the cathedral.”
After the debate, Dr Turi King – the University of Leicester geneticist who identified the remains as those of the king – said that technically Richard had no living descendants.
“These are all distant relatives,” she said. “If it comes to that, we are all related to Richard III, it’s simply a matter of degree. It just depends on who has done their family tree.”
• What should Richard III's lasting memorial at Leicester Cathedral be? Vote in the poll at the top right of this page.