A tomb is right thing for a king
By late yesterday afternoon, more than 1,000 people had voted in a Leicester Mercury online poll in favour of a tomb as the last resting place for King Richard III in Leicester Cathedral. That represented more than 90 per cent of the votes. Only 5 per cent had voted in favour of a memorial stone to mark his grave, which is the option preferred by Leicester Cathedral.
An online poll is, of course, not a scientific exercise. We have not gauged the views of a representative cross-section of the public. People who are enthusiastic about this subject are more likely to take part than those who are not, and so the result is likely to be skewed in a certain direction. Even allowing for that, however, the number in favour of a tomb rather than a memorial stone is overwhelming.
A design for a tomb has already been put forward by the Richard III Society and seems to be popular with the public. It is simple and elegant, not in the least over-the-top, and has the gravitas appropriate for a king.
However, the cathedral, in its architectural design brief, says the preference of the Cathedral Chapter is to mark the place of burial with a ledger stone. It says that it is unlikely that a "large table top tomb" would be acceptable to the Chapter or the Cathedral Fabric Commission for England.
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The reasons are enlarged upon later in the document: "They will be reluctant to site a large memorial in the cathedral which would assume disproportionate significance in a modest building and cannot easily be located in any position in which it would not restrict the capacity of the building on major occasions."
While these are reasonable points, it should be remembered that the discovery of Richard III's remains is a seismic event in Leicester's history, and a ledger stone in the floor of the cathedral does seem to underplay its significance.
When visitors come to our city to see his grave one imagines that they will be expecting a little bit more.
Nothing like this has happened before, nor will it happen again. So, it is surely the time to make an exception to the usual rules. Perhaps with a wider reorganisation in the cathedral and some tweaks to the design it might prove possible to accommodate the tomb. After all, we will never have another king buried in Leicester.