The Looking for Richard Project team has announced several updates on their website this evening regarding the Richard III Visitor Centre displays, King Richard III’s tomb and the repeated requests to have Richard III’s remains removed from the University of Leicester and taken to a religious environment.

Update on Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester

As you know, we have voiced several concerns about aspects of the Visitor Centre. Members of the Looking For Richard Project and Richard III Society have now met with representatives of the Leicester organisations involved (the Board of Trustees, the City Council, the University and ULAS).

As a result we are pleased to say that an initial agreement has been reached, and we hope to hear further about other outstanding matters. As a first step they have agreed to restore the text of Philippa’s LFR story to its original, and to include further recognition of the work of John Ashdown-Hill. This will be done as soon as practicably possible. They also plan to include acknowledgement of the crucial funding received via the Ricardian International Appeal, and we are currently exchanging some exciting ideas about representing this visually.

Areas of agreement on Richard III’s reburial

Several months ago the Looking For Richard Project requested a round-table meeting with the Leicester authorities in charge of Richard III’s reburial, which took place on 23 June 2014, with the Richard III Society. A number of issues were raised, including our representations relating to the Cathedral’s tomb, which we learned was not up for discussion. However, we offered a number of suggestions of which some have been implemented:

A. There is now a plinth under the tomb to display symbols personal to Richard III

B. Royal arms on the plinth

C. Richard’s coffin will be crafted by Michael Ibsen, his nephew in the 17th generation.

Rosary 2We have now received a final written response from the Leicester Cathedral Quarter Partnership Board dealing with the rest of our concerns. You will be pleased to hear of several areas of major importance where our views have been taken into account:

D. Richard III’s remains will be laid out in a fully articulated manner, as a human being, not placed as a pile of bones in a box.

E. A rosary will be placed in the coffin, gifted by John Ashdown-Hill. (The rosary bears a copy of the fifteenth-century Clare Cross, which may have been owned by Richard III’s mother – see illustrations.)

F. Four floor-tiles, carrying images of a white rose, will be laid into the Ambulatory floor at approximately the positions where one would expect the usual floor-standing candles.

G. There will be a number of moments within the 7-day programme where Catholic clergy will be present and Catholic prayers will be used.

H. The burial crown commissioned by John Ashdown-Hill for the re-interment will be included within the services. Details are to be confirmed.

3. A Place of Sanctity and Rest

Sadly, the news on this is deeply disappointing. We raised it as a primary concern at our round-table meeting, but this key issue has been rejected in the Cathedral Board’s final response. You can read the Richard III Society’s media release here: http://www.richardiii.net/

Our request is one that relates to the basic religious decencies that would be afforded to any deceased individual with a known religious faith, i.e. for his remains to be taken to a place of sanctity and rest to allow coffining and repose in a spiritual environment while awaiting reburial. This procedure was originally promised by ULAS in its agreement with Philippa Langley, who subsequently took on board the Cathedral Board’s reservations and produced for them a very workable proposal which came with full endorsement by the local Catholic community. However, the Cathedral Board has now informed us that coffining of the remains will take place in a laboratory at the University. We note that its objections to the spiritual location are not of a religious nature; they are as follows:

1. The fragile nature of the bones, and the need to avoid any unnecessary further damage by moving them to another location.

2. The need, as they perceive it, for the remains to stay on UoL premises in accordance with the responsibilities placed upon the University by the licence issued by the Ministry of Justice.

The ‘fragility’ of the remains

Over the past two years the remains of Richard III have been continually moved by the University during the course of their custody, both for scientific analysis and private media and academic viewing. The remains have also travelled extensively, being taken on numerous occasions to a variety of scientific facilities including Loughborough University (around 30 miles) for 3d image production.

Therefore it seems that the ‘fragility’ of the remains is not and never has been a genuine material issue. Moreover any transfer to the proposed place of sanctity in Leicester would involve only a very brief local journey (maximum round trip of 3 miles).

Retention of remains on University premises to comply with exhumation licence.

The University has on numerous occasions taken the remains off its premises and across the country while presumably complying with the exhumation licence, and can therefore follow the same procedure in respect of the place of sanctity and rest. If permission was needed for those previous removals, no doubt it can be obtained again. Richard III’s remains would continue in the University’s custody throughout, and indeed the suggested place of sanctity would be within a church which actually functions as the University’s own chaplaincy. It should be noted that the exhumation licence requires the remains to be kept by the university, and not necessarily at the university.

As a result we conclude that the claim that the remains must stay on University premises throughout is also not a genuine material issue. We believe that the University needs to explain why, when Richard III’s remains are at last to be allowed to return to dust, it suddenly sees them as too fragile to be moved and in need of careful preservation. Nothing in the exhumation licence prescribes anything of this nature.

Our message to you

The Looking For Richard Project and Richard III Society have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to preserve what dignity and honour we can for the remains of the king. We hope that the progress we have achieved so far in Leicester may go some way to alleviating a number of the many concerns raised with us in recent months.

In terms of the transfer of the king’s remains to a place of sanctity and rest it seems that we can do no more. Many of you have been waiting for this decision and will now wish to act. For those who have urged that this take place, we can only suggest that you now write to the University of Leicester and Leicester Cathedral, and to any persons and institutions that may be able to influence them in this matter such as your MP, the Ministry of Justice and the Head of the Anglican and Catholic churches, to whom we shall also be writing formally.

Our purpose in retrieving Richard III’s remains from oblivion was not to unearth a trophy or scientific specimen, but to afford a fallen king an interment conducted with dignity and due respect for his religious faith. To be prepared for burial in a Christian environment is a simple and basic request, and we cannot understand the Cathedral Board’s refusal. We hope you will join us in taking our request to higher authorities. We will never get this opportunity again to offer a pre-reformation monarch an appropriate ritual of his own faith, and in so doing, give him what he was denied when killed in battle in 1485. This was, from its earliest inception, the abiding ethos of the Looking For Richard Project. It was set out in the Reburial Document given to all parties in Leicester, and established in good faith in Philippa’s written agreements with Leicester City Council and University of Leicester Archaeological Services, before the tarmac was cut.

Those of you with time constraints have asked that we offer you a template letter, and details of those persons you may wish to write to. You can find these below.

Many thanks for your patience

Looking For Richard Project team

Should you wish to express your concern you can find a template letter and contacts on the Looking for Richard website.

About The Author

Olga Hughes is currently pre-occupied with fairy tales, fantasy, misanthropy, medieval history and the long eighteenth century. She has a Bachelor of Fine Art from the Victorian College of the Arts and is currently majoring in Literature and History at Deakin. She has contributed to websites such as History behind Game of Thrones, The Anne Boleyn Files and The Tudor Society.

11 Responses

  1. jasmine

    I am pleased to see that there have been changes made following negotiations and these will no doubt please many who have been very critical of certain proposals.

    I am not sure, however, if further letters to various organisations and individuals will produce any results, given the almost continual introductions of petitions associated with the reburial by those opposed to a Leicester location and any detail of the proposed ceremonies to say nothing of the various letters sent to MPs, members of the House of Lords, and members of the Royal Family.

    Reply
  2. Mary Walker

    The LFR team and the Richard III Society, of which I am a member, have of course conducted themselves with the utmost dignity in their dealings with Leicester City Council, the University and ULAS.

    This cannot have been easy for them. They financed the dig and they found the King. They then had to battle for a voice in the treatment of the King’s remains, his spiritual preparation, his burial service, his tomb and his – and their representation in the visitor centre.

    Olga, you may recall the heated ‘debates’ among commenters on your own blogs. I got so upset I had to turn away. You have represented the accurate facts about the looking for him, finding him and the aftermath so beautifully, you’ve made your own contribution to Richard’s cause.

    That Philippa Langley had to request that the visitor centre present her own text as written and acknowledge the enormous contribution of John Ashdown-Hill beggar’s belief, frankly. As the official custodian of Richard she never gave up. She fought for him all the way.

    The crown is magnificent. The plinth and the white rose tiles are a welcome addition to a ‘pop-art’ tomb.

    Reading that Michael Ibsen is to craft the King’s coffin finally reduced me to tears.

    Those of us who could only stand on the sidelines fretting – thank you all.

    Reply
    • Olga Hughes

      Thank you Mary, that’s very kind of you. I hope these changes can put some minds at ease.
      They did announce Michael would be making the coffin a little while back and it is a wonderful gesture. I am not sure where the crown will be displayed in the Cathedral but John’s new gift of a rosary is a lovely thing. I’ll do an update on the rosary when it’s finished.

      Reply
  3. Dale

    Absolutely agree with Mary, I don’t understand why Leicester has been so stubborn on these important points. Or why they they have tried to shut out Phillipa and John Ashdown-Hill when they were so instrumental in starting this whole project. Wonderful to read that Richard’s nephew will be crafting the coffin.

    Reply
    • Mary Walker

      Thank you, Dale. There has been a lot of coveting going on which seems needlessly ungracious.

      I agree with Jasmine too. My local MP IS the Minister for Justice and he’s been left in no doubt about my views and opinions.

      I think now we’ve got to trust that King Richard gets the final laying to rest which he deserves.

      Reply
      • Olga Hughes

        I don’t think he’s in any danger of not being given enough attention. The live telecast and documentary week is an unprecedented tribute. I am sure it will all be lovely.

  4. Terry Clarke

    The manner in which the U.L.A.S has dealt with something which they poo poohed in the first instance is a disgrace. Philippa Langley found Richard and funded that search personally. She had a signed document that she alone would be the custodian of the body SHE found. The whole thing has been a farce and typical of bodies who act on loosely worded documents viz a viz the so called licence and wanted to be seen as the ‘finders of Richard’ which they certainly were not.
    Of course it was important to carry out the necessary assessments of the remains but not only the Rochard 111 society and in particular Langley and Ashdown-Hill should in no way at all have been kept in ignorance of what was happening.

    I sometime wish that ‘Goode Kyng Ricardis’ had never been found. I have not witnessed such back stabbing and the seeking of accolades for something which has been carried out by someone else for a long time.

    Terry Clarke

    Reply
    • jasmine

      I think it is unfair to use the term ‘poo poohed’ as trying to find named persons in any excavation is practically unknown. It is certainly true that ULAS thought they would not find Richard, because the area within which they were able to excavate was extremely limited – by buildings, walls, and modern services such as drains etc. They not only had to locate Greyfriars buildings, but they had to find the choir, before they could even begin to decide whereabouts Richard might lie.

      The fact that Richard was discovered almost immediately in the first trench is absolutely astonishing. Mathew Morris, the director, is on record as saying if he had decided to put his trench just a few inches to the right, they would never have found Richard at all.

      Reply
      • Jane Carpenter

        “Philippa Langley found Richard and funded that search personally.” Agreed Terry.
        I believe she has been treated unfairly.
        I also believe that Richard lll has been treated unfairly- in life, death, re-discovery and in the proposed reburial plans and location. But sadly that’s politics.

  5. jasmine

    Sorry, Jane, but PL did not find Richard III – Mathew Morris did when he put in his trench and discovered human remains at the first attempt.

    Reply
    • Mary Walker

      I think it only fair to point out that Philippa had a gut feeling that Richard was indeed under that spot in the car park. She made that clear to everyone involved in the dig.

      Reply

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