Richard III: King's reburial row goes to judicial review

Richard III The king's remains were found in a car park near Leicester Cathedral

Distant relatives of Richard III have been granted permission for a judicial review of the decision to rebury the king's remains in Leicester.

The Plantagenet Alliance launched a legal challenge to the decision made by the Ministry of Justice in May.

The group, including 15 of Richard III's relatives, wants a York burial claiming it was King Richard's wish.

But Mr Justice Haddon-Cave warned the parties against an "undignified and unedifying" legal tussle.

Skeletal remains found beneath a car park in Leicester last year were confirmed as the king's by a team at the University of Leicester in February.

The licence to carry out the dig, issued by the Ministry of Justice, gave the university the authority to decide where to rebury the king.

'Unseemly' tussle

Leicester Cathedral has begun a £1m rebuilding project to accommodate the king's tomb while the city council plans to build a £4m visitor centre commemorating his life.

However, the Plantagenet Alliance wants the king to be laid to rest in York Minster.

For and against: York v Leicester

  • Born in 1452, Richard was the fourth son of Richard, Duke of York
  • Though born at Fotheringhay Castle in Northamptonshire, he spent much of his youth at Middleham Castle, in Yorkshire
  • Richard governed the north for his brother Edward IV
  • He visited York several times during his reign and funded the fourth floor of Monk Bar, the city's 14th Century gateway
  • Controversial claims he planned to build a chapel at York Minister for him to be buried in
  • While of the House of York, his title was Richard of Gloucester
  • He was buried in Leicester after his death at the nearby Battle of Bosworth in 1485
  • His opponent, Henry VII, paid for the grave to be marked
  • Reinterment in the nearest consecrated ground at St Martin's Cathedral, in Leicester, would be in keeping with archaeological practice

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said he would grant the review "on all grounds" but warned the parties against beginning an "unseemly, undignified and unedifying" legal tussle.

He urged the parties to "avoid embarking on the legal Wars of the Roses part 2".

Giving his reasons for granting the review, he said: "The archaeological discovery of the mortal remains of a former King of England after 500 years is without precedent.

'No case whatsoever'

"In my judgement, it is plainly arguable that there was a duty at common law to consult widely as to how and where Richard III's remains should appropriately be reinterred.

"I grant permission to the claimant to bring judicial review proceedings against the Secretary of State for Justice and the University of Leicester on all grounds."

Richard, the last monarch of the House of York, grew up at Middleham Castle in the Yorkshire Dales and visited York several times during his 26-month reign.

York Minster The Plantagenet Alliance wants the remains to be reburied at York Minster

Launching the bid for a judicial review in May, Vanessa Roe, of the Plantagenet Alliance, said: "It is well documented throughout the centuries that he wanted his remains to be buried in York, amongst his family."

Leicester City Mayor Peter Soulsby said he was "absolutely convinced that the Plantagenet Alliance has no case whatsoever", adding he hoped the review would bring "a speedy resolution" to the dispute.

'Million relatives'

He said: "It is not surprising the courts want to rule on this as it's not every day a king is found tucked away in a car park.

"I think Leicester's case is overwhelming. He died near Leicester, he was buried in Leicester, he laid in the shadow of the cathedral for 500 years and the licence granted during the excavation stated he should be reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

"There are at least a dozen places which had strong connections with Richard during his lifetime but none has a serious challenge to Leicester."

The University of Leicester, which found and identified Richard's remains, said it was studying the latest developments but was confident the courts would find the "claim is without merit".

It also pointed out there were an estimated 1 million relatives of Richard III alive today and one of the most significant, Michael Ibsen, whose DNA was used to identify the skeleton, supported Leicester's claim.

More on This Story

Richard III: Return of the King

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