If he was still in his grave, he would be spinning by now. Dr Lucy Worsley had it right when, writing in The Guardian, she characterised the debate, about where the alleged remains of Richard III should be buried, as rivalry over tourist opportunities. Into the debate have fed all kinds of extraneous and irrelevant ideas.
The self-styled ‘Plantagenets’ have tried to claim some priority due to blood ties. Unfortunately for them, Richard III had no direct descendants. Not that, after more than five centuries, and in relation to someone who was very much a public figure, their alleged family claim has any relevance anyhow.
Others (including the City of York Council and one University of York medievalist) have alleged some special relationship between Richard III and York. He was more properly Duke of Gloucester than Duke of York. While he lived part of his childhood at Middleham Castle, that only makes that locality a prior claimant, alongside his birthplace at Fotheringhay. I dare say he had a few other castles and stately homes dotted around the English countryside as well, across the North, in Pemrokeshire and the Welsh Marches.
Apparently, some believe he did special things for York – which begs the question as to why, during the York 800 celebrations there weren’t calls for King John to be buried in York Minster. After all, that particular monarch was supposed to have given the city its right to self-government. The truth is that all monarchs had a special relationship with York. It was the headquarters of the State in the North, the Council of the North (first set up with Richard as its leader) and the centre from which oppression was meted out to any recalcitrants with northern accents until well into the 19th century.
Leicester has a strong argument. Richard was killed in battle nearby at Bosworth and his remains were buried in Leicester in what was then consecrated ground. Leicester Cathedral is adjacent and the nearest logical alternative. Otherwise it opens the arguments that all soldiers who died in battle should be repatriated to their home place (wherever that might be).
I would therefore like to advance the argument that my grandfather’s remains, which I believe to be in the military cemetery at Bouchoir in France, should be properly identified using DNA and other techniques and then returned to the UK to be buried in Darlington West Cemetery. I would argue that the same should be done for all British military personnel buried overseas, starting with those in cemeteries at risk of desecration in the Middle East. Let’s bring all the boys home!
I would like to make a serious alternative suggestion to what has so far been proposed. Richard III’s bones should be re-assembled, strung back together and hung up in a glass case in the National Portrait Gallery as an art exhibit. Richard III as Ozymandias. Now that really would be a tourist attraction! And it would fit perfectly into the tacky approach to ‘heritage’ that has grown in dominance in the UK since the 1970s.