Fit for a king? Royal row rumbles on over where Richard III should be laid to rest

He was rescued from the council car park - and is now heading for a plain-looking tomb in Leicester Cathedral
  • @tompeck

He has spent the last few years interred beneath an unglamorous council car park, so Richard III would probably regard the plans for his reburial set out by Leicester Cathedral as something of an improvement.

But the quiet simplicity with which the church authorities intend to re-lay the monarch to rest have proved decidedly underwhelming to some of the monarch’s admirers.

The diocese has revealed plans to place the 15th-century Plantagenet king, whose body was recently discovered by archaeologists, under a ledger stone – no more than a simple slab – in the cathedral’s chancel. Proposals for a more ornate monument were, it said, “disproportionate”. York has also not given up on its claim for the rights to the royal bones. Richard’s lineage stretches back to the northern city, as many schoolchildren know.

The Richard III Society, which was closely involved in the project to find the grave, had also put forward its own design for a tomb. Its East Midlands Branch Secretary, Sally Henshaw, said she was “very disappointed” their idea for a large, limestone table-top design had been shunned.

“There has been a ledger stone dedicated to Richard III in Leicester cathedral since 1982, before his remains were discovered. To simply have another stone does not, I think, really reflect his status as an anointed king, the last of the Plantagenets and his warrior death,” she said. “I think people who will come from all over the world, who have been fascinated by the story, will be disappointed”.

In its defence, there is a case for Leicester’s minimalism. Rumours that Richard III interred his young nephews in the Tower of London, and then murdered them, persist more than 500 years later. Officials said the cathedral was a “modest” building which might be dominated by a large monument and they were keen to avoid anything which was a “pastiche”.

Canon Barry Naylor, acting dean of Leicester Cathedral, said: “We hope it will be a place of dignified simplicity which will give honour to Richard by the prominent location it has, close to the holiest place in the cathedral. “One of the things we have to do at the cathedral is to consider the whole life of the cathedral and [we need] a tomb which will fit into that and we think a ledger stone will be more appropriate rather than a big edifice.”

Richard III reigned for only 26 months, was praised for his cleverness and bravery, but castigated for being a hunchback with a limp and a withered arm,

He was killed at the battle of Bosworth by the forces of the man who would become Henry VII, and was hastily buried in the church of Greyfriars. His wife, Anne Neville, is buried in Westminster Abbey, but his burial next to her has been all but ruled out.