Leicester Cathedral has been accused of cashing in on the reinternment of Richard III next year after it emerged that it was offering benefactors the right to attend the historic service marking the arrival of his remains in return for a £2,500 donation.
In a letter to supporters, the cathedral said the money would go towards funding a new £100,000 ambulatory around the last of the Plantagenet’s tomb which is expected to attract tens of thousands of visitors a year.
Mary McKenzie of the For Richard Society, which is campaigning to rehabilitate the reputation of the late monarch, accused the cathedral of repeatedly reneging on its commitment to treat Richard’s body with respect.
“It is an elitist method of raising cash that draws a line between rich and poor, discriminating against those who cannot afford to pay £2,500,” she said. It is believed £100,000 had already been raised by the offer.
In a letter to supporters the cathedral said the coffin’s return flanked by descendants of nobles that fought at Bosworth would be a “very powerful moment”.
“The medieval rites and wonderful music will be a service that would have been familiar to Richard,” it added.
Benefactors would also have their names included in a Book of Recognition and invited to attend a special reception after sharing in the “joy and emotion of this most unique occasion”.
A Cathedral spokeswoman denied it was seeking to profit from hosting the tomb. “We are not a wealthy cathedral, there is no public funding and we will rely on the support of trusts and individuals to make this happen.
“As a thank you to the benefactors who have contributed directly to the creation of ambulatory in which the tomb will lie, the cathedral will be inviting them to a service to witness the unveiling of the place of quiet reflection and beauty which they directly funded,” she said.
The remains of the notorious king were discovered in a car park in Leicester in 2012.
A judicial review concluded that his body should be buried in the city following objections by the descendants of distant relatives and rival claims that he should be returned to York in accordance with his own wishes.
Last month the cathedral authorities announced a week-long series of events to mark the reinternment which will see his coffin travel from the battlefield where he met his death in 1485 eventually reaching his final resting place at St Martin’s.
The public will be given three days to visit the coffin ahead of its reinternment. Attendance at special services will be at the invitation of the Very Revd David Monteith, Dean of Leicester Cathedral.