The remains of Richard III will be reburied in Leicester Cathedral next year, during a ceremony broadcast live on Channel 4, after distant relatives of the king lost a High Court battle with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.
Richard's battle-scarred bones were found under a council car park in Leicester, prompting plans for the last Plantagenet King, killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, to be reinterred at the city’s cathedral.
Three judges rejected a bid by relatives who make up the Plantagenet Alliance, which indicated it wanted the remains to be buried at York Minster, claiming that was the wish “of the last medieval king of England”, who was known as Richard of York.
The Alliance sought a ruling that Mr Grayling was under a legal duty to set up a wide-ranging public consultation exercise to decide where the king's final resting place should be.
But in a final defeat for the Plantagenets, the judges said that Leicester is where the bones should remain and it was “time for King Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest”.
Richard’s body had been taken to Leicester by supporters of the victorious Henry VII and buried in Greyfriars church, now the site of the council car park.
Lady Justice Hallett, sitting with Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, ruled there were no public law grounds for interfering with the plans for reburial at Leicester Cathedral.
“The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral, has explained the considerable efforts and expenditure invested by the cathedral in order to create a lasting burial place as befits an anointed King”, the judges said.
Mr Grayling said: “I am pleased the court has reached the same conclusion and comprehensively rejected all of the claimant’s arguments. I am, however, frustrated and angry that the Plantagenet Alliance - a group with tenuous claims to being relatives of Richard III - have taken up so much time and public money.”
David Monteith, dean of Leicester, said the reinterment ceremony would take place next spring. The design for the tomb which will hold the King's remains had been approved by the Cathedral Fabrics Commission for England, he added.
Channel 4 will broadcast live the moment when the king’s body is finally laid to rest in the Cathedral as part of a series of programmes surrounding the event.
Richard’s reburial will take place over several days. Following a procession from the University of Leicester to the cathedral via a public route that will reflect the movements of his final days, he will lie at rest in the cathedral. The public will be given the opportunity to visit and pay their respects to the one-time anointed king.
The coffin will be lowered below ground into the specially designed tomb, in a place within the Cathedral closely corresponding to where Richard was placed in the Greyfriars monastery over five centuries ago. The massive stone tomb cover, inscribed with a cross, will face towards the Cathedral’s east window depicting Christ the King.
Wendy Moorhen, deputy chair of the Richard III Society, said it would work constructively with Leicester Cathedral to help bring about the reburial. “Consideration should also now be given to the need for his remains to be removed to an appropriate place of sanctity before their final reinterment,” she said.
“Further arguments over the location of the king's final resting place can only be counter-productive to the solemnity of the reburial and will not help efforts to secure a reassessment of his life and character.”
There was applause at Leicester Cathedral as Bishop of Leicester Tim Stevens read out the ruling to supporters. He said: “We are, of course, delighted. Here in the cathedral, in the diocese, in the city, in the county, we've waited a long time for this.” Plans for the reinterment that had been on hold could now progress. It is currently unclear whether or not the Alliance will seek to appeal.