Relatives of King Richard III did battle with the state today in the High Court, as the quarrel over where to bury the monarch’s remains looked set to be laid to rest.
Described in court as “the (legal) Wars of the Roses Part 2”, members of the recently-formed Plantagenet Alliance Ltd have been fighting to have their distant ancestor moved to York Minster, claiming it was the king’s wish.
Richard was discovered under a car park in Leicester by archaeologists from the city’s university in August 2012. They had received a licence from the Ministry of Justice to disinter the king, and looked set to rebury him in the nearest consecrated ground of Leicester Cathedral.
Today judges heard from the group which represents at least 15 of Richard’s distant relatives. A High Court judge gave them permission to launch a judicial review against the cathedral and Justice Secretary Chris Grayling on the grounds that their case “ self-evidently raises matters of general public importance”.
Three High Court judges have now ruled that the case must be adjourned to a later date, as “there is clearly an issue to be determined as to whether or not Leicester City Council has a role to play”.
While both sides said there could yet be a “possibility” of resolving the case out of court in the intervening period, judges began preparations for what could be a further clash of arms in the new year.
Richard reigned from 1483 to 1485, when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth, ending the Wars of the Roses and the Plantagenet dynasty. Supporters of the victorious Henry VII took his remains to Leicester and buried him under Greyfriars church.
Greyfriars was destroyed in the dissolution of the monasteries in in 1538, and the ground ultimately paved over with the council-run car park which was excavated last year.
In allowing that dig, Mr Grayling’s office specified that the remains be reinterred at the nearby cathedral. A ceremony was scheduled for May 2014, in a project set to cost up to £1.3m, of which £96,000 would be spent on the tomb and vault.
While that move was supported by Michael Ibsen, the 17th-generation relative whose DNA was used to confirm Richard’s identity, the Plantagenet Alliance say the Ministry’s process failed in its duty to consult all “relevant interests”.
They have also claimed that not taking into account the wishes of the king’s distant family is a breach of human rights.
The Alliance say York Minster was the king’s preferred place of worship, and that they believe he had been planning to build his mausoleum there. There is no written record that he wished to be buried there.
There is serious money at stake in the case, with tourism experts estimating that ticket sales alone to a Richard III attraction could be worth up to £4 million. The king’s brief but turbulent reign has been immortalised in Shakespeare’s history plays, and Leicester City Council has already pressed ahead with plans for a multi-million pound visitor centre at the site of the original grave.