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Richard III tomb design under review: The Church of England Newspaper, February 14, 2014 March 20, 2014

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Representatives of the Dean and Chapter of Leicester Cathedral met last month with the Church Fabric Commission for England to find a way forward through the impasse on the proposed design of the tomb for Richard III.

On 24 Jan 2014, CFCE chairman Frank Field MP and members of the commission met with church and local leaders along with members of English Heritage and the Richard III Society to review plans for the tomb. Last year plans for the tomb were put on hold after the CFCE objected to some of the proposed renovations to the cathedral to accommodate the tomb including plans to change a 1920s wooden rood screen designed by Sir Charles Nicholson.

The CFCE declined to give its assent to the million pound project until legal challenges mounted by members of the Plantagenet Society – who wish to see the king buried in York – were resolved by the High Court review into the Ministry of Justice exhumation licence.

Details of the meeting were not released, but a member of the chapter said that while more work needs to be done, the meeting had been productive.

On 13 March the High Court in London will hold a hearing to review the Ministry of Justice’s licence to rebury Richard in Leicester. Should the cathedral prevail in court, it must then secure approval from the CFCE. The Mayor Leicester, Sir Peter Soulsby, told the Leicester Mercury that should the CFCE give its approval to the revised design plans it will be “at least six months” before Richard will be reinterned in the cathedral.

Plans for the tomb of Richard III unveiled: The Church of England Newspaper, July 28, 2013 p 6 August 1, 2013

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Architects van Heyningen and Haward design for the tomb of Richard III. Image: Diocese of Leicester

Leicester Cathedral will spend £1 million on the construction of the tomb of the last Plantagenet king, Richard III. On 21 July the diocese announced the cathedral will modify its interior, installing a raised tomb, a new floor, lighting and new stained glass windows.

Last week the firm van Heyningen and Haward architects on behalf of the cathedral shared copies of the proposed plans with representatives from the Richard III Society, the University of Leicester and the City Council. The proposal will next be submitted to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England, and if approved, work could commence as early as November.

The remains of the king, who died in the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, were discovered by archaeologists under a city car park last year. The decision to intern Richard in Leicester Cathedral has been challenged by the group called The Plantagenet Alliance, which in March petitioned the government to move the burial to York. They claimed that 15 members of the Alliance were descendants of Richard’s sister and, therefore, under the European Convention on Human Rights should have a say in the burial.

A spokesman for the University of Leicester, which received a licence from the Ministry of Justice to excavate the remains has rejected the Alliance’s call to move the bones to York and has backed the plan to keep the king in Leicester.

The Dean of Leicester, the Very Rev David Monteith, said the plans were influenced by feedback from a variety of sources, including members of the public who had been visiting the Cathedral and commenting in the media. “We are committed to re-inter King Richard with honour and we have listened carefully to the different views that were expressed. We want to create a really wonderful space in the Cathedral for him and the many thousands of people we know will want to come to visit and pay their respects.

The Bishop of Leicester, the Rt Rev Tim Stevens stated this had been an “immensely complex project and we are determined to get it right. Inevitably that means considerable expense but we are confident that with the support of the Church and the public, we can honour Richard and his story.”

The dean told the BBC that raising the funds for construction would be a challenge, “but money follows vision and I think we have a great vision for the cathedral and Leicester has a great vision for honouring King Richard.”

“Those two things combined I think will mean people will be generous and want to be part of this,” he explained.

Skeletal remains identified as those of Richard III: The Church of England Newspaper, February 10, 2013, p 5. February 5, 2013

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Scientists have identified a skeleton with battle wounds and curvature of the spine unearthed at an archaeological dig in Leicester the lost remains of Richard III.

It is “beyond reasonable doubt the individual exhumed at Grey Friars on September 12th [2012] is indeed Richard III, the last Plantagenet king of England,” Dr. Richard Buckley told a 4 Feb 2013 press conference.

The last of the Plantagenet kings, Richard III (1452-1485) ruled for two years until his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field on 22 August 1485.  After the battle he was interred in Grey Friars Church in in Leicester, but the location of the church and the grave were lost over time.

The modern hunt for Richard III’s final resting place began last August, when a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Buckley began excavating a Leicester City Council parking lot, the reputed location of the lost church.

Last year the University reported that it had “exhumed one fully articulated skeleton” in what was believed to have been the Choir of Grey Friars church. The skeleton “appears to have suffered significant peri-mortem trauma to the skull which appears consistent with, although not certainly caused by, an injury received in battle. A bladed implement appears to have cleaved part of the rear of the skull,” said Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University at a 12 Sept 2012 press conference, adding that a “barbed iron arrowhead was found between vertebrae of the skeleton’s upper back.”

The skeleton should signs of “severe scoliosis – which is a form of spinal curvature. This would have made his right shoulder appear visibly higher than the left shoulder. This is consistent with contemporary accounts of Richard’s appearance.”

Unlike Shakespeare’s Richard III, “the man did not have the feature sometimes inappropriately known as a ‘hunchback’ and did not have a ‘withered arm’,” said Mr. Taylor.

At this week’s press conference, University of Leicester scientists reported that DNA and forensic evidence established the skeleton was that of Richard III. Dr. Jo Appleby stated the physical evidence was consistent with the historical accounts of Richard III.  The skeleton was of a man aged from his late 20’s to late 30’s with a slight feminine build and a curved spine. Ten wounds were inflicted at the time of death or shortly thereafter.  Death was likely caused by one of two sword strokes to the base of the skull, she said.

Geneticist Dr. Turi King stated that DNA extracted from a tooth of the skeleton was compared to that of Michael Ibsen, a Canadian who is a direct descendent of Richard’s sister Anne of York.  The DNA sequence of Mr. Ibsen and that of the man buried in Gray Friars Church showed they belonged to the same family, Dr. King reported.  The physical evidence, DNA results and archeological evidence all pointed to the body being that of Richard, the team concluded.

Sir Peter Soulsby, the mayor of Leicester, told the conference the remains will be re-interred in Leicester Cathedral.

“On behalf of the Bishop and Acting Dean of Leicester I want to say how very thrilled we are to be part of this amazing day. We are delighted with today’s news. We at the Cathedral and Diocese share in the pride of serving such a great city as ours which still has the capacity to reveal such incredible stories,” Canon David Monteith said.

“I can confirm that the Cathedral have now received letters from both the City Council and Leicester University to further enact the requirements of the Licence which led to the exhumation of these human remains. This is a momentous day for our city and nation. We will now formally begin preparations and plans at Leicester Cathedral for an interment.”

“Meanwhile we will be praying that through God’s love, King Richard III with all the departed may rest in peace and rise in glory,” he said in a statement posted to the diocesan website.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

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