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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.

Lost grave of Richard III unearthed; The Church of England Newspaper, September 30, 2012 p 3. October 5, 2012

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Laurence Olivier as Richard III (1955)

Archeologists from the University of Leicester excavating the supposed site of the lost grave of King Richard III have unearthed a skeleton with battle wounds and curvature of the spine.

“We are not saying today that we have found King Richard III,” Richard Taylor, Director of Corporate Affairs at the University told a 12 Sept 2012 press conference. “What we are saying is that the Search for Richard III has entered a new phase. Our focus is shifting from the archaeological excavation to laboratory analysis.”

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 Aug. 25, when a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Richard Buckley began excavating a Leicester City Council parking lot, the reputed location of the lost church.

Mr. Taylor reported that scientists from the University’s Department of Genetics and School of Archaeology and Ancient History had “exhumed one fully articulated skeleton” in what was believed to have been the Choir of Grey Friars church.

The skeleton of an adult male “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,” he said, 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. The skeleton does not have kyphosis – a different form of spinal curvature.”

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. “This skeleton certainly has characteristics that warrant extensive further detailed examination.”

The University of Leicester archaeologist who led the search for Richard III, Dr. Richard Buckley said, “Whether or not we have found Richard III, this archaeological project has been exciting because of what it has uncovered about Leicester’s rich and varied past.”

The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, Dean of Leicester, told the news conference the cathedral had worked closely with the the university, city council and the Richard III society in the search for Richard III“There has been a major memorial to King Richard at the heart of the cathedral and adjacent to the Herrick Chapel since 1980. This is the only cathedral memorial to Richard in the country and has been the focus for remembrance, particularly on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth. The memorial states that Richard was buried in the graveyard of the Church of the Grey Friars in the parish of St Martin (now the cathedral church).”

“If the identity of the remains is confirmed, Leicester Cathedral will continue to work with the Royal Household, and with the Richard III Society, to ensure that his remains are treated with dignity and respect and are reburied with the appropriate rites and ceremonies of the church,” Dean Faull said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Hunt on for the grave of Richard III: The Church of England Newspaper, September 16, 2012 p 4 September 15, 2012

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The earliest surviving portrait of Richard III (c. 1520, after a lost original), in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries, London

Archaeologists believe they may have found the lost grave of Richard III under a council car park in Leicester.

On 7 September 2012 the University of Leicester’s public affairs office reported that members of the Greyfriars project had uncovered the lost garden of Robert Herrick, the supposed site of the grave of Richard III.

This was “an astonishing discovery and a huge step forward in the search for King Richard’s grave.” said Philippa Langley from the Richard III Society.

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 Greyfriars Church in in Leicester, but the location of the church and the grave were lost over time.

In the early 1600s, Alderman Robert Herrick, a mayor of Leicester, bought the Greyfriars church from the Crown and built a large mansion house with a garden on the site. In 1612, Christopher Wren, father of the famous architect, during a visit to Leicester recorded in his diary seeing a three foot stone pillar in Herrick’s garden with the inscription: “Here lies the body of Richard III sometime King of England.”

In 1711 Herrick’s descendants sold the house, which was pulled down in 1870 and in the 1930s the city council built a car park on the site.

The modern hunt for Richard III’s final resting place began Aug. 25, when a team of archaeologists led by Richard Buckley began excavating the parking lot, uncovering floor and roof tiles, and window tracery fragments.

Dr. Buckley said they believe the tracery fragments came from the east window of the church, near the high altar, which itself is near the choir where Richard III was said to have been buried.

“Having overcome the major hurdle of finding the church, I am now confident that we are within touching distance of finding the choir — a real turning point in the project and a stage which, at the outside, I never really thought we might reach,” Dr. Buckley said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

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