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Richard III

Volume 551: debated on Thursday 25 October 2012

5. What assessment the Church Commissioners have made of the potential Church sites available for the reburying of King Richard III. (124677)

10. What discussions the Church Commissioners have had on laying to rest the remains of King Richard III at Leicester Cathedral. (124683)

The remains that are thought to be those of Richard III are at present with Leicester city council’s museums department and the university of Leicester’s archaeological department, which are carrying out tests to see whether it can be demonstrated that the remains are indeed those of Richard III. Once those tests are concluded, the nature, place and marking of any reinterment will need seriously to be considered.

Will the hon. Gentleman let it be known to the warring factions of York and Leicester and to the Church Commissioners of the Church of England that the great priory of Worksop, which is halfway between the two cities at the end of the road through the forest, and which is at the centre of the kingdom of Richard III, can provide the most appropriate final resting place for the king?

I can see that there will be quite a lot of competition. If there is conclusive evidence that these are the remains of Richard III, the tradition would be that they would be reinterred in the nearest Christian church or cathedral, which happens to be Leicester cathedral. In such circumstances, I hope it would be possible to arrange a meeting with the dean of Leicester to see how that could happen.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bassetlaw (John Mann). I am sure that Worksop has many fine qualities, but given that it was the Grey friars who took the body of Richard and buried him at what was then the Greyfriars church—a site just a stone’s throw from Leicester cathedral—and that he has been in Leicester for 500 years, is it not most appropriate that he should be finally laid to rest at Leicester cathedral?

I understand that point of view, and once we know the provenance of the remains I shall seek to use my best offices to arrange a meeting with the dean of the cathedral and others to ensure that this can be done in a proper and timely way.

I was concerned about how many other kings might come up, as I never thought my career would involve the question of how we might bury kings. I am glad to say that the Church can account for all of them. I am afraid to say that the head of Charles, king and martyr, is still separated from his body, but they are both at St George’s, Windsor. The only one still missing is Henry I, who seems to have got lost somewhere in Reading after the dissolution of the monasteries. I can account for all the other kings and queens being properly and Christianly buried.

I must say to my dear and hon. Friend the Member for Leicester South (Jonathan Ashworth) that it is not 500 years but 527 years since Richard was killed. Despite that passage of time, he is still very well regarded in York. [Laughter.] We have a museum to Richard III—

My hon. Friend should not tempt me down that path.

We respect Richard III enormously. But to argue on the Floor of this place over his mortal remains is more like medieval cathedrals fighting over saints’ relics. I do not think it is appropriate. I have heard what the spokesman for the Church Commissioners says, and they are wise words.