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King Richard III (Reburial)

Volume 559: debated on Thursday 7 March 2013

2. If he will meet representatives from York and Leicester, including the deans of the cathedrals and hon. Members from both cities to discuss arrangements for the reburial of King Richard III. (146566)

The legal position is clear. The Ministry of Justice has granted a licence to the university of Leicester, which means that it is responsible for keeping the remains of King Richard III and for their reburial. It is intended that they will be reburied in Leicester cathedral.

In October, when we last discussed this matter, which was before it had been established that the remains were those of King Richard, the hon. Gentleman said:

“Once those tests are concluded, the nature, place and marking of any reinterment will need seriously to be considered.”—[Official Report, 25 October 2012; Vol. 551, c. 1070.]

I said at the time that those were wise words and that it would be wrong to bicker in this Chamber about the burial place. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the matter should now be considered by experts, taking account of the wishes that King Richard expressed during his life and the views of clergy who do not have a vested interest, people from York and Leicester and all other interested parties, so that a decision can be made?

I think that the hon. Gentleman needs an Adjournment debate so that he can develop his thoughts fully. He cannot speak to Richard III about it, I am afraid, but he may be able to address the House.

The hon. Gentleman has an Adjournment debate on this issue on Tuesday, and I suggest that he put those issues to Ministry of Justice Ministers then. As for the Church, we believe that in a situation such as this the remains should be reburied in the nearest possible church, which, as it happens, is Leicester cathedral.

My constituents have been raising with me questions about the legality of what is happening at the moment about this, and although I am sympathetic to the case put by my hon. Friend the Member for York Central (Hugh Bayley), I would like to press the case for burying Richard III in Barnard Castle, where he lived happily for many years and where his insignia, the white boar, can still be seen engraved in the castle.

I suggest that the hon. Lady seeks to intervene in the hon. Gentleman’s Adjournment debate with Ministry of Justice Ministers on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, Richard III did not have much time to plan his funeral. I do not think he would have been very worried about where he was buried, but he did live and die a Catholic, and so at his funeral could there not be some aspect of Catholicism to represent his life’s work?

Every Sunday, I say, “I believe in one holy Catholic Church.” The more serious point is that whatever service takes place at Leicester cathedral, I am sure that the Dean of Leicester will want to involve representatives of the local Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, one wants to try to ensure that an event such as the respectful reburial of an English king is carried out in a way that does not cause controversy and that is respectful and accords with the wishes of the whole community.