“King Richard, late mercifully reigning over us was piteously slain and murdered to the great heaviness of this city.” York 1485.
When I was a child, I remember standing with my mum in the Bloody Tower (originally known as the Garden Tower) while she told me about the wicked uncle murdering his little nephews. Yeah, yeah, I thought, but I want to see the block! In those days you could go right up to it. I remember examining the cut marks in it, searching for blood stains. It was without doubt the highlight of my visit.
But the wicked uncle? Well that’s what happens when the victors rewrite history. Heck, Henry VII even changed the date he took the throne to predate the Battle of Bosworth so that he could have Richard III’s supporters executed for treason. He later had Richard’s 24 year old nephew, Edward Plantagenet, (son of George, Duke of Clarence) executed having kept him prisoner in the Tower from the age of 10.
And in later years Henry VIII, had George’s daughter executed. You have probably heard of the 67 year old Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, who was dragged struggling to the block and had to be held down. It took ten or eleven chops by the inexperienced executioner before the deed was done. But I digress…
So what did Richard III do? Plenty in his lifetime. But in his short time as King?
Among other things, he made major reforms to the legal system which we still use today. Bail. Innocent until proven guilty. A jury of people only of good character. And fair dos for all – that is money, power and privilege brought you no advantage if you’d committed a crime and justice would be done. He was the first king to make his coronation oath in English.
Of his personal life, much is speculation, but I believe that he loved his wife and was faithful to her. I don’t believe that he had his nephews murdered nor do I believe that he was planning to marry his niece Elizabeth of York.
Now there is controversy over where his remains should be buried. Westminster Abbey with his wife Anne would have been the obvious choice I would have thought, but as I understand it, there’s no room and they’re not quite sure exactly where Anne is.
Leicester has the right to bury him because they found him and it was all part of the agreement when they began the excavation – in a car park!
In my own personal opinion, I think he should go to York where he was held in high regard and affection. His heart was in the north and it certainly appears from his association with York Minster that he planned to be buried there. His son was invested Prince of Wales in York Minster and was buried at Sheriff Hutton.
After the disrespectful way his remains were treated in Leicester prior to his burial and then lost, forgotten and built over – it just doesn’t seem fitting that he should be left there.
There are even e-petitions doing the rounds. You might want to sign one depending on your point of view. You may not care either way.
For York you have one which runs out on the 24th September - sign for York here!
And for Leicester there is this one which runs out on the 12th October (ironically created by a man called Shakespeare!).
My final word is that if we can afford a lavish funeral for Margaret Thatcher, then surely a proper ceremonial funeral for the last and much maligned King of England to die in battle should be possible – wherever it takes place.
What do you think?