Richard III’s reinterment remains unresolved

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Posted by Richard Rawlinson

Will Richard III’s DNA-approved descendants scupper this May’s planned reinterment of his remains during a televised, Anglican ceremony at Leicester Cathedral? Having objected to Leicester’s claim to the last Plantagenet monarch, there’s now to be a judicial review in March aiming to annul Leicester’s license. Will the case merely postpone reinterment, or result in a new venue: Westminster Abbey, perhaps, where the king’s wife, Anne, is buried? Or Richard of York’s beloved York Minster?  

In the event of victory for the relatives, will they even call for a Catholic reinterment for a Catholic king? The reason why he was discovered under a car park in Leicester in 2012 is because the newly Anglican Tudors destroyed his original resting place, Greyfriars Church, during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  

Several other Plantagenet monarchs have also been rudely disturbed in their resting places, resulting in their remains being lost. Henry II, his wife Eleanor of Aquitaine, and their son Richard I, were all buried at France’s Abbaye de Fontevraud in Anjou, which was sacked and pillaged by the Protestant Huguenots in 1562. Richard’s heart was buried separately at Rouen Cathedral, which survived vandalism.

Wives have, on the whole, fared far worse than their regal husbands. While Henry III lies in Westminster Abbey, his Queen Consort, Eleanor of Provence, was buried at Amesbury Abbey in Wiltshire, destroyed in 1539. There was a similar fate for the remains of Edward I’s wife, Eleanor of Castile, when her viscera tomb at Lincoln Cathedral was smashed by Roundheads during the English Civil War, but since rebuilt during the Victorian era.

The tomb of Edward II’s wife, Isabella of France, was at the Franciscan Church at Newgate, London, which didn’t survive the Dissolution. The remains of Henry IV’s wife, Mary, were also lost when the Church of St Mary of the Annunciation in Leicester was destroyed. And the remains of Henry VI’s wife, Margaret of Anjou, were scattered when Saint-Maurice Cathedral in Angers was destroyed in the French Revolution in 1794.

Back to Richard III via the murdered Princes in the Tower. The bodies of two children were discovered during repair work in the Tower of London in 1674. Assumed to be those of Richard’s nephews, Edward and Richard, Charles II had them interred at Westminster Abbey, where they remain. If Uncle Richard ends up at the Abbey, let’s hope his tomb isn’t next door to those of the young princes. 

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Jennifer Uzzell
10 years ago

If I recall correctly (and I might not) those skeletons later turned out to be girls.

10 years ago

Hi Jenny, I was under the impression the skeletons in the Abbey were last examined in 1933, but scientists were then unable to determine their sex, let alone find any clues to their identities.