Defiled in death, reviled in history…today, reburied with pomp and circumstance.
“Parked” for two centuries, the rediscovery of King Richard III, the last English king to die in battle, under a parking lot has generated much interest. This past week has been full of momentous events as Richard finally received a burial fit for a king, 530 years after his death on the battlefield. Identified by his DNA, radiocarbon dating and his distinctive curved spine, the discovery of Richard’s skeleton has triggered a revival of scholarship regarding his reign.
The last of the Plantagenet dynasty, Richard ruled from 1483 until his death at the Battle of Bosworth near Leicester in 1485. It was the last major conflict in the Wars of the Roses and changed the course of English history.
As we prepare to host Dr. Turi King, the geneticist who worked on Richard’s remains, we at AIA Houston have been following all of the news surrounding Richard’s story and his reinternment this week.
We share some of this past week’s news with you.
Commemorations from the week of March 22, 2015
This past week, the university, city, and cathedral at Leicester pulled out all of the stops to reinter King Richard’s remains with the honor and respect denied to him at his death. Today, following sacred ceremonies, his grave was revealed to the public for the first time. This seemed rather an anticlimax to the commemoration on Thursday, where, in a ceremony filled with pageantry and poignancy, a coffin containing his bones that was fashioned by one of his descendents, was lowered into the ground at Leicester Cathedral. King Richard’s direct all-female-line and all-male-line descendants, all of whom donated DNA to aid the identification of his remains were part of the service. Benedict Cumberbatch who is slated to play Richard in an upcoming production and who is the king’s third cousin sixteen times removed read a poem by the British Poet Laureate during the service.
Also participating during the service were present-day descendents of both the noble families of York and Lancaster families from the Wars of the Roses. In addition, descendants of soldiers and personnel present at the Battle of Bosworth were included in the service.
On Sunday, March 22, 2015, leading up to the reinternment of King Richard, his remains departed from Leicester University in a transition from the secular to the sacred world. A procession formed at the University and then wound through sites associated with the last days of Richard. Brief ceremonies were performed at Bosworth Field and Fenn Lane as Richard’s remains moved to the Cathedral in Leicester where they were officially transferred from Leicester University to the sacred precincts of the Cathedral. Crowds lined the route along the way, prompting one to wonder what Richard would have thought about his reception centuries later.
Who would have believed a king would be found in a car park? King Richard III was a courageous soldier, a disabled person at a time very different to ours, a brother, husband and father who knew personal tragedy. His life, so often retold by Shakespeare and the victors of Bosworth, places him at a pivot of our history and resolutely within the culture of England. He seems a hero to some and a villain to others, and the few short years of his reign held promise of a time of peace and good government that was not to be. His finding returns him to the entire nation. He does not belong to one viewpoint or to one geographical place. His story has more to reveal. The Houses of Lancaster and York battled it out and many on both sides died on 22 August 1485, casting a long shadow of grief. Leicester, since Roman times, was a place of cultural exchange in the heart of England. Now we are an icon of modern Britain, with a diverse city made up of many faiths and cultures set in a rural county, proud of her traditions. Here we have learnt that difference can be life giving and that divisions can be healed. So reconciliation is a key theme for these days. For example, representatives of the families who were involved on both sides of the battle are here together in peace. We believe this bears witness to the power of the King’s story, and the ongoing need for us to draw deeply from our past if we are to understand ourselves today.
Excerpted from the Service of Reinternment
March 26, 2015
The Very Reverend David Monteith Dean of Leicester