The final word from Leicester
Today I found time to return to my blog at last, and for anyone who wonders what’s been happening, here is a link to our update on the negotiations in Leicester led by the Looking For Richard project. http://looking-for-richard.webs.com
There is little point in rehearsing the list of requests we made to Leicester’s Visitor Centre, Cathedral and University. Basically everything remains unchanged except for the agreed items mentioned in our announcement, although we are still monitoring various details (e.g. will the royal arms be correct, likewise the white roses on the floor tiles!).
That doesn’t mean we are satisfied, or that we have ceased applying pressure. However, I can say that for myself I see it as a massive relief that we now have agreement for Richard’s mortal remains to be laid out anatomically in his coffin, like a human person, not stacked as a pile of bones in a box. Since this determines how they will spend whatever years of existence are left to them, it happens to be of great significance to me. The cathedral’s resistance to this idea was incomprehensible.
The LFR team, especially Philippa Langley, did mountains of research finding precedents to support our case, among them how the Russian imperial family and household were interred in 1998, and the procedures followed by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for the retrieved remains of the fallen.
It was, of course, just one of the many respectful details carefully planned and provided for ahead of the dig in LFR’s prior agreements, which the Leicester authorities have systematically dismantled since claiming the right to do what they see fit with Richard III’s remains. The basic human dignity we are calling for – that of being coffined in a Catholic place of religion and allowed to lie there to await reburial – was described last November by the Dean of Leicester Cathedral as a ‘fantasy’ and ‘more Disney than Richard III’.
Yet not only is laying out anatomically standard practice for procedures like war graves, so is placing the remains in a chapel of rest (of the person’s faith, if known) where they lie until buried. According to our original agreement this would have been done as soon as Richard III was identified and transferred to his designated custodian, Philippa Langley, who had all the plans in place for coffining by the proper authorities in a suitable Catholic location. In such a place his remains would and should have lain since February 2013, had not Leicester University refused to release them.
If you agree that the time for this to happen is long overdue, the LFR website suggests writing to a few well-chosen recipients to let them know that being stored and coffined in a laboratory, in an institution that prides itself on being secular, is inappropriate for a man, a monarch and a former head of state whose Christian faith was no less sincere than that of our present Queen Elizabeth.