|King Richard III of England|
Since the bones were discovered last year there has been some speculation as to where and how the king – if it is him (and it probably is) – should be reburied. It seems that there is a tentative plan by the Government to reinter him in Leicester Cathedral. It is entirely possible, therefore, that he would be recommitted according the rites of a Christian sect -- Anglicanism -- that didn’t exist in his own day.
Needless to say, such a thing would, at best, be distasteful or disrespectful – especially seeing that Richard himself was a devout Catholic, especially towards the end of his life -- despite any grave wrongs he may have been responsible for.
It is also well worth nothing that Richard III was defeated on Bosworth Field (1485) by the man who then became Henry VII (Henry Tudor), father of Henry VIII – the one who ‘broke with Rome’ and effectively began the process that saw England become Protestant.
Sign the petition!
A reader of this blog kindly emailed me the other day to inform me that there is now an official petition (see here) to have the bones of King Richard – if it is him – reinterred according to the rites and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, which he belonged to. The petition was started by Thomas McLean, who writes: “…it seems wholly inappropriate and disrespectful to bury the former Monarch in the grounds of a church of which he was never a member and which was created by the son of the man responsible for his death and ignominious burial. I am not petitioning on religious or sectarian grounds but I believe the dead of any persuasion have a right to be interred in a place appropriate to their beliefs.”
Personally, I think it is extremely important for the state to recognise the fact that people have the right to be buried or reburied according to the rites of their own faith and in what they themselves would consider to be hallowed ground. Those who lived on these islands before the dawn of state-sanctioned Protestantism deserve to be granted every respect in death – even if that means the state-church must step aside and acknowledge the fact that it is not in the full communion of Rome, and therefore not Catholic. The Church of England has no moral right to bury Catholics, or anyone else outside its own limited Anglican communion.
Catholics have a right to a Catholic burial
Whoever this man is, be he Richard III or not, it is now known that he was originally buried in a Franciscan church (now itself buried underneath a car-park) according to the rites of the Catholic faith – the burial dates to about 40 or 50 years before the Protestant (or Henrician) Reformation. Any reburial should, therefore, also be conducted by a Catholic priest or bishop – preferably according to the usus antiquior (or even the Sarum use) of the Roman Rite. Maybe it would be good for a Catholic group to organise a Requiem Mass for his soul, too?
Having mentioned Richard’s enemies in life, and as one with ties to the Tudors, I also feel the need to point out that Henry VII did actually pay (rather handsomely) for Richard’s original burial, and for Masses to be offered for his soul. (Henry gave £50 towards an alabaster monument for Richard, which would amount to around £25,000 in today's money.) Not all the Tudors were ‘baddies’! As a family with roots going back to the ancient British kings, it could be argued that they actually had far more of a claim to the throne than the pesky Plantagenets -- but we'll leave that argument for another day!
Despite my loyalty to Henry Tudor, and the fact that I would probably therefore have supported him on Bosworth Field (if only I could flight!), I urge you – as Henry himself would no doubt have done (he was a Catholic, too) – to sign Thomas McLean's petition asking for a Catholic burial for the last Plantagenet King of England. Such a request on behalf of a fellow Catholic is only right and just. For the Government to deny this request would be seen by many as yet another nail in the coffin (excuse the pun!) for the already fragile relationship that exists between the Catholic Church and the British state.
UPDATE: 10.30am -- It has now been announced that the bones are in fact 'beyond reasonable doubt' the remains of King Richard III (see Telegraph).