WHO REALLY DISCOVERED THE REMAINS OF KING RICHARD III ?
This is the moment the lower leg bone was discovered beside the letter R in Trench One. It was the first discovery on day one of the dig on 25 August 2012. Philippa points to its east-west direction and pushes for it to be a burial or skeleton as Annette Carson looks on, but Site Director Mathew Morris isn't interested and won't confirm whether it's human, or even a burial.
However, after the storm -when Philippa jumped into the trench to protect the bone from the tempest with a couple of finds bags and rocks - the TV crew are alerted to its potential significance by Philippa and they want to film further exploration of the lower leg bone with Mathew ... and the rest as they say is ...
Following the storm, Philippa Langley removes the finds bags she had covered the lower leg bone with to protect it from the water. It is only now that Mathew Morris will investigate further for the cameras and uncovers a second adjacent lower leg bone. This confirms Philippa’s theory that it is a burial and skeleton – located right beside the letter R.
After much pushing from Philippa (the client in the dig) ... the burial is finally taken seriously by the Site Director. On August 31 2012, Philippa goes on to instruct and pay for its exhumation using the final £800 remaining from the Ricardian International Appeal that had saved the 2012 dig from cancellation.
CATHOLIC MASSES FOR KING RICHARD III
At the meeting on 23rd January 2015 between Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, Dr. John Ashdown-Hill, Mary Jepson, Amanda Geary and Cheryl Lock, the Cardinal expressed his pleasure on hearing how many Catholic Priests intended to offer a Mass for King Richard III, either Requiem or In Thanksgiving for his Life, on the day of his reburial, 26th March. His Eminence also commented his belief that it would please Richard to see all these prayers going up to Heaven for the sake of his immortal soul.
Since that meeting, a request has been made to all Catholic priests in England and Wales, asking they celebrate a Holy Mass for King Richard on the day of his re-interment. Many priests have already said they intend to do this, some of these Masses being a Requiem Mass, said in Latin, exactly as Richard would recognise it.
We are pleased to make this statement as it is well known that King Richard was of the Catholic faith. He would therefore have believed that every prayer and every mass said for the deceased helps atone for their sins on earth. This was no doubt the reason that he had plans to construct a chantry chapel of 100 priests at York Minster to pray not only for his soul, but for the souls of his family. Although he is being re-interred in the 21st century, we have little idea what prayers were said for him at the time of his hasty burial in August 1485. Therefore the importance of these masses, for someone such as King Richard, cannot be overstated.
Above: Amanda Geary, Mary Jepson and Cheryl Lock visiting Westminster Hall, the site of King Richard's first and only parliament on the 23rd January, 1484. The visit took place after the meeting with Cardinal Vincent Nichols, held on that same date in 2015
The Looking For Richard Project together with Amanda Geary, Mary Jepson and Cheryl Lock are pleased to announce a mutually agreed outcome to our representations requesting that King Richard III be coffined in a Holy Place.
We have come a long way from the original proposal that the coffining would take place in a laboratory. Our information is that it will instead be conducted at a location within the University of Leicester which was itself formerly a chapel, with the presence, and the prayers, of a Catholic Chaplain.
This, under church doctrine, will transform the former chapel back to its original designation as a place of religion for the short duration of the coffining service. Our grateful thanks go to all those who supported this initiative through your many signatures in your churches and via the online petition. This mark of respect for King Richard would not have been possible without your continued support.
The ethos and aim of the Looking For Richard Project was to give Richard III the honour and dignity he was denied when he fell on the field of battle. In the past months we have instigated sustained efforts behind the scenes to secure improvements in several matters that we felt were worth fighting for. We thank the Richard III Society for supporting us in some of these objectives. Among them, we achieved modifications to his tomb that now reflect his status as King of England and scion of the house of York. We also persuaded the authorities to afford the king’s remains the human dignity of being laid out in death in an anatomical position. Today we have secured agreement that the process of coffining will be in an appropriate place, made holy by priestly presence and prayers. We send grateful thanks to all of you who supported these aims and wished them well.
In response to international demand from people of diverse faiths, the Looking For Richard Project has launched an online petition calling for the remains of King Richard III to be coffined in a Holy Place of his own faith. The petition closes on Tuesday 27 February 2015 at midnight (GMT) when the results will be handed to the re-interment board in Leicester.
Meeting the Cardinal, Archbishop's House, Westminster,
Friday 23 January 2015
His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, hosted a meeting on 23 January 2015 with Dr John Ashdown-Hill, Mary Jepson, Amanda Geary and Cheryl Lock. The meeting had been requested to discuss the re-interment of King Richard III and the opportunity was taken to present the early results of a petition signed by Catholics for the mortal remains of the king to be coffined in a place of Catholic religion, rather than in the proposed university environment. The exchange of views was constructive, with the Cardinal expressing his pleasure at meeting and hearing the views of the many Catholics they represented. He also commented that he was pleased to hear how many Catholic Priests intend to say Requiem Masses in their own parishes on the occasion of King Richard’s reburial.
left to right: Cheryl Lock, John Ashdown-Hill, H.E. Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Mary Jepson, Amanda Geary.
MEDIA RELEASE 23 JANUARY 2015
PETITION CALLS FOR KING RICHARD III TO BE GIVEN
CATHOLIC OBSERVANCES WHEN PLACED IN HIS COFFIN
The earliest results from a petition of concerned Catholics will be handed over on Friday 23 January at 2pm at Westminster Cathedral. The organisers are still receiving signatures on their petition for the pre-Reformation King Richard III, who was an active member of the Catholic Church, to be prepared for his reburial in a religious venue instead of a science laboratory.
His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols has agreed to receive the petition from its author, Mrs Mary Jepson, who organised the collection of names from 3,000 Catholic Church congregations over the last six weeks. Dr John Ashdown-Hill will represent the Looking For Richard Project which led the search for the king’s lost grave.
Cardinal Nichols is being urged to consider an intervention on the issue, ahead of
the king’s ceremonial reinterment in Leicester’s Anglican Cathedral in March 2015.
King Richard III’s remains have been held since September 2012 under the control of the University of Leicester. The original agreement with the Looking For Richard team, who located the grave-site and paid for it to be excavated, was that the king’s remains would lie in an appropriate religious venue while awaiting reburial. This has consistently been refused. The petition’s proposers have now modified this: they simply ask for the process of coffining to be undertaken in a holy place amid the rites of Richard III’s own faith.
The university has again refused, claiming the king’s remains are ‘too fragile’ to be moved. They say that the Ministry of Justice exhumation licence forbids them to leave their premises, yet they have already transported the remains on a number of occasions for their own purposes, and plan a forty mile processional journey through the villages of Leicestershire prior to re-interment.
Cathedral authorities have raised no religious objections. They stated that they could allow the remains to be coffined as requested, but simply lack ‘the will to do it’. David Monteith, Dean of Leicester Cathedral, placed it on record on 8 November 2013 that the king would not be released by the university to a Catholic chapel of rest, referring to the idea as ‘a fantasy’ and ‘more Disney than Richard III.’
The only official information given to the Looking For Richard team is that the king will be coffined in a science laboratory. Unofficial comments suggest the university’s plans may be undergoing revision. The petitioners therefore believe there is still time for Cardinal Nichols to appeal for coffining at a place of religious sanctity.
Mary Jepson, a Catholic, has followed the progress of the Looking For Richard Project since 2011 and knew there were agreements in place to give the king pre-burial rites appropriate to his faith. When these were denied she decided to act, putting the petition together with friends Amanda Geary and Cheryl Lock.
She says: ‘This recognition of his Catholic faith was at the heart of the team’s ethos of searching for King Richard and giving him the honour he should have received in his own day. This should include some of the Catholic rites for the dead, which are still very much as he would have known them.’
Dr John Ashdown-Hill is the historian and genealogist whose discovery of Richard III’s mtDNA in 2005 led to identifying the king. He has donated a crown and rosary for the March re-interment. The rosary will be placed in the king’s coffin and was recently blessed at Clare Priory.
He says: ‘We know how Richard exhumed the bodies of his own father and brother in 1476 to give them honourable reburial. At no time did he take their remains to a secular environment. Naturally we had to arrange for scientists to conduct tests to identify Richard III. But as soon as that was done, our agreements clearly stated that his remains would be returned to a religious environment to be prepared for reburial.’
‘The Looking For Richard Project was about giving King Richard what was denied him in 1485. This was to include the same rites and rituals as Richard accorded to the dead in his own lifetime.’
‘We must recognise the importance of this ceremony so that no unfortunate precedent is set. If the remains of identifiable individuals are uncovered in the future, will they be coffined as scientific specimens with no recognition of their beliefs and burial rites? We believe this is a wholly avoidable and dangerous path to go down.’
Philippa Langley is the leader of the Looking For Richard Project. She led the 7½-year search for Richard III and commissioned the archaeological dig under important pre-agreed conditions. They included allowing his remains, once identified, to lie in a holy place. She says: ‘If King Richard were a Jew or a Muslim the appropriate rites and ceremonies would be observed without question. But it seems this former king and Head of State is to be treated as a scientific specimen right up to and including the point at which he is laid in his coffin.’
‘The Looking For Richard team are at a complete loss to understand why this simple human decency has been denied. I met the re-interment authorities at the cathedral in March 2013 and ensured they knew about this prearranged provision. At that time they had no issue with it. But then they began their partnership with the university and everything changed. I’ve been inundated by people of all faiths asking why. So I was thrilled when Mary Jepson, a Catholic, started this petition.’
‘Why can’t the university put their secular narrative to one side, for a short while, to permit this coffining in a holy place? These two powerful institutions of church and state have been given the honour of reburying our former monarch and we believe it is time for them to put the person they are reburying at the centre of what they are doing.’
Do you want to pray for Richard III?
Here is a prayer which he requested should be said for him after his death (in his statutes for the Collegiate Church at Middleham).
If the Latin is too difficult for you, you can say it in English.
Deus, cui proprium est miseréri semper et parcere: súscipe deprecatiónem nostram; ut nos, et omnes fámulos tuos, quos delictórum catena constringit, miserátio tuæ pietátis clementer absolvat.
Propiciare animæ famuli tui Ricardi.
Be merciful to the soul of your servant, Richard.
This is the petition asking for Richard's remains to be coffined in a religious, not a secular context.
Four items of news from the LFRP team:
BBC Radio 4 ‘Great Lives’ with Matthew Parris – Nominated Life: King Richard III
Philippa Langley nominates King Richard III with Annette Carson the expert witness.
Programme will be broadcast on Tuesday 6th January at 4.30pm, with a repeat on Friday 9th just after 11.00 pm.
You can catch it on BBC iPlayer or for anyone outside the BBC licence fee area it’s available as a podcast.
Finding Richard III: The Official Account – E-Book published
Thank you to all those who have been in touch – yes, there is now an eBook! Please see the LFR website where publication date will be announced imminently.
Tremendous response to the campaign to coffin King Richard’s remains in a place of sanctity
A very big thank you to all those who have written to the authorities. If you haven’t yet done so, please see reminder dated ‘All Souls Day’.
Petition in Catholic churches – available to sign until closing date 12 January
A group of Ricardians have initiated a petition to raise support for Richard’s remains to be coffined with proper ceremonial in a Catholic place of worship. The petition’s closing date of Monday 12 January is intended to be in time for its formal presentation to leading figures in the Catholic Church in England. Ricardians can get a copy of the petition to collect signatures at their own church by contacting the LFR team through the website.
A Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year from all at the LFRP team.
17 November 2014: The link below takes you to the Cathedral Board’s response.
They have, of course, missed the point. Despite their protestations, Richard’s remains have been repeatedly disturbed for the university’s purposes. In all humanity, their last disturbance needs to be for religious purposes, in a religious place.
We remain at a complete loss to comprehend why the Cathedral Board is not allowing this move when the LFRP has received the University’s statement of its position on the matter. This reads, inter alia:
‘If the bones are then to be rewrapped and coffined privately elsewhere, for example in a Catholic context by Friars, we are comfortable with that although a member of the University would need to be present to advise on handling. If prayers and vigils are to be held then we have no objection and I understand you have held discussions around options with the Cathedral. Adequate security would need to be in place but that is a practical rather than fundamental issue to resolve.’ September 13 2013
This statement of position was specifically requested from the University by Philippa Langley, and cleared at the highest level through their Vice Chancellor's office. It was also given to the Cathedral Board in the meeting of 23 June, and again in recent emailings.
AN ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE LOOKING FOR RICHARD PROJECT
ALL SOULS' DAY 2014
1. Update on Richard III Visitor Centre, Leicester
As you know, we have voiced several concerns about aspects of the Visitor Centre. Members of the Looking For Richard Project and Richard III Society have now met with representatives of the Leicester organisations involved (the Board of Trustees, the City Council, the University and ULAS).
As a result we are pleased to say that an initial agreement has been reached, and we hope to hear further about other outstanding matters. As a first step they have agreed to restore the text of Philippa’s LFR story to its original, and to include further recognition of the work of John Ashdown-Hill. This will be done as soon as practicably possible. They also plan to include acknowledgement of the crucial funding received via the Ricardian International Appeal, and we are currently exchanging some exciting ideas about representing this visually.
2. Areas of agreement on Richard III’s reburial
Several months ago the Looking For Richard Project requested a round-table meeting with the Leicester authorities in charge of Richard III’s reburial, which took place on 23 June 2014, with the Richard III Society. A number of issues were raised, including our representations relating to the Cathedral’s tomb, which we learned was not up for discussion. However, we offered a number of suggestions of which some have been implemented:
A. There is now a plinth under the tomb to display symbols personal to Richard III
B. Royal arms on the plinth
C. Richard’s coffin will be crafted by Michael Ibsen, his nephew in the 17th generation.
We have now received a final written response from the Leicester Cathedral Quarter Partnership Board dealing with the rest of our concerns. You will be pleased to hear of several areas of major importance where our views have been taken into account:
D. Richard III’s remains will be laid out in a fully articulated manner, as a human being, not placed as a pile of bones in a box.
E. A rosary will be placed in the coffin, gifted by John Ashdown-Hill. (The rosary bears a copy of the fifteenth-century Clare Cross, which may have been owned by Richard III's mother - see illustrations.)
F. Four floor-tiles, carrying images of a white rose, will be laid into the Ambulatory floor at approximately the positions where one would expect the usual floor-standing candles.
G. There will be a number of moments within the 7-day programme where Catholic clergy will be present and Catholic prayers will be used.
H. The burial crown commissioned by John Ashdown-Hill for the re-interment will be included within the services. Details are to be confirmed.
3. A Place of Sanctity and Rest
Sadly, the news on this is deeply disappointing. We raised it as a primary concern at our round-table meeting, but this key issue has been rejected in the Cathedral Board’s final response. You can read the Richard III Society’s media release here: http://www.richardiii.net/
Our request is one that relates to the basic religious decencies that would be afforded to any deceased individual with a known religious faith, i.e. for his remains to be taken to a place of sanctity and rest to allow coffining and repose in a spiritual environment while awaiting reburial. This procedure was originally promised by ULAS in its agreement with Philippa Langley, who subsequently took on board the Cathedral Board’s reservations and produced for them a very workable proposal which came with full endorsement by the local Catholic community. However, the Cathedral Board has now informed us that coffining of the remains will take place in a laboratory at the University. We note that its objections to the spiritual location are not of a religious nature; they are as follows:
1. The fragile nature of the bones, and the need to avoid any unnecessary further damage by moving them to another location.
2. The need, as they perceive it, for the remains to stay on UoL premises in accordance with the responsibilities placed upon the University by the licence issued by the Ministry of Justice.
The ‘fragility’ of the remains
Over the past two years the remains of Richard III have been continually moved by the University during the course of their custody, both for scientific analysis and private media and academic viewing. The remains have also travelled extensively, being taken on numerous occasions to a variety of scientific facilities including Loughborough University (around 30 miles) for 3d image production.
Therefore it seems that the ‘fragility’ of the remains is not and never has been a genuine material issue. Moreover any transfer to the proposed place of sanctity in Leicester would involve only a very brief local journey (maximum round trip of 3 miles).
Retention of remains on University premises to comply with exhumation licence.
The University has on numerous occasions taken the remains off its premises and across the country while presumably complying with the exhumation licence, and can therefore follow the same procedure in respect of the place of sanctity and rest. If permission was needed for those previous removals, no doubt it can be obtained again. Richard III’s remains would continue in the University’s custody throughout, and indeed the suggested place of sanctity would be within a church which actually functions as the University’s own chaplaincy. It should be noted that the exhumation licence requires the remains to be kept by the university, and not necessarily at the university.
As a result we conclude that the claim that the remains must stay on University premises throughout is also not a genuine material issue. We believe that the University needs to explain why, when Richard III’s remains are at last to be allowed to return to dust, it suddenly sees them as too fragile to be moved and in need of careful preservation. Nothing in the exhumation licence prescribes anything of this nature.
Our message to you
The Looking For Richard Project and Richard III Society have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to preserve what dignity and honour we can for the remains of the king. We hope that the progress we have achieved so far in Leicester may go some way to alleviating a number of the many concerns raised with us in recent months.
In terms of the transfer of the king’s remains to a place of sanctity and rest it seems that we can do no more. Many of you have been waiting for this decision and will now wish to act. For those who have urged that this take place, we can only suggest that you now write to the University of Leicester and Leicester Cathedral, and to any persons and institutions that may be able to influence them in this matter such as your MP, the Ministry of Justice and the Head of the Anglican and Catholic churches, to whom we shall also be writing formally.
Our purpose in retrieving Richard III’s remains from oblivion was not to unearth a trophy or scientific specimen, but to afford a fallen king an interment conducted with dignity and due respect for his religious faith. To be prepared for burial in a Christian environment is a simple and basic request, and we cannot understand the Cathedral Board’s refusal. We hope you will join us in taking our request to higher authorities. We will never get this opportunity again to offer a pre-reformation monarch an appropriate ritual of his own faith, and in so doing, give him what he was denied when killed in battle in 1485. This was, from its earliest inception, the abiding ethos of the Looking For Richard Project. It was set out in the Reburial Document given to all parties in Leicester, and established in good faith in Philippa’s written agreements with Leicester City Council and University of Leicester Archaeological Services, before the tarmac was cut.
Those of you with time constraints have asked that we offer you a template letter, and details of those persons you may wish to write to. You can find these below.
Many thanks for your patience
Looking For Richard Project team
Template Letter (a letter by post is always more effective):
I learn with great disappointment that the Leicester Cathedral Quarter Partnership Board has denied King Richard III’s remains a short repose in a place of Catholic sanctity prior to reburial in the Anglican Cathedral. Instead he is to be coffined in a laboratory at Leicester University.
I very strongly believe it to be an appropriate dignity for ANY person of religious faith to await burial while lying in a chapel of rest, and particularly for a pre-reformation monarch. The Cathedral Board’s grounds for denying this are twofold: they claim the remains are too fragile to be moved, and that the University is bound by the Ministry of Justice to keep the king’s remains on University premises.
These are not genuine material objections. The terms of the exhumation licence charged the University to keep the remains ‘safely, privately and decently’, yet – fragile or not – they have repeatedly transported them around the country for their own purposes over the past two years, apparently without Ministry of Justice objections. Now that they are to be allowed to return to dust at last, there is no sense in claiming that they are too fragile to be moved.
I find these excuses wholly inexplicable and without justification, and urge you to please contact the authorities in Leicester to add your voice to the request to allow the coffining of the king’s remains in a holy place of his own faith.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Rt. Hon. David Cameron
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA https://email.number10.gov.uk/
Rt Hon. Simon Hughes
Minister for Justice and Civil Liberties
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London SW1H 9AJ [email protected]
Professor Paul Boyle
University of Leicester
Leicester LE1 7RH [email protected]
Most Revd and Rt Hon. Justin Welby
Archbishop of Canterbury
London SE1 7JU [email protected]
Most Revd Archbishop Antonio Mennini
Titular Archbishop of Ferento
Apostolic Nuncio to Great Britain
London SW19 5NE [email protected]
H.E., Cardinal Vincent Nichols
Archbishop of Westminster
42 Francis Street
London SW1P 1QW [email protected]k
The Very Revd David Monteith
Dean of Leicester Cathedral
St Martins House
7 Peacock Lane
Leicester LE1 5DE [email protected]
Manager, Richard III Reburial
St. Martins House
7 Peacock Lane
Leicester LE1 5DE [email protected]
Rt Hon. Edward Miliband
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA [email protected]
Rt. Hon. Nick Clegg
London SW1A 2AS [email protected]k
A meeting took place today (Monday 23rd June) at the request of the Richard III Society and the Looking for Richard Project, with members of the King Richard III Reinterment Project Team. The meeting was constructive and conducted in a spirit of mutual goodwill, co-operation and reconciliation. The Reinterment Project Team undertook to look in further detail at a number of the points raised and to respond back in due course.
24 February 2014
News that scientists are performing destructive tests on the remains of Richard III has been greeted with shock by the LOOKING FOR RICHARD Project (LFR), the research team that determined the location of his grave and paid for its excavation.
Philippa Langley, who commissioned the dig (which cost over £30,000) on behalf of LFR, said her contract for the excavation stipulated that tests would be strictly for identification purposes: “We were promised that once identified, Richard III would be treated with the utmost respect, and handed over to me as the named custodian so that he could be taken to a prayerful environment. Accordingly, we are calling for destructive sampling to be halted immediately.”
Dr John Ashdown-Hill of LFR, who discovered Richard III's mtDNA in 2004, providing a donor sample for the 2012-13 identification of the king’s remains, said that destroying parts of a person's body without consent was utterly unethical. “They are acting in defiance of precedent which was set in 1965 when the House of Lords forbade scientific work on the bones of a royal princess. Richard III was a former sovereign and Head of State.”
The LFR team is particularly astonished because the University of Leicester's right to hold on to Richard III is sub judice. A Judicial Review, due to resume on 13 March 2014, has been granted to a group of the king's relatives who argue that the exhumation licence, which sanctioned the university to make its own arrangements for the royal reburial, should have been opened up for public consultation.
The latest samples have been taken by unilateral decision of the university. Consent was not sought from those relatives whose standing has been recognised by the High Court, nor was the LFR team consulted.