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York fights Leicester for right to Richard III remains

A campaign for Richard III’s remains to be placed at York Minster is gathering force after it was confirmed a skeleton buried under a Leicester car park is that of the former king.

Richard, the last monarch of the House of York, grew up at Middleham Castle in the Yorkshire Dales and visited York several times during his short reign.

He funded the fourth floor of Monk Bar, the city’s 14th Century gateway, and a small museum dedicated to him can be found within its walls.

Some historians believe Richard even planned to be buried at York Minster.

Campaigners from both York and Leicester have said the king’s remains ought to come to them, but under the terms of the exhumation licence, Leicester is likely to win the battle.

Speaking in the House of Commons the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed that the remains would be buried at Leicester Cathedral.

State burial

But York is not giving up on its fight to bring Richard III to the city.

Kersten England, chief executive of the city council, confirmed she would write a letter to the Queen to put forward the city’s case.

Gary Verity, chairman of tourism body Welcome to Yorkshire, was among people supporting the campaign on Twitter.

And an online e-petition to the government pushing for the king to be buried in York has received more than 1,100 signatures.

A similar one in favour of a Leicester interment has been signed by 271 people.

Ms England said the confirmation of the body’s identity as Richard III was “huge” news.

Legal challenge

She said: “We’d have a proper state burial.

“We have a fantastic case. More than that, I think we should seek some collaboration with Leicester – let’s not have another war on this matter. Possession may be nine tenths of the law but we definitely have the moral high ground here.”

Ms England said evidence showed Richard III would have wanted to be buried in York.

“He funded chantries which are facilities where people pray for the souls of the departed in a number of places but he funded the one in York Minster about a hundred times more than anywhere else and it has been inferred down the centuries that that is absolutely where he wished to be buried and remembered.”

Paul Toy, from the Monk Bar Richard III museum, said: “It seems unfortunate that if he is buried at, say, Leicester, his wishes are ignored and he has to fit in with the parameters of other people’s preoccupations.

“It’s purely by chance that he was in Leicester because he got killed at Bosworth.”

Few details of a reburial ceremony have been announced but David Montieth, Leicester Cathedral canon chancellor, said the remains would be re-interred early next year in a Christian-led but ecumenical service.

Philippa Langley, from the Richard III Society, said plans for a tomb were well advanced.

Liz Hudson-Oliff, from the Diocese of Leicester, said: “Under the terms of the exhumation licence issued by the Ministry of Justice, the remains should be reburied in Leicester.

“It would require a legal challenge to alter this. We would like the remains to come to us and the presumption is that they will come to us.

“The type of ceremony which takes place in Leicester Cathedral is to be determined by the staff of Leicester Cathedral but it would be open to consultation.

“It would most likely be a Church of England ceremony; Simple, elegant and appropriate.”