LONDON – British judges Friday finally ended a bitter debate over the burial of King Richard III, ruling that his remains should be laid to rest in a cathedral in the city where they were found under a parking lot.
Descendants of the hunchbacked ruler, who died in battle in 1485, had fought for his skeleton to be buried in York Minster in the northern city that gave its name to his royal house. But the High Court said there was no reason that Richard, who was immortalized by William Shakespeare as one of history’s greatest villains, should not be buried in Leicester, eastern England, where his remains were found in 2012.
“It is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest,” the judges said in their ruling. The decision was greeted by applause as it was read out in Leicester Cathedral by the bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens.
British authorities have drawn up plans for a grand re-interment ceremony at Leicester Cathedral, but it is not yet clear when he will be buried in the cathedral.
The York-Leicester row went as high as a government minister and became so bitter that the head of York Minister contacted police last year after receiving hate mail.
Richard, the 15th great-uncle of Queen Elizabeth II, became the last English king to die in battle when he was killed in the Battle of Bosworth Field in August 1485.
His death marked the end of the Wars of the Roses between the houses of Lancaster and York — whose respective heraldic symbols were red and white roses — and the rise of the Tudor dynasty.
Historical accounts said his naked body was transported on the back of a horse to Leicester before being buried in an unmarked grave at a Franciscan friary.
But the whereabouts of Richard’s remains were the subject of a 500-year-old mystery. His skeleton was finally discovered in September 2012 during the construction of a Leicester parking lot.
Archaeologists identified the bones as Richard’s using DNA that matched that of descendants of his sister, plus evidence from battle wounds and the twisted spine of his skeleton.
The archaeological team decided that the battle-scarred remains should stay at Leicester’s cathedral, and their decision was backed by the Ministry of Justice and the local council.
However, the so-called Plantagenet Alliance — effectively the late king’s supporters’ club — claimed it was the wish “of the last medieval king of England” that he be interred in York.