The procession of Richard iii through Bosworth

Richard III unwilling participant in undignified pantomime

Pageant, feast, show? Judging from the media’s comments on the on-going reburial of Richard III, it seems appropriate the Queen of England has kept her distance to what has obviously turned into a gaudy event filled with disrespect.

We should all be grateful to Phillipa Langley, who dedicated such a great effort to hunt him down. Primarily, though, we should be grateful to the archaeologists, who succeeded in actually discovering the forgotten grave of Richard III in the carpark in Leicester. Afterwards, careful and meticulous exploration of everything from the surroundings of the grave, the bones themselves plus the DNA and other types of advanced archaeological analysis obviously helped enormously in our understanding of what it meant to live as a king in the late 15th century as well as the historical events surrounding his life, his short reign and his death. We now know decidedly more about the crucial events leading op to the Battle of Bosworth than we did before. There is reason to be thankful.

Richard III being carried into Leicester cathedral
Richard III being carried into Leicester Cathedral. Source: King Richard In Leicester

Afterwards, however, we have witnessed a series of decidedly tasteless happenings surrounding the where and how of his reburial. To name but a few: parliamentarians and city councils have fought over the tourist income, Catholics and Anglicans over the proper liturgy and so-called descendants of this or that lineage have had their field day in the High Courts of London.

Luckily the end is nigh. A few days ago the bones were carefully wrapped in soft Yorkish wool and laid to rest in a coffin, which appropriately enough had been made by Mr. Ibsen, a skilled carpenter and a descendant of the sister of Richard III (it was his DNA, which helped identify the remains).

Yesterday, however, this coffin was paraded through the cold and bleak countryside from across the battle site of Bosworth outside Dadlington, through the streets of Leicester and into the Cathedral, where a Roman Catholic service was held. Thursday the re-interment will take place at an Anglican Service.

There is probably nothing wrong with the liturgical setting of the re-interment as such. Carefully crafted by the clergy at a major Cathedral we can hopefully rest assured that it will be a job done properly. Neither is there anything odd about the remains laying in repose for a couple of days in order to give the good people of Leicester a chance of being part of the closure to this remarkable story. It is also a nice touch that the Catholic/Anglican issue was solved in such a dignified manner.

However, there is everything wrong with traipsing around the countryside with a coffin full of old bones, accompanied by people dressed up in more or less authenticated medieval garb mimicking a medieval burial procession.

After he had been killed in battle, his body was stripped of its armour and clothes, slung across a horse and in the process mocked by a vicious knife-wound in his buttocks. This the archaeologists have confirmed. Afterwards he was exhibited in Leicester Town Hall before he was crudely laid to rest in a hastily dug grave in the nearby friary.

Once again, history seems to repeat itself with the man subjected to countless indignities.

Where is the honour in that?

Karen Schousboe


King Richard in Leicester