|KING RICHARD III|
Leicester is in the region known as East Midlands.As you will no doubt have read, following his death on 22nd August ,1485 in the Battle of Bosworth Field, his remains were interred in the Greyfriars (Franciscan) Priory church in Leicester. This was destroyed during the Protestant Deformation.The King's remains were thought irretrievably lost until in 2012, they were discovered during the archaeological excavation under a Municipal Car Park.
There were several highly-dedicated enthusiasts who pursued the quest to locate the King's remains. The skeleton was not hard to identify superficially, given his moderately deformed back - which is clearly visible in the spine and rib structure , and the wounds evidenced in damage to the remains. Following this initial assessment, his last remaining descendant was located and DNA samples from him and the skeleton , proved conclusively that these were indeed the remains of King Richard III of England. And this, nearing 500 years after his death. Marvellous sensational grist for the Media mill!
But immediately the question arose : what to do next? It was finally decided to re-inter the body, this time in Leicester Anglican Cathedral .
WHAT TO DO WITH A CATHOLIC KING?
But Catholics were quick to point out that His Majesty was born and raised and , lived and died a devout Catholic. There were no Anglicans in his time and no "Anglican Church". Evidence of His Majesty's Catholic Devotion is ample : his Will provides for many , many Chantry Priests to offer Holy Mass daily for the repose of his soul, and there also survives his beautifully illuminated personal Prayer Book, a Book of the Hours replete with Catholic prayers and devotions.
Ah! But those are not relevant considerations said the authorities - English King, English Anglican Church set-up by Parliament and Headed by the current Monarch - he is OURS and will be buried in an Anglican Cathedral. As a concession , the Service of interment was to become an "ecumenical" affair along with several Mohammedan clerics, the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Vincent Nichols would attend . His Eminence did attend and was seated in the front row whilst the Mohammedans were somewhat further back.
|Leicester Anglican Cathedral a stolen Catholic Parish Church|
Leicester Cathedral was chosen because Bosworth Field was in Leicestershire.The Cathedral is not one of the great former Catholic Cathedrals stolen at the time of the Deformation, but rather a large former Catholic parish church stolen at that time. It was initially built around A.D. 1000 and enlarged over the centuries in some odd ways ,which make it look in some internal views, more like a Pavilion. In Victorian times the church was renovated and the results appear less than happy.There is a considerable amount of timber structures in evidence internally, and these look rather more modern and even cheap. In 1927 it was given the status of Cathedral by the Anglican Church.
|The interior of the Cathedral|
Richard III had suffered a longtime " bad press". This resulted from popular belief in his lifetime that he was responsible for the deaths of the "Princes in the Tower" to clear the way for his accession , Further rumours were put about that he had his wife killed. There can also be little doub that in his times, his deformity would have induced much prejudice and presumption of evil.
Most of the after death image making can be laid at the feet of William Shakespeare who portrayed the decisive conflict between Richard III and the ultimately successful Henry Tudor as the struggle between quintessential evil and shining and glorious virtue. However , we need to remember that Shakespeare was adept at intermingling fiction and fact for the sake of a good story. We also need to remember that he was writing in the reign of a Tudor Monarch at all times - so prudence might have dictated his decision to join in the "spin" on the reputation of the last Plantagenet King. There seems to be a growing movement to rehabilitate the memory of Richard III.
The Television coverage in an hour long documentary was fairly extensive. In some respects, the arrangements were entirely satisfactory : the actual tomb seems quite impressive in the modern manner,as was the Military Ritual of bringing in the Coffin and lowering it into the floor, which was well done. The Catholic actor Dominic Cumberbatch (of Sherlock fame) read a poem - very well of course given his training and superb voice.
The Religious Ritual was something else. The Principal Cleric was Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby an Evangelical who is obviously ill at ease in Liturgical settings. It was the usual Anglican "comedy of copes" conveying the impression of a gathering of some mysterious sect. Whenever Archbishop Welby had to look at the prayers in the Ritual held up before him, he made a labored point of screwing -up his face , peering long and hard at the book - much as one might do staring at an IKEA set of assembly instructions. The choice of music and the choir itself was more insipid than solemn, Even the Coronation Anthem "Zadok the Priest" which Anglicans love to scream out, got a rather delicate rendition. (Zadok , for those interested, was the Jewish Priest who anointed King Solomon! -another little touch of traditional self-aggrandisement on the part of the Monarchy.) All in all it was a bit embarrassing to watch.
Cardinal Nichols was spared any part in the liturgical events. Though he did seem to get to make some sort of a statement, though at what stage of the proceedings was not clear at least to me. There had been a lot of editing of the video coverage.
|CARDINAL NICHOLS FRONT ROW SEAT|
|KING RICHARD III'S TOMB|
The decision to deny the late Catholic King burial in a Catholic Church , with a solemn Requiem Mass said for the repose of his soul is a scandal.
This is doubly so, when we consider his intention in his Will to have Holy Masses continually said for the repose of his soul.Here he could not have one said even at his Interment! And, to add insult to injury, he was being interred in a church stolen from his Catholic Church by the successors of the very people who desecrated the church and his original tomb at Greyfriars Priory.
The action was a shoddy piece of grandstanding at the expense of integrity and justice and true religion. And it gives the lie entirely to the much vaunted "ecumenism" of our day. Rather, cynicism ruled on this occasion.