Richard III’s Burial Place by Josephine Wilkinson

Feb4,2013 #Richard III

Thank you to historian and author Josephine Wilkinson for sharing this article that she wrote back in 2006 about Richard III’s burial place. She has updated it to take into account this week’s news, but it’s a fascinating look at the journey to today’s announcement and the legends concerning Richard’s burial.

Over to Josephine…

Richard was always genuinely concerned that people should have a fitting burial and that their souls should be cared for by prayer. How, then, was his body buried and in what way was his soul cared for as it made its journey to the next world? A chronicle of the household of Sir Thomas Frowyk states that,

“the same yere Kyng Richard was scelyne att Redmore feld viij mile Beseide Coventr’ upon seint Bartilmewis eve eve {sic} And bered ate Laycet’ in the new (vorke) god have his soulle.”1

According to the minutes of a council meeting at York on 14 May 1491, William Burton, a schoolmaster of St Leonard’s in that city stated that Richard was ‘… beried in a dyke like a dogge’.2 Burton was rebuked for this remark by those who insisted that Henry VII had buried the late king ‘like a noble gentilman’. However, chroniclers would seem to support Burton, at least up to a point. The Great Chronicle, states that Richard was taken to Leicester ‘and there irreverently buried.3 Jean de Molinet adds that ‘[Richard] without royal solemnity was buried at the entrance to a village church,’4 while Vergil reports that Richard, having been put on public display at the Franciscan’s at Leicester ‘was buryed two days after without any pompe or solemne funerall.’5

The precise facts of Richard’s burial are obscure and contradictory. Quite simply, no documents exist that state where he was buried, where he now lies or even where his body was exposed prior to burial. However, it is possible to gather together what can be known and suggest a scenario.

The two accounts that are most contemporaneous with the events they describe state that Richard was buried in a ‘little hermitage’ (Valera) or at Newarke (the Frowyk chronicle). Next, documents written shortly afterwards suggest that Richard was buried in the ‘choir at the Friars Minor in Leicester’ (Rous), ‘a dyke like a dogge’ (Burton), or in ‘a village church’ (Molinet). Documents dating from the middle of the 1490s, some ten years after Bosworth, show Henry’s intention to erect a tomb for Richard:

“Walter Hylton, alabaster man: indentures made between Walter and Sir Reynold Bray and Sir Thomas Lovell, knights, concerning the making of a tomb in the church of the Grey Friars, Leicester, for the body of King Richard III.”6

The Privy Purse expenses of Henry the Seventh for 11 September 1495 show that the king paid James Keyley £10 1s for a tomb for the late King Richard.7

There followed a dispute between the two contractors, who took the case to Chancery. In the Chancery record, the tomb was described as being built at the ‘Newark’, which is then crossed out and replaced with ‘friars’.

Slightly later is Fabyan’s account, in which Richard is buried at ‘the fryers at Leyceter’, while The Great Chronicle of London puts the site of Richard’s burial as Leicester. Vergil writes that Richard was ‘browght to thabbay of monks Franciscanes at leycester…and ther was buryed two days after without any pompe or solemne funerall’. Finally, Nichols asserts that Richard was buried by Henry in the chief church of Leicester, called St Mary’s and belonging to the order and society of the Grey Friars.

From this evidence it seems that Richard’s body was probably stripped on-site and perhaps subjected to further insult. It was then slung across a horse and carried to Leicester, where it was exposed to public view, naked except for a course black cloth covering the middle portion. As we saw in the case of Richard’s brother, Edward IV, such exposure was unusual and it went against the prescribed procedure. Nevertheless, it assured everyone that the king really was dead, and it discouraged impersonators.

After a period of two days or so, Richard was buried. We can discount Jean de Molinet’s report of him being buried in a village church, since Leicester was, at that time, a town. It did, however, boast an Augustinian hermitage,8 so Valera’s remark that Richard was laid to rest in such a place is not impossible. However, the Frowke chronicle, in contradiction to Valera, asserts that Richard was buried at the Newarke. Again, this is not impossible. The remark made by Burton at the council meeting at York can be dismissed for the spiteful attack on Richard that it was. Even if Richard did not have a tomb suitable for a king, he was clearly not thrown into a dyke; he was at least accorded the dignity of a church burial. Rous offers yet another location: the choir of the Friars Minor at Leicester.

The two documents, dating from the 1490s and concerning Henry’s order for a tomb for Richard, post-date Rous but only just. It seems that this period marks the turning point of the mystery of Richard’s place of rest. The chronicles that come after these three are unanimous in their assertion that Richard was buried at the Grey Friars, the Franciscan monastery at Leicester. From this information, a sequence of events can be conjectured and a solution to the mystery suggested.

Richard’s body was carried back to Leicester from the field of battle. It was put on public display at one of the churches there, possibly that of the Augustinian friars, or the Newarke. These churches are also candidates for the burial. Henry VII, travelling to Leicester in 1495, perhaps experienced a pang of guilt that a King of England should be buried in such humble surroundings. He ordered a proper tomb and monument to be erected, and two contractors were engaged. As we have seen, they fought over the contract, taking the case to Chancery. The resultant document reveals some uncertainly regarding Richard’s burial place at that time. It originally said ‘Newarke’, but this name was replaced by ‘friars’. It can be conjectured that Richard was originally buried in the Newarke, but was later moved to the church of the friars.

There is a sound reason why the Newarke would have been an inappropriate place in which to bury King Richard III: the Newarke had a strong Lancastrian connection. In April 1330, Henry, Earl of Lancaster obtained a licence to establish a hospital at Leicester. Patronage of it passed to Henry’s son, also called Henry, who was created Duke of Lancaster in 1351. He enlarged his father’s foundation and, two years later, was granted permission by the pope to transform it into a collegiate church. It subsequently passed into the care of Henry’s son-in-law, John of Gaunt who passed it to his son, Henry Bolingbroke, who would later come to the throne as Henry IV.

Known as the Collegiate Church of the Annunciation of St Mary in the Newarke, it is this church in which Richard might originally have been buried. Given its Lancastrian heritage, it cannot be wondered if Henry VII had felt uncomfortable with the thought of a Yorkist king resting there. It is certainly possible that he remedied the situation by transferring Richard’s remains from the church to that of the Grey Friars priory. The documents commissioning the contractors support the suggestion that Richard had been moved, and subsequent chroniclers are unanimous in their assertion that he rested at the Grey Friars, or Franciscans. Richard, then, was buried in holy ground, and his soul would benefit from the prayers of the monks as they performed their rites and services.

Initially, it appears that the grave was little out of the ordinary until ‘king Henry the Seventh caused a tomb to be made, and set up over the place where he was buried, with a picture of alabaster representing his person.’9 This is the tomb of which the documents of the 1490s speak, and the commissioning of which was the reason for a dispute between the two contractors. Henry spent £10 1s on it. While paltry in comparison to the great sums spent by Henry on his own tomb, it is not an insignificant sum. It enabled a ‘fair tomb of mingled-coloured marble, adorned with his statue’10 to be built, but was it an appropriate tomb for a king of England?

Richard had always done his best to provide suitable resting places for people, high-born or low, who had been killed in his service. He had ensured that their souls would be prayed for. The tomb of his son at Sheriff Hutton, if such it is, shows a grieving figure, which might represent Richard himself; it features God the Father, who hears the prayers, dries the tears and comforts the mourning of all. Angels attend the spirit of the departed and offer comfort to the bereaved figure. Who grieved for Richard? Did this tomb of mingled-coloured marble bear the mourning figures Richard had ensured would watch over the souls of others? Did angels guide him to eternal peace, ultimately to meet God the Father whom Richard had served so well in life? We cannot know. No one thought to describe the tomb, except to say that it carried the dead king’s effigy.

If we are to believe John Nichols, an epitaph for Richard was planned and written. The historian claims to have seen a copy of it in a ‘recorded manuscript book chained to a table in a chamber on the Guildhall of London’, the text of which, translated into English reads:

I who am laid beneath this marble stone,
Richard the Third, possess’d the British throne.
My country’s guardian in my nephew’s claim,
By trust betray’d I to the kingdom came.
Two years and sixty days, save two, I reign’d;
And bravely strove in fight; but unsustain’d,
My English left me in the luckless field,
Where I to Henry’s arms was forc’d to yield.
Yet at his cost my corse this tomb obtains,
Who piously interr’s me, and ordains
That regal honours wait a king’s remains
Th’ year thirteen hundred t’was and eighty-four,
The twenty-first of August when in its power
And all its rights I did to the Red rose restore.
Reader, whoe’er thou art, thy prayers bestow,
T’atone my crimes, and ease my pains below.

As can readily be seen, there are serious problems with this text. It is not the style of English or prose that was known either to Richard or Henry VII. Rather, it is more in keeping with that used in Nichols’s own time. The length of the reign is incorrect, as is the dating: according to this, Richard reigned during the fourteenth century, not the fifteenth; he died on 21 August instead of the 22nd. Moreover, Richard was king of England and France and Lord of Ireland: Britain, in other words, the union with Scotland, had not become an entity until the time of King James VI and I, although it would not officially become Great Britain until the Act of Union of 1707. This epitaph, therefore, is contemporary to Nichols but not to Richard.

As king, Richard should have been buried in his coronation vestments, or ones very much like them.11 It is unknown whether or not this actually happened. While we can be almost certain that the crown he had with him at Bosworth was the coronation crown of St Edward the Confessor, it certainly would not have gone to the grave with him. Whether or not he had any coronation vestments with him cannot be known, although it is doubtful. Had this been the case, he would probably have worn them during the procession prior to battle, and no evidence exists to allow us to think that he had done so. They would also have been found in his tent after the battle, but nothing allows us to think that they were. While the entire collection of coronation vestments and regalia represent kingship, only the crown could stand alone to the same purpose. Richard had no needed for the rest. We can assume, then, that Richard was not buried in his coronation robes. Moreover, since Henry VII spent only a little over ten pounds on the tomb, we can speculate that he would have spent no more than that on the funeral. The costly garments of a king would have far exceeded the purse Henry laid aside for his predecessor. It can be accepted that Richard was not buried in any way reflective of his royal status.

In 1536, King Henry VIII, the son of he who had crushed Richard, ordered the dissolution of the monasteries. Grey Friars closed two years later. Once again we turn to Nichols as we seek to unravel the subsequent fate of Richard’s earthly remains.

Following the dissolution of the Grey Friars monastery, the site upon which it had stood became part of a private garden. The land was later purchased by a Mr Robert Hayrick, a former mayor of Leicester, who erected a stone pillar of some three feet in height over the spot where Richard lay. It was adorned by the inscription ‘Here lies the body of Richard III, some time king of England.’ Christopher Wren, as he walked in the garden in 1612, was shown this simple monument.

The story that Richard had been turned out of his coffin and thrown into the River Soar emerged seventy years after the dissolution of the monastery; that is to say in about 1608, during the reign of King James. Quite why Richard should have been treated in such a manner, and so long after his death, is a mystery. Graves and tombs were not usually despoiled during the dismantling of the monasteries. Moreover, the people of Leicester had held Richard in high regard. Even had they not, surely they would have desecrated his grave far sooner than this legend would allow if they were going to do it at all.

The fact that Richard crossed Bow Bridge on his way meet Henry Tudor, and the prophecy connected with it, gave rise to a local legend that was so strong that a Benjamin Broadbent, the nineteenth-century founder of a building firm still flourishing in Leicester, erected a plaque by the bridge that reads: ‘Near this spot lie the remains of Richard III the last of the Plantagenets 1485’. Unfortunately, Mr Broadbent relied entirely on tradition rather than historical fact, and the plaque, well-meaning as its donor was, perpetuates a myth that has no historical basis at all. A new plaque, erected by the Richard III Society in 2005 seeks to correct the earlier one.

Can we at least accept that Richard’s coffin went on to be used as a horse trough? Again, while it is clear from the Nichols’s study that a coffin had indeed been used as a horse trough, there is nothing to say that it had once been that of King Richard. Indeed, the Reverend Samuel Carte, the vicar of the Church of St Martin’s in Leicester, speaking in 1720, had this to say of it:

I know no other evidence that the stone coffin formerly used for a horse-trough was king Richard’s, but the constancy of the tradition. There is a little part of it still preserved at the White Horse Inn, in which one may observe some appearance of the hollow, fitted for retaining the head and shoulders.12

William Hutton, travelling to Leicester in 1758 specifically to see the coffin, found that it had not withstood the ravages of time. The best intelligence that I could obtain was, that it was destroyed about the latter end of the reign of George the First, and some of the pieces placed as steps in a cellar at the same inn where it had served as a trough.13

If the story of Richard’s bones having been thrown into the Soar cannot be trusted, and if the coffin said to have been Richard’s cannot rise above the level of legend, then what really happened to Richard following the dissolution of the monastery in which he had rested for so brief a time?

A plausible sequence of events can be constructed from existing evidence, such as it is. Nichols notes that King Henry ordered a tomb to be made for Richard ‘and set up over the place where he was buried.14 This was in all probability in the convent of the Grey Friars. Since Richard was clearly not within the tomb, it can be accepted that he lay beneath the ground, with perhaps an inscribed stone slab to mark the spot until Henry’s monument was put into place.

Upon the dissolution of the monastery, Richard’s tomb was desecrated but Richard was left beneath the earth where he had always been. That his bones had been cast into the Soar was a local myth with no basis in fact. The coffin-cum-horse trough could not have been Richard’s because he was still lying in his coffin. Besides which, stone coffins of this sort were rarely used in the period at which Richard died, so the chances are even less that this particular one had been that in which Richard rested.

The conclusion must be that Richard remains beneath the earth at the spot where he had been transferred by Henry and over which Henry had erected a tomb. The area has since been developed, but King Richard remains. As such, it is highly probable that the last of the Plantagenet kings, the last English king of England, the last English king to die on the battlefield, now rests beneath a car park in the city of Leicester. He is, then, the only king of England since 1066 not to rest in a tomb fitting to his royal status. The commemorative plaque in the Chancel of Leicester Cathedral was laid as recently as 1980.

As we saw with Richard’s desire to transfer the remains of King Henry VI, it was expected of kings to treat their predecessor’s remains with honour, to ensure that they had a fitting burial and that they were laid to rest in an appropriate resting place. Henry Tudor was clearly incapable, or uninterested, in seeing that Richard’s body was treated with due dignity. For a long time he was also unable to provide Richard with anything like a proper tomb. If he could not bring himself to lay Richard to rest among the other kings of England, either at Westminster or with Edward IV at Windsor, then his son Henry VIII ought to have done so. Neither of them did. Indeed, upon the dissolution of the monasteries, ordered by Henry VIII, Richard’s mean memorial was desecrated just as his body had been at Bosworth.

It would be interesting, at this point, to see how Richard’s simple tomb compared with those of his predecessor and successor.

The cost of Edward IV’s funeral was £1,496 17s 2d. The King lies beside his queen, Elizabeth Woodville, in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. Edward had rebuilt the chapel, which had been founded by Edward III, with the intention that it should be his resting place. However, the tomb was not completed upon his death, nor would it ever be. Work was continued under Richard III, who issued a warrant to ‘Geoffry Franke, receyvor of Middleham, to content the freres of Richmond with xii marks, vi s. viii d for the saying of 1000 masses for K. Edward IV.’15 Work, however, ceased after Bosworth.

Edward’s will states that he had intended his tomb to be adorned with two effigies, one of which was to depict the king as an emaciated corpse – if his bloated body represented gluttony and lust in life, an emaciated one would represent repentance in death. Seats were to be provided for almsmen, who would pray for the soul of Edward. The chantry was to be enclosed within a superb iron grill, which can still be seen, complete with a wooden door furnished with a peep hole, a lock and a door handle ringed with a garter.

As to Richard’s conqueror and successor, Henry VII lies in a gilded tomb adorned with the effigies of himself and his queen, Elizabeth of York. Angels and saints watch over him as he rests, his sins expiated by the dedication of the chapel to Mary the Mother of Jesus, and the prayers of his faithful subjects and loyal servants.

Henry VII had originally intended his burial place to be St George’s Chapel, Windsor. This makes sense, since he would have been close to Henry VI, whose remains and relics had been translated there by King Richard III in 1484. Henry VII would have seen Henry VI as his immediate, legal successor in much the same way as Richard III came to see Richard II. However, Henry changed his mind about the location, if not his proximity to Henry VI. Probably as the result of persuasion by the abbots and monks of Westminster Abbey, he became convinced that Henry VI had selected the abbey as his favoured burial place. Between 1502 and his death in 1509 he began to spend enormous sums of money, a total of £14,860 13s 1d, on the creation of a shrine to the late king, beside whom Henry, his queen, his mother Margaret Beaufort and perhaps even his grandmother, Queen Katherine de Valois were to lie. That he had intended the shrine to become a Tudor mausoleum should perhaps be doubted, since Henry’s eldest son, Arthur, who died in 1502, was buried at Worcester.

According to the terms of Henry VII’s will, gates bearing the king’s arms, badges and emblems provided the entrance to this great shrine, and they would be repeated throughout in the sculptural decoration and the glazing. Priests wearing vestments adorned with the king’s badges would offer divine service daily for the king. Weekly and occasional sermons would mention the king by name, so that those who heard it might offer prayers for his welfare in life and his soul after death. Moreover, an image was to be made of Henry kneeling at the shrine of Saint Edward the Confessor. This effigy was to be of

“tymber, covered and wrought accordingly with plate of fine gold, in maner of an armed man; and upon the same armour, a coote armour of oure armes of England and Fraunce enameled, with swerd and spurres accordinly. And the same ymage to knele upon a table of silver and gilte, and holding betwixt his handes the crowne which it pleased God to geve us, with the victorie of oure ennemye at our furst felde.”16

Henry VII’s tomb is most certainly fit for a king. He is prayed for by all who hear his name mentioned in sermons and watched over by saints and angels. Significantly, the tomb in which he lies was built and decorated in accordance with his own intentions. No one was left to make such decisions as where King Henry VII should rest and in what surroundings.

For Richard, things were much different. Being laid to rest in a relatively cheap tomb in a church at Leicester, far from his family and, more significantly, far from other kings, how does Richard III’s burial place compare with what he might have chosen for himself?

Richard left no will that has yet been found. Anything said about where he would have liked to have been buried can be only speculation. Perhaps the most obvious choice would be Middleham, which Richard made his own. Having established the Church of St Mary and St Alkelda as a collegiate church in his own name, he dedicated the stalls to six of his favourite saints: George, Katherine, Barbara, Anthony, Cuthbert and Ninian.

Another possibility is the Church of St Helen and the Holy Cross at Sheriff Hutton, which might house the memorial to his son, Edward of Middleham, although it is improbable that the boy is buried there. This church was once the property of the Nevills, to which family Richard belonged on his mother’s side, and which was also the family of his queen, Anne. Nevills also rested in the abbeys at Jervaulx and Coverham and at Durham Cathedral, any of which might have been suitable as resting places for Richard.

Durham is significant to Richard for another reason: it houses the shrine of one of his favourite saints, Cuthbert. The monks of St Cuthbert had received Richard into their confraternity in 1474. On the other hand, Richard had intended to found a chantry at Barnard Castle. He had established shrines to several of his favourite saints there, in particular St Ninian.

A logical and highly appropriate, resting place would have been Fotheringhay. Here lie Richard’s beloved father, mother and brother, Edmund. Of course there was always the option of Westminster Abbey, where Richard’s queen, Anne Nevill, rests. By the time of Richard’s death the abbey had long been established as the burial place of English kings, among them Edward the Confessor and Richard II, both of whom were of great significance to Richard. Then there is St George’s Chapel, Windsor, where Edward IV lies and which he might have intended as a shrine for Yorkist kings.

Each of these locations is a plausible candidate for the chosen burial place of King Richard III. However, there was another church, or rather, cathedral, in which Richard had taken a particular interest: York Minster.

Richard had planned York Minster to be the setting for the largest and most ambitious of his chantries. However, its intended one hundred priests were to pray, not for the soul of the chantry’s founder, or those of his family as might be expected, but were to sing instead for ‘the worship of god oure lady seint George & seint Nynyan’.17

Nevertheless, the possibility that Richard had intended York Minster as his mausoleum should not be dismissed when certain factors are taken into consideration.

First is the possibility that Richard’s son, Edward of Middleham, Prince of Wales, lies in an unmarked tomb at York Minster. It is not such an outlandish suggestion, nor would it be inappropriate for the young prince to be buried here: he was created Prince of Wales nearby and his father had enjoyed a long association with York.

This began, as far as is known, with the investiture of his uncle George Nevill as Archbishop of York, on 22 September 1465. Later, while still duke of Gloucester, Richard visited York with Henry Percy, fourth earl of Northumberland. Here, Richard was seen to be their ‘ful tender and especiall gude lord’, worthy of ‘a singler confidence in your high and noble lordship a fore eny other’.18

The City of York’s connection with Emperor Constantine should not be overlooked. Constantine was proclaimed emperor at York in 25 July 306 and Richard would almost certainly have known the church of St Helen-on-the-Walls in Aldwark, which was dedicated to the mother of Constantine. He might also have been acquainted with the tradition that this church was the final resting place of the great emperor with whom Richard had much in common.19

Another historical figure of significance to Richard was the legendary King Arthur. Richard had books about this king, and he showed an interest in him that spanned his short life. Arthur, like Richard, was fond of York, with which he had some connection. Moreover, Arthur’s shield bore the image of the Virgin Mary, to whom Richard had a special devotion. It was on the day of the Feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary that Richard chose to invest his son as Prince of Wales.

Following his marriage to Anne Nevill and his subsequent ownership of Middleham Castle and other estates, Richard became the most important magnate in the north of England. It would have been entirely natural had Richard considered York Minster, the spiritual heart of his world, to be his mausoleum.

Then there is the chantry that Richard sought to establish at York Minster. As noted, it provided for one hundred chantry priests and was to be administered by several of Richard’s most intimate friends and allies. Had it come to fruition, it would have been the largest and most ambitious of all the chantries planned or established by the king.

Certainly, the chantry at York Minster was a very important undertaking and might be indicative of the king’s desire to be buried there. The possible presence of Prince Edward adds a dynastic dimension to the foundation. Against this, however, is the fact that Richard’s queen was not buried at York Minster, but at Westminster. Moreover, had the young prince been buried at York Minster, he lies in an unmarked grave, his presence remaining a secret that would have been difficult to preserve had a chantry been established on behalf of the new but ultimately short-lived Yorkist dynasty.

In the end it is not possible to say where Richard would have preferred his final resting place to have been. Even if he had left instructions, there is nothing to say that his wishes would have been fulfilled. The insults Henry Tudor allowed to be heaped upon Richard’s body at Bosworth showed the utter contempt in which he held the late king as well as a blatant disregard for the respect due to the dead. Given that he was capable of such a singular lack of humanity, it would have been highly improbable that he would have taken into account Richard’s desires even as far as concerning his resting place. As a result, King Richard III remains the only monarch of England since 1066 not to lie in a tomb appropriate to his regal status. It is both unjust and a tragedy that he who was so anxious to ensure the care of souls, their passage eased through the darkness of the beyond as they made their uncertain way towards the light by means of prayer and a worthy grave, now lies in an unmarked spot in the damp, dark earth beneath a Leicester car park.

Since this piece was written, archaeological excavation has revealed that the Grey Friars car park did, in fact, conceal the tomb of Richard III. This exciting discovery ends centuries of speculation regarding Richard’s burial place, and quashes rumours that his bones had been dumped into the river Soar. It now remains to reinter Richard, but where? Archaeological convention is usually to rebury excavated remains in the nearest consecrated place. In Richard’s case, it would be Leicester Cathedral, where there has been a memorial to the king since 1980. However, a case can be made for burying him at York Minster, since this appears to have been his wish. On the other hand, Anne Nevill, his queen, lies in Westminster Abbey, while his brother, Edward IV is buried in St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, either would make a suitable resting place for Richard. If pressed, I would choose York Minster for Richard, which meant so much to him in life, and which he endowed handsomely, perhaps with a view to providing for his soul after death.

Josephine is the author of:

From Claire

You can find out all about the findings of the Grey Friars team of archaeologists and scientists in my article “Richard III Has Been Found”. It really is an exciting day for historians, archaeologists, history lovers and the people of Leicester. Whether you’re Yorkist, Lancastrian, or of no persuasion, this discovery is incredible. I love discoveries like this.

While Josephine would choose York Minster for Richard III, I would choose Leicester. I think the cathedral there is fitting because he was originally buried in Leicester and it’s the University of Leicester who are responsible for this dig and the following investigation. It’s also near where Richard met his death at the Battle of Bosworth. Of course, that’s just my opinion. What do you think?

Notes and Sources

  1. Sutton, Anne, ‘The Making of a Minor London Chronicle in the Household of Sir Thomas Frowyk (died 1485)’, The Ricardian, vol. X (1994), pp. 86-103.
  2. Davies, R., Extracts form the Municipal Records of the City of York (London: J.B. Nichols and sons, 1843), p.221.
  3. The Great Chronicle of London cited in Dockray, K., Richard III: a reader in history (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1988), p.128.
  4. Molinet, Jean de, Chroniques cited in Dockray, K., Richard III: a reader in history (Gloucester: Alan Sutton, 1988), p.128.
  5. Vergil, Polydore, Three Books of Polydore Vergil’s English History (London: The Camden Society, 1844), p.226
  6. TNA: C 1/206.
  7. Bentley, S. (ed), Excerpta Historica: or illustrations of English history (London: printed by and for Samuel Bentley, and published by Richard Bentley, 1833), p.105.
  8. Hoskins, W.G. (ed.) A history of the county of Leicester Victoria History of the Counties of England (London, 1969), vol. 2, p.35
  9. Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London: Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
  10. Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London: Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
  11. Legg, L.G.W., English Coronation Records (Westminster: Archibald Constable & Co Ltd, 1901), p.xliv.
  12. Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London, Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
  13. Hutton, William The battle of Bosworth-field : between Richard the Third, and Henry Earl of Richmond, August 22, 1485 (Birmingham: Printed by Pearson and Rollason, sold R. Baldwin, 1788), p.143
  14. Nichols, J., The History and Antiquities of the City of Leicester (London: Printed for Nichols, Son, and Bentley, 1815), p.298.
  15. Whitaker, T.D., An history of Richmondshire, in the North Riding of the country of York; together with those parts of the Everwicschire of Domesday which form the wapentakes of Lonsdale, Ewecross, and Amunderness, in the counties of York, Lancaster, and Westmoreland (Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1823), vol.1, p.99.
  16. Condon, Margaret, ‘The last will of Henry VII: document and text’, T. Tatton-Brown and R. Mortimer (eds.) Westminster Abbey: The Lady Chapel of Henry VII (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003), p.133.
  17. British Library Harleian Manuscript 433, vol.1, p.201.
  18. York Civic Records vol. 1, p.23.

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32 thoughts on “Richard III’s Burial Place by Josephine Wilkinson”
  1. My vote would be for York Minster. Richard III was always associated with the North of England, he grew up at Middleham, he made his home there, he intended to found a college chancery at York Minster and the people of York never turned their backs on him.
    On top of all that, he was also the last of the Yorkist line of Kings, rather fitting then that his remains should be interred in the city from which they took their name.

  2. I vote Westminster Abbey to be re-united with his Queen. It seems like most of the royal couples are interred together eventually. Richard would just be later than most!

  3. I found Ms. Wilksinson’s article most interesting–however, if I am recalling correctly, the scholars who participated in the dig felt that the grave was too small for Richard and that he was buried without a coffin or shroud. The impression I got was that he was hastily dumped in with his hands still bound, dirt was tossed over his body and the personnel involved strolled away, job done. It just doesn’t sound like he was moved from another burial site.
    I also wonder if Henry VII ever followed through with a monument, however tawdry. That said, we’ll never know.
    My vote also would be for York Minster since Richard seems to have had connections with that site. It sounds like the decision had been made for Leicester, though. Will his reburial be celebrated with a Catholic mass? He was not Anglican and the Reformation was over 50 years in the future.

  4. The documentary on Channel 4 last night was fascinating and, indeed, moving. It had everything – history, drama, science. I felt so excited for all concerned. What a find! I feel that any ceremony should be ecumenical as Richard was a Catholic, but the cathedral is

    1. It depends on the Cathedral and their style of worship and services. Some Church of England churches are very “high” and so are nearly indistinguishable from Catholic services anyway.

      1. Yes, I suppose that is true. It will very much depend on the choice of final burial place. Josephine’s article was intriguing, and her conclusions so correct. I’d say there will be a great run on books about Richard in the coming months.

  5. Maybe Richard iii should be buried at York minister, since that was his first choice. I feel that this king is one of the most vilified monarch and yet he did some good with in his short term of rule. Will he be given a state funeral and will queen Elizabeth approve.

  6. If not with his Queen in Westminster Abbey then definitely York Minister. Leicester Cathedral is most unfitting.

  7. My vote is for York Minster since that is what Richard III wanted, if I read Josephine Wilkinson’s article correctly.
    I also agree with Claire, the news of the discovery is awe inspiring. The BBC web site does it justice. Also, a great job to the University of Leicester for not only the science, but a proper broadcast of their work to the world.
    One more short comment, many at various sites are “beating up” Bill Shakespeare for his discription of Richard III. We must temper those remarks with the fact that Shakespeare was a poet and a playwright, not a historian. Thank you for reading.

    1. Shakespeare was heavily influenced by Thomas More’s “History of King Richard III.” More, who was only seven years old at the time of Bosworth Field, had been a protégé of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1486, who was opposed to Richard III.

  8. I wonder if Queen Elizabeth II and other Royals will attend the funeral of Richard III? I wonder if that is in the protocol? This is so exciting to watch!

  9. It looks like the winds are blowing in Richard III’s favor again! After years of being maligned, culminating in Shakespeare’s play depicting him as the arch-villan and child-murderer, who would ever think that Leicester and York would be fighting over which Cathedral will get his remains!

  10. Wow!!!! How incredibly interesting. Other than knowing that Richard III was supposedly responsible for the disappearance of the two princes, I really did not know much about the man. Or the King. I do not think he should be buried in Leicester…..he has lain there long enough, & under the dark clouds of rumor and inuendo, and a ton of accusations against him. Probably York Minster would be the place for him to finally attain eternal and peaceful, rest.

  11. Richard was a wise and able ruler who was actually much loved in the North. I would like to see him buried in York Minster with full Royal honours, and with a Catholic Requiem for the repose of his soul. The Church of England will allow this in their churches in certain circumstances.

  12. I have no opinion in which church Richard III should be buried, but I think we can all agree that whichever church is to be chosen, it will be infinitely more suitable and preferable to a parking lot.

  13. I really enjoyed the programme on TV about Richard being found, I always liked him, it got me thinking about another unsung hero of mine, Edward earl of Warwick, executed by Henry Tudor and yet protected by King Richard, Edward was buried at Bisham abbey in Berkshire England but of course are good old friend Henry 8th trashed the monastries and so these priories such as the one where Richard was buried were ruined, Very sad I think. I wonder what became of Edward’s body and others buried there? Edward was possibly a mentally retarded young man and Queen Catherine of Aragon is written down as being feeling guilty over his death as it is highly likely he was got rid of in order for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to allow their daughter Catherine to come to England to marry Arthur Prince of Wales.

  14. I think Richard should be buried in York and since he was a devout Catholic, his service should reflect that. Whatever he did or didn’t do in his past, every person should be buried according to their personal beliefs not ours.

    To me burying him in Leicester is simply about money and tourism. He should go home, it’s where his heart was.

  15. I’m in two minds to where he should be re-interred, my emotional side thinks, he was the last King of the House of York, and should be taken ‘home’, the practical side says he has lain in Leicester for over 500 years so leave him there….In the end if the choice was mine, I think my my emotion side would win. Let him go home to Yorkshire and rest in peace, in a place that he was happy to be.

    Who does the decision fall on anyway?

  16. Having just visited the exhibition at Leicester I am amazed at the success in finding Richard’s body. My interest lies in the tomb that was erected by Henry VII. I have been studying the alabastermen of the East Midlands some some years and offer the following evaluation. Walter Hylton and his son Edward were high status kervers of Nottingham Walter being mayor 1489/90 and 1496/7. The work of the Nottingham kervers is legendary but restricted to reredos and retable panels and church images all the large effigies being carved to the west at Chellaston and Burton. The chances that Hylton carved an effigy is therefore thin. It is more likely the tomb of Richard was an inscised table-top and there are three extant samples from this period Prestwold, Rothley and Aldbourne whilst later versions can be found at Humberstone, Peatley Magna and Rothley and still later at Hanbury, Staffs. The “mingled stone” is a fair description of Fauld quarry in Staffordshire the source of large blocks of alabaster though to the 20th century. Any alabster effigy or mural from about 1560 will display this mottled albaster the pure white Chellaston type having largely run out by about 1558. Anyone interested in this work can mail me.

  17. The best place is Leicester as this was where his remains were found. If York or Westminster wanted his remains that much, then they should have paid for the University to find them and not the RIII Society out of their own pocket. The reason York and Westminster fans are moaning is that they did not find his remains. Had he not been found they would not have cared less about where he was buried! He was originally buried in Leicester and he did not state where he wanted to be buried as he believed he would win the Battle of Bosworth. Richard was found by the University of Leicester and the Cathedral or Abbey as it used to be is perfectly suitable. A Minster is not a Cathedral: it is an Abbey Church. So there is no more status with either York or Westminster. Most of the Yorkist Kings and nobles are not in Westminster and as many people have pointed out above there are other fine candidates as members of his family and his wife are there. Would Richard want to be buried in the same place as his rivals? Would he want to be with his wife or his son or his parents? Or would he want a hero warrior burial, alone but in a place of honour in a quire or nave? There are very good arguments for many of these places, but it was Leicester who found his remains and this is the nearest most suitable holy ground to where he was found. That is natural for these cases and that is what the license says. I agree with the choice of Leicester for these reasons. Westminster and York have got enough anyhow: let someone else have something important for a change. Great debate and good article. Very good arguments: much better than many of the silly ones on Facebook or the Media forums.

  18. PLEASE read what I have published on Richard III’s epitaph. The earliest surviving handwritten mansucript copy (in Latin) dates from before 1530 (when Richard’s Greyfriars tomb was still in existence) – so there is NO REASON to doubt the authenticity of the epitaph text (which predictably praises HENRY VII for his generosity in giving Richard a tomb!)

    As for your assertion that many Anglican Churches are indistinguishable from Catholic Churches, I think this is rather insensitive. If there were no differences between Anglicans and Catholics why would we still have two different church organisation? (And why is it that modern English royals are still not allowed to marry Catholics without losing their rights to the throne?!!!)

    1. I think you’re responding to two people in your comment as Josephine didn’t say anything about Anglican vs Catholic Churches, whereas I mentioned it in my comment. I can’t comment on Josephine’s behalf re the epitaph.

      I didn’t say that “many” Anglican Churches are indistinguishable from Catholic Churches, I said “It depends on the Cathedral and their style of worship and services.
      SOME Church of England churches are very “high” and so are NEARLY indistinguishable from Catholic services anyway.”, which is very different and not at all insensitive. I’m well aware of the differences, I have a degree in Religion and have attended both types of churches and many different “flavours” of each.

  19. I vote for York Minster.

    While the folk of the U of Leicester did indeed dig him up, they would not have turned over a single piece of tarmac without the prodding of the Richard III Society, the hard work and mDNA research of John Ashdown-Hill, and the monetary input of Ricardians worldwide. The academics on the dig freely admitted that they didn’t expect to find Richard at all, much less in the first day of digging in exactly the spot Ashdown-Hill and Philippa Langley said he would be. They were at best hoping to get a better idea of the layout of Greyfriars – for them Richard was an afterthought, the thing that got those crazy Ricardians to fund the Greyfriars research, and before they started digging they were wondering how they would handle all the disappointed donors when Richard wasn’t found at the end. They were gobsmacked when he was found.

  20. He was the last Yorkist King, he loved York, he belongs in York. Yes, Leicester did house him, but let’s let the man rest in peace where he’d likely prefer!

  21. I agree it should be York Minster. Richard loved Yorkshire, and the people of Yorkshire loved him. This is not about money or tourism or publicity, it’s about treating a king’s remains with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

  22. I think Richard should be buried in York a city where he was loved.Hopefully decision will be made soon.

  23. This is weird reading this again after four, no six years, four since the Internment in Saint Martin’s Cathedral in Leicester in March 2015. This article is excellent and a proper examination of the mystery which existed before the discovery of King Richard III. Personally having been three times to visit the tomb, I am always really emotional and joyful to see him correctly honoured. It was lovely that his collateral descendants made his coffin and the tomb is truly elegant and beautiful. The setting is also peaceful, as is the preservation of his original burial place. Richard should have been buried in his crown and robes but obviously 538 years later that was impossible. The crown made and donated by the late Dr Louis John Ashdown Hill, the man whom we have to thank for his pioneering work which made the discovery of Richard iii possible, is magnificent and faithful to the design that he would have recognised. While the two years of debate, wrangling and legal nonsense over the human remains of Richard was undignified and unnecessary, it did show the passion and care that people still have for a historic man who lived and was killed over 500 years ago. Of course, while debate is healthy, it was never going to be the decision of the public as legal proceedings are in place for human remains recovered from an archaeological dig and for their reburial, with those requirements being outlined in the licence. The normal practice is to bury the person in the nearest holy ground that is appropriate. Having said this, a named King of England is not your normal archaeological find and Richard ceased to be so, the moment his identity was confirmed. It was correct that he was buried as a son of the Christian Church, preferably the Catholic Church and this was partly done by the attendance and commitment of the Archbishop of Westminster. Compromise had to be found, the twenty first century way, but the various services were not too dissimilar to those which Richard would have recognised. He was honoured as a fifteenth century King, in a 21st century setting. Looking back now as the fourth anniversary of his Internment approaches, personally, I think Richard would actually smile. After all a King who was buried so as he would be forgotten is more famous and acclaimed than the man who began the destruction of his good name and reputation. Richard iii is honoured at last and I am pleased he remains close to where he lay in peace, but now he is honoured as a King. Remember before God, his servant, Richard and all who fell at Bosworth, having kept faith. Loyaltie Me Lie. Rest in peace. Amen.

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