Chris Skidmore

Richard III: a ceremony fit for a king?

Chris Skidmore, Conservative MP and historian, explains the plans already in place for the burial of Richard III.

I, here, whom the earth encloses under ostentatious marble,

Was justly called Richard the Third.

I was Protector of my country, an uncle ruling on behalf of his nephew.

I held the British kingdoms in trust, although they were disunited.

Then for just sixty days less two,

And two summers, I held my sceptres.

Fighting bravely in war, deserted by the English,

I succumbed to you, King Henry VII.

But you yourself, piteously, at your expense, thus honoured my bones

And caused a former king to be revered with the honour of a king

When in twice five years less four

Three hundred five-year periods of our salvation had passed.

And eleven days before the Kalends of September

I surrendered to the red rose the power it desired.

Whoever you are, pray for my offences,

That my punishment may be lessened by your prayers.

So read the inscription on Richard III’s tomb, constructed ten years after the king’s death, when in September 1495, Henry VII eventually decided to give some thought the dead king’s grave, ordering that James Keyley be paid £10 1s for making ‘King Richard’s tomb’. Even in the grave, it seems, Richard would continue to cause controversy, with the payment for the alabaster monument becoming the subject of a lawsuit between two stonemasons. With the possible rediscovery of the king’s body beneath a car park at Leicester, subject to DNA testing that will take up to twelve weeks, it seems that controversy has once more been reignited.

Richard had been killed at the Battle of Bosworth, the last king to be killed on an English battlefield. After being urged to flee following the desertion of some of his followers and the collapse of his vanguard, instead the king chose to make one final desperate charge, aimed at Henry Tudor’s standard.

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