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SARAH HALL: Still one last battle to be had for Richard III

As reality television went, it was the most exciting thing I’ve seen in quite some time.

Some may think that a room full of archaeologists going on about a box of 500 year old bones might not be that thrilling. Well they’d be wrong.

Monday morning brought the big reveal as to just who the poor bloke buried under a council car park in Leicester actually was. Was it really the evil/much maligned (depending on which bit of history you’ve been reading) King Richard III, or was it just some old Medieval nobody who’d lain undiscovered for all these centuries.

As I tried to watc h the live University of Leicester press conference on the internet I found myself genuinely nervous. For me it was real edge-of-the-seat stuff. I found myself desperately wanting it to be him – if it hadn’t have been I would have been really, really disappointed.

As it happened it was him, although I think deep down we all knew this anyway. You don’t organise massive press conferences and start planning visitor centres and museums for just any old skeleton do you?

Thinking about it, they could have made a bit more of that press conference. They could have had men with loud boomy voices doing hidden commentary and then at the crucial moment Dermot O’Leary could have popped out and announced “I can now reveal the body buried under the car park i s (cue five minute pause, dramatic music)...RICHARD III! (Cue a shower of sparkly confetti, shots of archaeologists openly weeping, hugging each other, falling to the ground in hysterics, etc).

Right, I’m being stupid now of course - this was one of the most important historical finds in years and deserves to be treated with a great deal of respect - as does Richard.

Nobody’s entirely sure just what involvement he had with those children being locked up in the tower and myseriously disappearing. He may or may not have had them murdered – but we can’t stick him up in front of a judge and jury so let’s give him the benefit of the doubt.

And even if he was a thoroughly wicked child murderer and throne usurper, he did most definitely get his comeuppence. The injuries to his skull tell a rather gruesome story of a man who met a horrific death on the battlefield at Bosworth and his treatment afterwards was a little unsavoury to say the least.

And then after all that, the final indignity – several hundred years of being buried in an unmarked grave and then eventually Leicester City Council building a car park over him. I’m not sure anyone deserves that, whatever history thinks they might have done.

But over 500 years since he died at the hands of Henry VII’s army it seems Richard is to find himself in the middle of another battle –- one over the location of where his bones will rest in peace and dignity for eternity.

It seems it’s all a bit of a done deal - when the University of Leicester began the dig to find the lost king legal papers were signed saying that any remains uncovered would have to be re-buried in the nearest appropriate location - which just happens to be Leicester Cathedral.

Now I’ve not been to Leicester Cathedral - I’m sure it’s lovely. But is it the most appropriate location for the final resting place of Richard of York?

Well York doesn’t think so - online petitions have been set up and much consternation is being expressed at the expectation his remains will remain in Leicester.

It was after all his own wish to be buried in York Minster, it’s believed. Historians think there was no doubt his donations to York meant it was where he planned to have his tomb.

And I’m on York’s side over this. It’s a place close to my heart and I have absolutely no connection to Leicester so I’m biased.

And anyway, apart from the obvious exception of Westminster Abbey, could anywhere be deemed more appropriate to house a king’s resting place than the splendour of York Minster?

So I truly hope Richard of York does comes home - although sadly I don’t think he will.

But wherever the argument ends and wherever the king finally rests, I think it only right he be given an appropriate, albeit heavily delayed, funeral.

Note appropriate - I don’t think he should be quietly buried with no fuss. His place in history demands the occasion be marked but I’m not convinced with the calls for a state funeral. Let’s retain a sense of perspective. He has been dead since 14 85.

Having said that, few people can have been brought so fascinatingly back to life after so long as Richard has this week. I’m beginning to hope that stuff about those kids in the tower was all just a big misunderstanding.

 

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