Richard III Funeral: Burial of an English King
More than two years after his remains were identified and 530 years after his death, King Richard III of England will be laid to rest (again) on March 26.
Historical Significance of Richard III’s Burial
This is quite likely the last burial of an English king, as modern monarchs are kings (and queens) of the United Kingdom. There are a handful of other missing English monarchs, but the chances of finding and identifying their bodies is highly unlikely, other than perhaps Edward V, one of the two Princes in the Tower.
As an Aside: Edward V was the nephew of Richard III. Edward and his brother stayed in the Tower of London under the protection of their uncle until they both disappeared. Richard III is widely suspected of having murdered them. Bones of the approximate age have been found in the Tower, but so far there’s been no proof they belong to the princes.
Richard’s burial has other historical significance as well. He’s the last English king to have died in battle, and his death marked the end of a civil war known in modern times as the War of the Roses (or, as I call it, the War of Increasingly Distant Cousins. Game of Thrones also gives about a zillion nods to the historical event as well.).
Finally, Richard’s burial will be the first burial of a monarch in Britain since 1952, when George VI (of The King’s Speech fame) was buried. George was the father of the current queen, Elizabeth II.
Place of Burial: Leicester Cathedral
Richard died at the Battle of Bosworth in Leicestershire and buried in a nearby abbey without pomp. In fact, his body was mutilated and then crammed into a hole not even big enough for him lengthwise. The abbey was eventually torn down, and today it has been replaced by a car park (parking lot). It was under the car park he was eventually found.
There’s been some debate as to where Richard should now be properly buried. Richard was of the House of York, and some have argued he should be returned to that city. Instead, he will be interred at Leicester Cathedral, close to his original burial site but now with proper recognition.
Today, a long parade took the king’s body around Leicestershire before bringing it to the cathedral, where he will lay in state for three days before burial. Some people have waited four hours in line to pay their respects. I’m sure Shakespeare is rolling in his grave on that point, as he took such great pains to depict the king as a murderous, unlovable villain.
As an Aside: Richard was killed by Henry VII, who just happened to be Queen Elizabeth I’s grandfather. Elizabeth was Shakespeare’s patron, so it was in his best interest to say nothing nice about the man.
Of course, life has changed in the last 530 years. To make Richard feel a little closer to home, re-enactors set up a war camp on Bosworth. There, spectators can see people in period garb go about everyday 15th century life on a battlefield.
Images can be found at the Guardian’s article Richard III reburial: Leicester welcomes king’s remains – in pictures.