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Richard III Relatives Lose Battle For His Remains To Be Buried in York

Richard III 3, copyright The Richard III Society

10:26am 23rd May 2014
(Updated 1:51pm 23rd May 2014)

Distant relatives of Richard III have lost an appeal this morning at the High Court to have his remains brought back to York.

The High Court has ruled that there will not be a public consultation of whether he should be brought back to York, agreeing with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.

The three judges said in their ruling:

"Since Richard III's exhumation on 5th September 2012, passions have been roused and much ink has been spilt.

"Issues relating to his life and death and place of re-interment have been exhaustively examined and debated.

"The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral, has explained the considerable efforts and expenditure invested by the cathedral in order to create a lasting burial place "as befits an anointed King".

"We agree that it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest."

The Plantaganet Alliance are a group of distant relatives of the King who have been campaigning to have him buried at York Minster.

In a statement the organisation has said:

We are naturally disappointed at the decision reached, but we are grateful to have had the opportunity to raise this nationally significant matter before the courts.

This was, by any standard, an extraordinary and unprecedented case, which the court in its judgement today recognised was one of broad public interest and where the Plantagenet Alliance had standing to bring it as a public interest litigant; points which were resisted by the Ministry of Justice and the University of Leicester throughout.

The court also noted that it may have been politic to have revisited the terms of the exhumation licence in light of the information regarding the identity of the remains as being King Richard III and that a panel of Privy Councillors and experts may have been approached, but that Ministers deal in politics, and the courts do not. The judgment also found that the intervention of Leicester City Council as the “legal sentinel” of King Richard III’s remains was unnecessary, unhelpful and misconceived and that the effect of its intervention in these proceedings was that the judicial review hearing listed for 26 November 2013 had to be adjourned and put back to March 2014.

This was a case that had unique and exceptional features and which in the words of the judgement arguably called for special consideration, which is why it reached the court. Unfortunately the court did not agree with our assertion that because of its exceptional nature, there was a legal requirement which should have forced such special consideration. We obviously respect the judgment but are disappointed for the thousands of people who, like us, felt that they have not had the opportunity to have their legitimately held views heard and considered as to the appropriate venue for the interment of King Richard III.

This has been a challenging case for us to pursue, and we were faced with considerable opposition (in particular from the Ministry of Justice who deployed substantial legal resource in defending its position rather than accept the suggestion made by the court last August to put this matter to a panel of experts). However we are grateful for the unwavering support that many people have given to us in the last 18 months and whilst the outcome is disappointing, we believe that we have put forward the best legal case that we could, in order to attempt to persuade the decision makers to reconsider public consultation regarding the final resting place of the last Plantagenet King of England.
The Plantagenet Alliance will be making no further statement until it has considered the judgement in full.

Matthew Howarth from Gordon's Solicitors was representing the Plantaganet Alliance, he said in a statement:

“We obviously respect and accept today’s verdict, and are grateful to have had the opportunity to raise this matter before the courts, but are naturally disappointed at the decision, which we regard as highly regrettable. Also disappointed will be the many thousands of people who expressed the desire to have the decision as to where King Richard III’s remains should be reburied revisited.  

“We have, however, no regrets about fighting the case, which we can look back on with pride. My client is a not-for-profit entity and many people were amazed that we got as far as we did.

“Yet the court, in its judgment today, recognised the case was one of broad public interest and our clients had standing to bring it as a public interest litigant – points resisted by the Ministry of Justice and university throughout.”

Matthew Howarth added his client always hoped legal battles could be avoided, and that there could be a negotiated agreement instead. 

He added, however: “That consensual approach was not one which the defendants were prepared to adopt, even when the court invited all parties to put this matter to an expert panel last August. So, against all odds, our client fought to have this matter brought before the court and succeeded in doing so.  

“Whilst they were unable to persuade the court that the decision not to consult more widely was unlawful, the court did acknowledge today that to put this matter to a panel of Privy Councillors and experts may have been politic. However, it said only ministers deal in politics, and the courts with rationality, and it was not considered unlawful for the Ministry of Justice not to put this matter to such a panel.”

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling said:  

"I have been very clear from the start that the decision to grant an exhumation licence for Richard III was taken correctly and in line with the law. I am pleased the court has reached the same conclusion and comprehensively rejected all of the claimants' arguments".   

"I am, however, frustrated and angry that the Plantagenet Alliance - a group with tenuous claims to being relatives of Richard III - have taken up so much time and public money. This case, brought by a shell company set up by the Alliance to avoid paying legal costs, is an example of exactly why the Government is bringing forward a package of reforms to the judicial review process."

However, there's been an angry reaction in York, with Julian Sturdy, the MP for York Outer saying:

“I am deeply disappointed that the Plantagenet Alliance’s application for judicial review has been unsuccessful. Regardless of your opinion on where Richard III should be reburied, be it York, Leicester, or even Westminster Abbey, it is clear that the exhumation license remains deeply flawed and amounts to little more than a ‘finders keepers’ agreement concocted behind closed doors.

“It is immensely frustrating that despite the unprecedented discovery of such a historically, politically and culturally significant monarch, the Ministry of Justice still refuses to listen to the public on such an important issue.  Over 60,000 people have signed petitions on where they think the reburial should take place and such strong public feeling should not be ignored. Many of my own constituents believe they have been cheated out of the democratic and open debate that should have taken place over such an important chapter in our heritage.

“It is only right and proper that King Richard should return to his home city of York, even if on a temporary basis, after spending the last 500 years under a car park in Leicester. The people of Yorkshire deserve the chance to pay their final respects to the last Yorkist King, whose death brought about the end of one of the most brutal conflicts in our history.”

But York Central MP Hugh Bayley disagrees saying it is time to accept the decision:

“Since King Richard III’s remains were found under a car park in Leicester, there has been much debate on where he should be laid to rest.   I am glad that the case went to the High Court and that the Judges listened to the arguments and opinions on both sides. York and Leicester both put forward strong arguments but the Judges came down on the side of Leicester.  I am disappointed on behalf of King Richard’s descendents and the people of York who firmly believe that he should be buried in York Minster.

“It is now time to accept the ruling. King Richard should given a dignified reburial in Leicester Cathedral and allowed to rest.”



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