THE choice of Richard III’s final resting place continues to cause bitter divisions.
But thanks to an Oxford University academic there should be less warring over how the last Plantagenet king is reburied.
Dr Alexandra Buckle has been able to draw up an authentic order of service for Richard III’s reburial after discovering a long-forgotten medieval document.
Dr Buckle, an expert in medieval music, made her timely find in the British Library, while working on her doctorate.
The manuscript that she discovered, a late 17th century copy of a late 15th century document, is said to be the only known document explaining how a medieval reburial would have been carried out.
It means it should now be possible to rebury the king, who met a violent death on Bosworth Field in 1485, in a way that both he and his ancestors would have recognised.
Dr Buckle, 33, of St Anne’s and St Hilda’s colleges, has now been invited to join the committee planning Richard III’s interment next year, known as the Richard III Liturgy Group.
She found the document while researching another mighty medieval Richard – Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, who lies in splendour in the Beauchamp Chapel of St Mary’s Church, Warwick.
The Earl, a patron of the arts and music, had been reburied in 1475, just eight years before Richard III came to the throne.
When she became aware of the discovery of Richard III’s remains in a car park in Leicester, she contacted the city’s cathedral to see if they were interested in making use of her medieval find. She was invited to brief the cathedral chapter and then to join the Richard III task force.
Dr Buckle said: “This is a historically important document, as it details precisely what the reburial service around the time of Richard III’s death would have involved – from how the bones should be cleansed, washed and blessed, to what prayers should be said, what clergy should be involved and what music should be sung.”
Since DNA tests on the skeleton confirmed it was the king in the car park, a legal battle has ensued over Richard’s final resting place. With the Plantagenet Alliance wanting to see him buried in York Minister, and a judicial review to decide whether the decision to bury his bones in Leicester Cathedral was properly conducted, Dr Buckle has chosen to stay neutral. She said: “I think it is best for me not to comment.”
Her continued involvement is likely to continue, wherever Richard III is reburied next year.
Reburials, uncommon today, occurred more regularly among the elite in medieval England and Dr Buckle believes that Richard would have been familiar with the service.
She said: “He was chief mourner at his father Richard, Duke of York’s reburial, and ordered the reburial of his ancestor Henry VI.
“He honoured a long tradition of kings reburying kings and nobles reburying nobles, and this suggests he would have liked to have been honoured in a similar way today.”