From The Guardian Online
Relations say king should be buried in York and government's failure to consult them is in breach of human right to family life
Maev Kennedy and Owen Bowcott
Maev Kennedy and Owen Bowcott
Although the last English king to die in battle perished almost 500 years before the European convention on human rights came into force, his distant relatives are claiming they were not consulted and that their rights have been breached.
An application for judicial review is to be lodged by lawyers in Leeds on behalf of the Plantagenet Alliance. They are bringing the action against the Ministry of Justice, which granted the archaeological excavation licence to Leicester University. The licence stipulated that the king's remains should be "deposited in [Leicester's] Jewry Wall museum or else be re-interred at [the city's] St Martin's Cathedral or a burial ground in which interments may legally take place".
That latitude of interpretation has stirred up a popular debate over the location of Richard III's final resting place. Any site is likely to attract significant tourist business.
The Richard III Society – which promotes research into the 15th-century ruler – says its proposed tomb will be inside Leicester Cathedral. The cathedral authorities have already held discussions with architects over plans for a suitable memorial.
Leicester city council is planning a permanent exhibition centre in a Victorian school building overlooking the council car park which now covers the foundations of the medieval Greyfriars church, demolished in the dissolution of the monasteries.
The Greyfriars priests bravely claimed Richard's body, and buried him uncoffined and in a hastily dug grave but in a position of honour in their church, after his body was brought back from the battlefield slung naked over the saddle of a horse. But the Yorkists are determined to repatriate his remains and have launched their campaign under the banner of article 8 of the European convention, which guarantees the right to a private and family life.
DNA tests on the bones found buried in Leicester's Greyfriars car park last year proved that they belonged to Richard III, who died at the battle of Bosworth outside the city in 1485.
Richard died without any known surviving children. The closest traced relative, Michael Ibsen, a Canadian furniture maker now living in London and a direct descendant of Richard's sister whose DNA helped identify the bones, has supported the plans for burial in Leicester.
The Plantagenet Alliance is a separate Ricardian fan club from the Richard III Society, which largely funded the search for the lost remains of the last Plantagenet king.
According to the Leeds law firm Gordons, the relatives will argue, "amongst other things, that the Ministry of Justice failed to consult with them over the terms of the licence and that such failure constitutes a breach of article 8 of the European convention on human rights (the right to respect for private and family life)".
Matthew Howarth, the partner leading the Gordons team, said: "We have now written officially to the Ministry of Justice and University of Leicester, notifying them that we plan to issue these claims. This enables us to obtain some further information from them relating to the matters in question.
"We will follow up by issuing the judicial review and other proceedings as soon as possible, but certainly within the next few weeks."
The Plantagenet Alliance, which claims 15 descendants of relatives of the king as members, insists York is the most appropriate place, pointing out that although he was born at Fotheringhay in Northamptonshire – which has also been suggested as a possible burial place – he grew up in Middleham in Yorkshire, was known as Richard of York before he claimed the throne on the death of his brother, and visited York several times during his reign.
Stephen Nicolay, a 16th great-nephew of the monarch and member of the Plantagenet Alliance, said: "We have every hope that [we] will succeed in … our quest to have Richard's remains buried at the most appropriate site, York Minster."
A University of Leicester spokesman said: "As the licence holder, the university is responsible for the location of reinterment. Our decision was, and remains, that Richard III should be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral.
"Reinterment on the nearest consecrated ground is in keeping with good archaeological practice. Richard has lain in the shadow of St Martin's Cathedral, Leicester, for over 500 years.
"Richard III is believed to have no living descendants. Any distant relations are therefore descended from his siblings. Statistically speaking, many tens of thousands of individuals alive today are descended in this way. There is no obligation to consult living relatives where remains are older than 100 years."