Outcry at secret deal on King’s remains

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A YORKSHIRE MP has accused the Government and academics of making the decision to re-bury Richard III behind closed doors as he warned a “finders keepers agreement” would set a worrying precedent for future significant historical findings.

Julian Sturdy, MP for York, is concerned there has been no public consultation on such an important nationwide issue after the king’s skeleton was discovered beneath a council car park in Leicester. His comments comes as The Yorkshire Post today announces its support for campaigners who will return to court this week for a crunch hearing into the Government’s decision that Richard should be buried in Leicester.

Vanessa Roe, 16th great  niece of King Richard III, clutching white roses in front of a Royal Standard from the Plantaganet period  outside Clifford's Tower in York

Vanessa Roe, 16th great niece of King Richard III, clutching white roses in front of a Royal Standard from the Plantaganet period outside Clifford's Tower in York

The campaign to have the monarch’s remains reburied in York – a city where he has many strong links – has attracted the support of many noteworthy names including Dame Judi Dench and Edward Fox, with Simon Howard, of Castle Howard, the latest to throw his weight behind the battle. Today campaigners will march through York to make their feelings known.

Mr Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer, said: “Instead of allowing campaigners from both sides to debate the issue in a democratic fashion, officials at the Ministry of Justice and the University of Leicester appear to have hashed out this important decision behind closed doors.

“Concocting a ‘finders keepers agreement’ sets a very worrying precedent indeed for any other fantastic historical discoveries we make in the future.”

A full judicial review of permission for Richard III’s remains to be reburied in Leicester will take place in London’s High Court tomorrow. Permission for the hearing has been won by the Plantagenet Alliance, a group of Richard III’s collateral descendants who want the verdict favouring Leicester overturned and the king’s remains reinterred in York.

Julian Sturdy MP

Julian Sturdy MP

York Central MP, Hugh Bayley, said the Government needed to take a lead on the issue: “In my view it would be good practice for the Government, whether its required to do by the court or not, to review the situation.”

Vanessa Roe, a member of the Plantagenet Alliance said yesterday it was her hope that the king could be brought back to York Minster. However, the minster has maintained a neutral stance on the issue. “He was a man of the North, he lived up here, he was very much a Yorkshireman,” Ms Roe said of Richard.

A Ministry of Justice spokesperson said: “The exhumation licence was granted by the Ministry of Justice following due process. We are disappointed permission was granted to the Plantagenet Alliance Limited to challenge the licence. We are defending our position at the judicial review hearing.”

Leicester University said it was committed to the reinterment of the king in Leicester. “We are of the opinion, and have put forward a convincing case, in line with the terms of the licence, that the King who was buried in Leicester over 500 years ago should remain in the city, and indeed in the very parish, in which he was buried,” a spokeswoman said.

A portrait of Richard III at the Yorkshire Museum, York

A portrait of Richard III at the Yorkshire Museum, York

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