The debate over whether King Richard III should rightly be buried at York Minister looked set to be re-opened last night after a historian claimed newly-discovered evidence showed he may have been planning to create a mausoleum there.
According to historian and Tory MP Chris Skidmore, the 529-year-old letter unearthed from the National Archives provides fresh ammunition to those who believe the King was establishing a major new religious foundation at York Minster with a view to it becoming his mausoleum.
Writing in the new edition of BBC History magazine, Mr Skidmore said: “The connection between Richard’s establishment of the foundation at York and the salvation of his own soul could hardly be any clearer.
“Could this indicate that Richard’s real intention in creating this new religious institution was to follow the growing trend for 15th-century aristocrats across Europe to establish their own chantry foundations and ultimately mausoleums?”
In April, distant relatives of King Richard III lost their High Court battle with Justice Secretary Chris Grayling over where the monarch’s recently-discovered remains should be reburied.
Richard’s battle-scarred bones were found under a council car park in Leicester, and the current plan is for them to be reinterred at the city’s cathedral.
Three judges ruled that is where they should remain and it was “time for King Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest”.
The judges rejected a bid by relatives who make up the Plantagenet Alliance for a ruling that Mr Grayling is under a legal duty to set up a wide-ranging public consultation exercise to decide where the king’s final resting place should be.
In his BBC History article, Mr Skidmore, author of ‘Bosworth: The Birth of the Tudors’, wrote: “The dispute over where Richard’s remains should be interred has made it all the way to the high court this year.
“But can contemporary sources shed any light on where the king himself wished to be buried? Perhaps they can.
“Though the king is known to have supported several religious institutions – including St George’s Chapel at Windsor, and his own foundations at Middleham in Yorkshire and Queen’s College, Cambridge – he does seem to have placed particular emphasis on his relationship with York, and its famous Minster.
“In one document, Richard described the ‘great zeal and tender affection that we bear in our heart unto our faithful and true subjects the mayor, sheriffs and citizens of the city of York’.
“Richard’s greatest display of affection to the city came on 23 September 1484, when he unveiled plans for a chantry foundation at York Minster, which would house a hundred priests to support the Minster, and practise the ‘worship of God, our Lady, Saint George and Saint Ninian’.
The July issue of BBC History Magazine is on sale now.