Battle lines drawn over Richard III’s remains

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From: Looking For Richard Project: Dr John Ashdown-Hill, FSA, FRHistS, Annette Carson, Dr David and Wendy Johnson, Philippa Langley, Long Road, Lawford, Manningtree, Essex.

NEWS that scientists at the University of Leicester are subjecting the mortal remains of Richard III to further destructive tests in order to sequence the king’s genome raises serious questions of propriety and ethics.

The university’s custodianship of the remains is currently subject to a legal challenge and therefore sub judice. Renewed testing amounts to what can only be described as a cavalier disregard of the legal process.

Moreover, there has been no independent verification that these tests are either ethical or necessary. Indeed, the university has, in effect, authorised itself to conduct tests that are far from essential and will add very little to our useful knowledge of England’s last Plantagenet king.

Essential initial testing to confirm the king’s identity was sanctioned by Philippa Langley of the Looking For Richard Project (who instigated and raised the funding for the archaeological search), in her contract with University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).

However, this came with a proviso: Philippa Langley’s contract with ULAS stated that any remains positively identified as Richard III would be transferred to her as custodian to be placed in a prayerful environment to await reburial.

Not only has the university exhibited contempt for the Judicial Review process, it has also refused to honour a contract with Philippa Langley freely entered into before the archaeological search began.

These are not appropriate actions for an academic institution. They raise legitimate concerns as to what future actions the university may take without suitable authorisation.