AN MP has appealed for calm in the debate over where the remains of King Richard III should be buried after the Dean of York had to refer hate mail to the police.
The Government needs to appoint a panel of independent experts to rule on where the king’s remains should be re-interred after they were found last year under a council car park in Leicester by archaeologists from the city’s university, Labour MP Hugh Bayley (York Central) said.
Under the terms of their licence to dig up the remains, the university’s scientists have decided Richard III - killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485 - should be re-interred at Leicester Cathedral.
But other experts argue that the king himself would have wanted to be put to rest at York Minster and that the remains should be moved to the city.
The debate appeared good-natured at first but, according to Mr Bayley, it has now taken a more sinister turn after the Dean of York, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, until recently the Dean of Leicester, received such abusive letters she had to pass them to the police.
Speaking during a debate in Westminster Hall, he said: “I received many letters and emails from members of the public about this, supporting burial in York.
“Most are thoughtful and well argued and based on scientific facts but some are frankly inflammatory and talking yesterday to the Dean of York, some that she has received at the minster are so extreme that she has referred the correspondence to the police.
“I would say to everybody: calm down. Let’s all respect the memory of a former king of our country. Let’s discuss where his remains should be put to rest in a dignified and sober way. We don’t want to reignite the Wars of the Roses.”
Nine of the monarch’s descendants have called on the Government to return the remains of the king to York for a “formal and ceremonial” burial, while a petition calling for his remains to be transferred to the northern city has been signed by more than 23,000 people.
Mr Bayley said: “The decision should be taken on independent national advice and not delegated to archaeologists from Leicester who clearly support the Leicester cause. They would find it outrageous if the decision was delegated to people from York. We need the decision to be taken nationally, in the national interest by people who are independent of the vested interests of either York or Leicester.”
But Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said York Minster itself supported the re-interment of the remains at Leicester Cathedral.
He said the decision was up to the University of Leicester, under the terms of its licence.
He told MPs that, before the archaeologists started digging, they thought it was “unlikely” they would find the remains of the king.
Mr Wright said: “Now that the exhumation has been completed, it is the University of Leicester’s responsibility as holder of the licence to decide where King Richard III remains are finally laid to rest. That is the law.
“Much has been made, not least today, of the fact that the people of York want the remains to be buried in York and I do understand the strength of feeling in York and Yorkshire more widely.
“However, I should make it clear that York Minster has openly supported the re-interment of Richard III’s remains in Leicester Cathedral.
“It is also right I think to point out that the default position of the Church of England... is that the remains should be interred at the nearest Christian church and that of course is in this case indeed Leicester Cathedral.”