My unease at thanksgiving paid to ‘divisive’ Richard III

Sergeant Ross Baston, of Morpeth, from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was one of the Pall Bearers that carried Richard III to his final resting place at Leicester Cathedral. Picture by Matt Short.
Sergeant Ross Baston, of Morpeth, from the 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers was one of the Pall Bearers that carried Richard III to his final resting place at Leicester Cathedral. Picture by Matt Short.

I was disappointed not to get tickets to any of the services around Richard III’s reinternment at Leicester Cathedral.

I visited last summer and saw the building work where the last Plantagenet king is now laid to rest, and I would like to go again to see the memorial placed to him.

I do have a sense of unease, though, about the level of thanksgiving that is now being paid to Richard III.

As a monarchist, and church-going Christian, I feel a sovereign should be laid to rest with due reverence—but Richard III was, and remains, a clearly divisive figure.

My unease comes through his usurpation of the throne in the summer of 1483 and the death of his nephews, the Princes in the Tower.

Historians are divided about the culpability of Richard III in the deaths of his nephews.

Some identify others who may have been responsible, including his successor, Henry VII.

But the facts still remain that the two boys, aged 13 and nine, went missing under his protection and were presumed killed.

Richard III did nothing to refute the rumours that he, or someone acting on his
 behalf, had killed them.

There have been debates for centuries about Richard III and, certainly, he was not the only monarch to have 
taken the throne by force.

Indeed, he was killed on the battlefield by Henry VII, who took the throne by right of conquest.

To me however, the deaths of the princes seem far worse than a death in battle. It makes the celebration of 
Richard and his life slightly unpalatable.

The story will surely prove a boost to tourism in Leicester—in the same way that Nottingham celebrates the Sheriff who, according to legend, was a self-serving character who illegally levied taxation.

It begs the question of how we lay to rest those who have divided opinion.

After all, a funeral of someone who was suspected of murdering his nephews last week wouldn’t result in fêting and praising but protests.

Feelings would run high, though that’s not necessarily right either.

When Lady Thatcher died two years ago, it was clear that not everyone would agree with a ceremonial 
funeral— especially in former coalmining areas such as Nottinghamshire.

There were those who 
protested outside St Paul’s Cathedral.

This, to me, seemed fair as far as it remained peaceful and respectful.

For all that she had 
divided opinion, she was still 
someone’s mother and 
grandmother and to my mind the actions were inappropriate.

Finding the right balance is not easy but a ceremony such as this should be respectful without celebrating aspects of their lives which may not be worthy of such praise.