York is politely stepping up its campaign to become the burial place of King Richard III whose remains have been identified conclusively following their discovery beneath a car park in Leicester.
The former capital of the north – and for a brief but glorious period effectively though not officially of England – envisages a series of celebrations which could become regular in the manner of the Jorvik Viking Festival or the celebrated Mystery plays.
There is also an undercurrent of resurgent regionalism in the prospect of welcoming home one of the most effective friends that the north of England has had in London’s corridors of power. The move, in defiance of current Government thinking that Leicester should keep the remains, coincides with the launch of a new literary award by the Richard III Foundation which recognises the potency of rewriting a period of history which has long been in the hands of those who defeated the last Yorkist king.
The Peter Algar Award, which will be presented for the first time in October at Market Bosworth near Richard’s fatal battlefield, honours a Leeds historian and novelist who died last year shortly before the international sensation over the find by archaeologists in Leicester. Joe Ann Ricca, president of the foundation which has a strong following in the United States as well as the UK, says:
I can’t think how enraptured Peter would be by the recent revelations. He always said that Richard, as Governor of the North, was a champion of Yorkshire.
History has been made in an astonishing way. It is the hope of the Foundation that a re-evaluation and renaissance of King Richard III’s good name and reputation will now take place. It is in many ways the return of the King.
It is often said that history is told by the winners. Our hope is that in Peter’s name, this ongoing memorial will help writers, historians and researchers take an intelligent and objective view to the remarkable history of the period, the politics of Britain and also perhaps cause us to pause to consider what history can still tell us today.
York’s efforts to give this process a hand, and crown it with a State reburial at the Minster, have brought together the council, university, churches and other groups to build on what they describe as “the extraordinary levels of public interest” in the affair. The plan is to use everything from the Middleham Jewel, a lovely stone found near the king’s former stronghold of Middleham castle in Wensleydale, to York’s rich stash of mediaeval paperwork and surviving monuments such as the Guildhall where Richard dined.
Coun Sonja Crisp, the Labour council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, enthusiastically quotes the distum of another King – George VI: “The history of York is the history of England.” She says:
Richard’s legacy is part of York’s legacy: one that we are anxious to share locally and with those many thousands of people across the globe who come to York every year and who have expressed their passion for this period of history and for the monarch.
The Very Rev Vivienne Faull, Dean of York Minster, says:
I welcome the chance to involve the Minster’s archives and building to support commemorations of Richard III who is remembered here in stained glass, in our historic records and through the investiture of his son Edward as Prince of Wales.
The king’s family is involved too, after the DNA testing of a Canadian descendant which clinched the identity of the body found at Leicester. His 16th-great niece Vanessa Roe says:
We wish to keep the impact and memory of the king alive. Adding to the existing body of research and celebrating his life is something I hope many, many people across the world will join us in, will enjoy and will continue to do so for generations to come.
Yorkshire appears to be all but united behind the prospect of a royal return, although a modest splinter group supports reburial at the nearby pretty village of Sheriff Hutton, dominated by the gaunt skeleton of another mediaeval castle, where the church already contains the body of Prince Edward.
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