Richard III: judicial review over reburial of remains to start this week

A High Court battle over where the remains of Richard III should be buried is to get under way on Thursday.

The judicial review, which was due to take place last November but was adjourned after the court agreed to allow Leicester City Council to make representations as a party, is expected to last for two days.

The judicial review will examine the justice secretary’s decision to authorise the exhumation and reinterment of the monarch’s remains in Leicester. It has been brought by a group of Richard III’s distant relatives, the Plantagenet Alliance Limited, who are campaigning to see the former king reburied in York.

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A High Court battle over where the remains of Richard III should be buried is to get under way on Thursday.

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The judicial review, which was due to take place last November but was adjourned after the court agreed to allow Leicester City Council to make representations as a party, is expected to last for two days.

The judicial review will examine the justice secretary’s decision to authorise the exhumation and reinterment of the monarch’s remains in Leicester. It has been brought by a group of Richard III’s distant relatives, the Plantagenet Alliance Limited, who are campaigning to see the former king reburied in York.

The group is challenging the justice secretary’s decision not to consult further before granting a licence to the University of Leicester to excavate the remains. The licence also enables the university to decide where the remains are reinterred. The university hopes to see them reinterred in Leicester Cathedral.

The 15-strong Plantagenet Alliance wants to see the licence quashed.

Matthew Howarth, partner and judicial review expert at Yorkshire law firm Gordons, representing the Plantagenet Alliance, told History Extra: “We are challenging the process by which the decision [to grant the University of Leicester the licence] was made.

“Richard III was a culturally significant person, and there should have been a broader consultation about the location of his reburial.

“We would like to see the licence quashed, and a panel of properly qualified experts set up to consider where he should be reburied. The Plantagenet Alliance will willingly stand by the decision reached by the panel.

“Our client, the Plantagenet Alliance, is a not-for-profit entity, and Gordons is working with them on a conditional fee [aka no win, no fee] basis. The University of Leicester and the Ministry of Justice are, of course, in a different position. So this is a real ‘David and Goliath’ battle.”

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The skeleton discovered in Leicester – credit University of Leicester

Leicester City Council is now a defendant in the case, alongside the Ministry of Justice and the University of Leicester. York Minster and Leicester Cathedral are interested parties.

The hearing is expected to conclude on Friday.

A spokesperson for the University of Leicester said: “We look forward to the judicial review and a final outcome to the case brought by the Plantagenet Alliance Limited.

“The University of Leicester is committed to the reinterment of King Richard III in Leicester, as stated by the university right from the outset in 2012 and underpinned by the licence granted to us by the Ministry of Justice.

“The University of Leicester discovered the remains of the king through the expertise of its archaeological work and subsequent ongoing scientific investigation.

“We are of the opinion, and have put forward a convincing case, in line with the terms of the licence, that the king who was buried in Leicester over 500 years ago should remain in the city, and indeed in the very parish, in which he was buried.

“It is important to remember there would have been no discovery at all without a combination of factors that focused on Leicester – Philippa Langley’s Looking for Richard initiative, the university’s plan for the dig and its expertise in the execution of that dig and identification of the remains, and the fact that Leicester City Council had granted permission for us to excavate their land.

“The university was the principal funder of the dig and the subsequent research identifying and analysing the remains, and conducted the exhumation on the basis of the licence that permitted reinterment at Leicester Cathedral. We remain committed to that original purpose.

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“We continue to work in partnership with Leicester Cathedral and Leicester City Council for a reinterment of King Richard III with dignity and honour in Leicester.”