Distant relatives of Richard III have lost their High Court battle over where his remains should be reburied.
The Plantagenet Alliance Limited, who are campaigning to see the former king reburied in York, challenged 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 alliance’s lawyers argued that, among other things, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) failed to consult sufficiently or take into account the wishes of the king’s descendants, the monarch himself – if they could be determined – or the wider public, when issuing the licence.
They maintained that the failure to adopt appropriate consultation was unlawful and amounted to breaches by the ministry, university and city council, which should cause the licence’s terms to be quashed.
But today the court announced that the Plantagenet Alliance’s application had been unsuccessful: “There are no public law grounds for the Court interfering with the decisions in question. In the result, therefore, the Claimant’s application for Judicial Review is dismissed.”
The remains of Richard III, who was killed at the battle of Bosworth in 1485, were uncovered in a Leicester car park in September 2012. The University of Leicester decided it wanted to see them reinterred in Leicester.
Today’s judgment read: “Since Richard III’s exhumation on 5th September 2012, passions have been roused and much ink has been spilt. Issues relating to his life and death and place of re-interment have been exhaustively examined and debated.
“The Very Reverend David Monteith, the Dean of Leicester Cathedral, has explained the considerable efforts and expenditure invested by the Cathedral in order to create a lasting burial place ‘as befits an anointed King’. We agree that it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest.”
Professor Lin Foxhall from the University of Leicester, who was head of department when the remains were discovered in 2012, told History Extra: “We are jubilant. This is a victory for common sense. From our point of view, one of the difficulties has been that the real issue at hand got cluttered up in other things.
“The issue was whether the licence had been correctly issued, and we knew all along that it had been. It should never have got to a judicial review, in our opinion.
“We have endeavoured from the start to do things ‘by the book’ and follow good archaeological practice, and that is what we will continue to do.
“We are delighted that common sense has prevailed.”
The lawyer who spearheaded the unsuccessful High Court bid said the verdict is “highly regrettable”. Matthew Howarth, partner at Yorkshire law firm Gordons, said his client was now considering appealing against the decision.
Mr Howarth said: “We obviously respect and accept today’s verdict, and are grateful to have had the opportunity to raise this matter before the courts, but are naturally disappointed at the decision, which we regard as highly regrettable.
“Also disappointed will be the many thousands of people who expressed the desire to have the decision as to where King Richard III’s remains should be reburied revisited.
“We have, however, no regrets about fighting the case, which we can look back on with pride. My client is a not-for-profit entity and many people were amazed that we got as far as we did.
“Yet the court, in its judgment today, recognised the case was one of broad public interest and our clients had standing to bring it as a public interest litigant – points resisted by the Ministry of Justice and university throughout.”
To read a timeline of the row, click here.