High Court rules on King Richard’s remains

Posted: 23rd May 2014

RCJThe High Court has decided that the Secretary of State for Justice was not obliged to embark on widespread consultation before deciding where the body of King Richard III should be re-interred.

The remains of the controversial monarch, who died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, were sensationally discovered by an archaeological team under a car park in Leicester in 2012. A dispute had since raged over whether his body should be buried at Leicester Cathedral or York Minster.

The Plantagenet Alliance Limited (PAL), a not-for-profit body set up by a number of collateral descendants of the king, argued that the question of his final resting place should be considered by a panel of Privy Councillors and experts and that the public in general should be consulted on the issue. PAL sought judicial review after the Secretary of State rejected those proposals.

In dismissing PAL’s challenge, the Court ruled that, although the appointment of an expert body to consider the matter ‘may have been politic’, it was ‘not rationally necessary’. There was no established practice that the Secretary of State would engage in consultation when remains were discovered so long after death.

The discovery of the skeleton of an anointed king was a ‘unique and exceptional’ event; however, the Court found that the Secretary of State had sufficiently apprised himself of the views of the Royal Family, the State and the Church to be able to reach an informed decision on where the remains should be buried.

There was ‘no sensible basis’ on which full public consultation – entailing widespread leafleting, online petitions and public campaigns – could be justified, nor was it necessary to carry out an advertising campaign to ascertain the king’s descendants, of which there may be as many as 10 million, so that their views could be canvassed.

The Court noted, “Since Richard III’s exhumation on September 5 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.” Leicester Cathedral had committed considerable effort and expenditure to creating a lasting burial place ‘as befits an anointed king’.  The Court concluded, “We agree that it is time for Richard III to be given a dignified reburial, and finally laid to rest.”